4.1.9 – Bandura (1965)



The aim of Bandura (1965) was:

To investigate whether children would be more likely to imitate a role model they see being rewarded (vicarious reinforcement).
To investigate whether they would be less likely to imitate a role model they see being punished (vicarious punishment)
To investigate whether the children would be more likely to imitate a role model if they themselves were rewarded.


Experimental Design – Matched pairs.

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

IV –  Whether Rocky (the aggressive model) was rewarded, punished, or there were no consequences
– Whether the model was the same sex or a different sex as the child.
– Whether the child had no incentive or a positive incentive.

DV – The aggression shown by the children.

Sample – 66 children from Stanford University Nursery.

(1) Rocky (Aggressive model) rewarded. (experimental group)

(2) Rocky (Aggressive model) punished. (experimental group)

(3) Rocky (Aggressive model) has no consequences. (control group)

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.

The children went into a room with the researcher and were told that they needed to wait for the researcher to carry out some business before they could go into the ‘surprise playroom’. While they waited, they could watch TV. On the TV was a different version of the programme depending on the condition.

The program showed the model, Rocky, come up to a Bobo doll and tell it to move out the way. He then attacked the Bobo doll (for example, he kicked it out the room while “fly away” could be heard), and then afterwards one of three things happened, depending on the condition:
(1) (Rewarded condition) An adult walked up to him and gave him a soft drink and some sweets, rewarding him for being a “strong champion”.
(2) (Punished condition) An adult shakes his finger at Rocky, calling him a bully. Rocky then falls and the model sits on him and slaps him with a rolled up newspaper. Rocky then runs away.
(3) (No consequence) The same film is shown but he doesn’t receive any consequence at the end.

The child was then taken into another room with a lot of toys (such as a Bobo doll, a mallet, dart guns)

For 10 minutes they were observed by 2 experimenters who recorded the child’s behaviour every 5 seconds. They didn’t know which condition they were in.
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.

Finally, the children were all brought juice and sticker books and were told that they’d get more if they imitated Rocky. (Positive incentive condition).


Model punished  condition led to much less imitation (0.5 mean actions for girls)
Model rewarded and no consequence conditions produced very similar results. (for example, boys got a mean of 3.5 actions)


Children more likely to imitate if the model was rewarded.
Boys imitated more than girls.



(+/-) 66 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.

(-) 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 get punished if they’re aggressive, the children are less likely to become aggressive. However this doesn’t apply if they are offered direct rewards for aggression.


(-) Ecological validity.
(-) 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.