4.1.8 – Bandura (1963)



The aim of Bandura (1963) was:

To see whether a child would be more aggressive if shown a realistic model in a film,  an unrealistic model in a cartoon or a real person.
To test whether watching violence was really cathartic.


Experimental Design – Matched pairs.

Experimental Method – Lab experiment and a naturalistic experiment (because the IV of child’s gender is naturally occurring)

IV – Whether the model shown was a cartoon, realistic model on TV or a real person.
– Whether the model was the same sex or a different sex as the child.

DV – The aggression shown by the children.

Sample – 96 children from Stanford University Nursery.

(1) Real aggressive model.

(2) Filmed aggressive model.

(3) Cartoon aggressive model.

(3) Control group (Saw no model)

Bandura wanted to control for base levels of aggression and therefore they were all rated on a 5-point scale for all of these characteristics and distributed evenly into the groups, so one group wasn’t full of particularly violent children.

Firstly, the children were put in the model room. In this room, there were toys such as finger paints.
The experimental conditions then saw a model enter the room with a Bobo doll.
The aggressive models acted violently with the Bobo dolls (whether the filmed model, cartoon model or real model).
The filmed aggressive model was an adult female dressed as a cat.

Then, the children were placed in the arousal room, where there were some appealing toys. They were told after a few minutes that they weren’t allowed to play with them toys. This was meant to make the children feel frustrated.

Finally, they were brought into the observation room. 
This room contained a mixture of aggressive (Such as a plastic mallet, and a 3 foot Bobo doll) and non-aggressive toys (Such as cars, trucks, crayons and paper).

The control group saw no role model.

For 20 minutes they were observed by 2 experimenters who recorded the child’s behaviour every 5 seconds.
They looked for some pre-determined behaviours such as: imitative verbal aggression, imitative physical aggression, imitative non-aggressive verbal statements and also acts of non-imitative physical or verbal aggression.


Live, filmed and cartoon model experimental conditions saw no significant difference in aggression.
Control group saw half the amount of aggression.
Bandura filmed the study – qualitative and quantitative data. This was the only one of the three he filmed.

Total number of aggressive acts for cartoon model: 99
Total number of aggressive acts for control group: 54


Children will imitate filmed aggression, cartoon aggression and real aggression the same amount.
Watching violence is not cathartic, it encourages more violence.



(+/-) 96 children, large amount, equally boys and girls.
(-) All children of people who work at/go to Stanford University –> Representative? Children of academics might be brought up differently.
(-) Can children be generalised to adults? Children would probably be more quick to pick up new behaviours due to them still learning.


(+) Very standardised procedure (same rooms for everybody, same model for everybody in that condition, etc)
(+) Structured observation –> Decided on what to look out for beforehand and decided on behaviours
(+) Inter-rater reliability –> 2 observers.
(+) Used filmed material –> Same for every child.
(+) Filmed study.

(-) There is no guarantee that all the children saw all of the actions.


(+) Can be applied to real life in terms of bringing up children. It shows that if a child’s role models are not aggressive, they are also less likely to be aggressive. Especially shows that cartoon violence is just as effective as real life violence in encouraging kids to be violent.


(-) Ecological validity – unusual environment watching an adult stranger playing with toys.
(-) Due to this unusual environment, there may have been demand characteristics because they may have done what they thought the experimenters wanted them to do, like hit the Bobo doll.
(-) Doesn’t consider the biological approach – only the learning theories.


(+) Could argue that the benefits to society could outweigh the distress caused because it taught us how to reduce aggression.
(-) Harm –> May have caused distress to the participants by seeing the violent behaviour.
(-) “Normalising unhelpful behaviours” (BPS Guidelines) because the children were shown violence and became violent, this may have stayed with them.
(-) No valid consent gained. Presumptive consent given by their teachers.
(-) Could not withdraw.