The “Bobo the Doll” Experiment
By Andrew Dalman
Monkey see, monkey do, or does he? In the 1960s Albert Bandura sought to answer this very question. The belief at the time was that watching violent actions will drive you away from those actions, but Bandura decided to make an experiment to test that idea. What he did was to make two groups (not counting the control) with 24 kids in each, one group witnessed an adult playing with toys quietly and then leaving the room. The other group watched an adult physically and verbally abusing an inflatable doll (the kind that when you punch it, it just comes back up) and then leaving the room. After the adults left the room the children were all alone with only some toys, and the doll. Unsurprisingly, the group with the peaceful adult didn’t show much interest in the doll at all, and simply played with some toys for a while. The group exposed to the violent adult performed very similar actions to the adult. Some kids started hitting the doll with a mallet, and others threatened it with a toy gun. There was also a select group of kids that took to attacking the doll in unprecedented ways, such as hitting it with another doll, or throwing balls at it. Not only did this experiment change the mass ideology of observing violence at the time, but it also threw in a new question a few years later. With television becoming popular and starting to be more common in people’s households, Bandura asked a new question relating to this, “will the results be the same if kids observe the violent behavior through television?” He set up the experiment the same way, but the children viewed the violent behavior via TV, and he yielded shockingly similar results to his previous experiment. This experiment showed that adults are incredibly strong role models, especially to a younger audience, now we know that it’s important to lead by example, especially if you don’t feel like getting hit with a mallet.
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