Bobo Doll Studies
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | August 25, 2021
Bobo Doll Studies:
The Bobo doll studies were a series of experiments testing the social learning theory. Researchers observed children's interactions with Bobo dolls after the children observed adult aggression (with the Bobo dolls). Many of the children imitated the aggression without explicit direction, supporting social learning theory's hypothesis.
The Bobo doll study was a series of experiments conducted by Albert Bandura between 1961 and 1963, testing the social learning theory (i.e., aggression) through observation. Children observed adults acting aggressively with bobo dolls. The children then were left alone with the dolls and scientists recorded their behavior.
The Bobo Doll Experiment
In Bandura's experiments, a child would be playing in a room when an adult would enter the room and become aggressive with a blow-up Bobo doll. Later, when the child was left alone, he or she would generally imitate the aggressive behavior of the adult, aggressively attacking the doll (Graham & Arshad-Ayaz, 2016).
Bandura believed that once children learn that aggressive behavior is appropriate, and can also be rewarding, they are more likely to act aggressively during conflict (Drewes, 2008).
Bobo Doll Experiment Implications
The Bobo doll studies imply violence is transmitted through observation. Children in abuse households may learn unintended lessons about the appropriateness of aggression, carrying on violent tendencies into adulthood. Others cite the Bobo doll experiment findings in concerns over the impact of violent media.
Roy Baumeister and John Tierney commented on strict parenting, explaining that "researchers have found that severity seems to matter remarkably little and can even be counterproductive: Instead of encouraging virtue, harsh punishments teach the child that life is cruel and that aggression is appropriate" (Baumeister & Tierney, 2012, location 2910).
Social learning is empirically supported and plays a role in child social development.
A Few Words by Flourishing Life Society
No single theory sufficiently explains childhood development. Witnessing domestic violence as a child doesn't condemn the childhood to violent adult relationships. Most children of violent homes move into adulthood without becoming an abuser or a victim.
Vast majority of children that play violent video games or watch violence on television grow into normal functioning adults. While witnessing violence certainly has an impact on development, it is only one of many factors that influence and shape our lives.
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Baumeister, R., Tierney, J. (2012). Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. Penguin Books; Reprint edition
Drewes, A. (2008). Bobo Revisited: What the Research Says. International Journal of Play Therapy, 17(1), 52-65.
Graham, P., & Arshad-Ayaz, A. (2016). Learned Unsustainability: Bandura’s Bobo Doll Revisited. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 10(2), 262-273.