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Observational learning: Bobo doll experiment and social cognitive theory

Video transcript

So it's kind of common sense that you should watch the way you behave when you have little kids in your presence because the concern is that the little kids can pick up your bad behavior or maybe learn a choice word or two that they're not supposed to be using in preschool. The underlying concern in this is that children can observe your bad behavior and then learn through observing it. And there's a psychologist who studied this by the name of Albert Bandura. And this is actually a very famous psychological experiment known as the Bobo doll experiment. And the Bobo doll experiment is a pretty famous psychological research study that you hear cited sometimes when people are having the debate of whether or not they should ban violent video games. For those of you who don't know, a Bobo doll is basically a blow-up doll that you can punch. Now, I don't know if kids still play with these things these days since now they have Xboxes and all sorts of other fancy technology. But this experiment was back in 1965. And this is pretty much the cream of the crop when it came to toys back then. So this is an inflatable doll that people called Bobo doll because it has a clown on it. So the way the experiment worked was they had a group of children in a laboratory doing an arts-and-crafts project. That sounds nice enough. Except, in the middle of it, suddenly a man appeared and proceeded to start punching and hitting and kicking this inflatable doll. And not only was he being aggressive physically towards this doll, he was also shouting hit it, kick it. So he did this for 10 minutes straight, just pummeling this doll to a bloody pulp, if you could say that about an inflatable doll, all the while yelling hit it, kick it. And some of the children observed this behavior. And other ones, it didn't really phase them. They were just so into their arts-and-crafts project that I guess it really didn't matter much to them. So after the 10 minutes passed, the man left. And the next part of the experiment required the kids to feel frustrated. So the researchers were kind of mean about this. And what they did was they gave these kids an impossible puzzle to solve. In other words, they gave them a puzzle with some pieces missing. Imagine how frustrating that must be, that you can't put it together. So they knew that that would cause frustration. And what they did was the researchers observed through a one-way mirror how the kids reacted to this frustration. Now in this laboratory, they were brought to a room where it was filled with toys. So maybe here's a balloon, here's a cool teddy bear. And of course in the room was this Bobo doll, the very same one that that man had beat up for 10 minutes. And what the researchers observed was many of the children would actually come up to the doll and proceed to hit it. And not only were a lot of them hitting it, the ones that were hitting it were often yelling hit it, kick it, the very same words that that guy had said earlier. So what this revealed was that kids can learn through observing the way people behave. So as you might imagine, oftentimes you'll hear this Bobo doll experiment mentioned in the debate of whether or not they should ban violent video games or not let kids see violent movies because this experiment showed that children can indeed learn through observing behavior. But learning a behavior and performing a behavior are two separate topics. Many of the kids were aggressive towards the doll and yelled the same things that the man had yelled. And so you could say, all right, so the majority of kids, yes, were aggressive towards the doll. But not all of the kids were aggressive towards the doll. I mean all the kids didn't learn this aggressive behavior. So Bandura wanted to know, what's going on with these kids? How come they didn't behave the same way towards the doll? Did they maybe not learn that aggressive behavior? So they performed another experiment that was fairly similar to the one I just described. So in this next experiment, what they did was they set up a TV in a laboratory. And I don't know, I bet back then TVs had bunny ears. So on this TV, the kids saw a Bobo doll and someone being aggressive towards the Bobo doll, also yelling hit it, kick it. But the difference here was that the video showed afterwards that person being punished for acting that way towards the doll. They were spanked and told they were doing something wrong. So the children saw the consequence of that behavior. So after they watched the video, they were placed into a room again with toys. And some of the kids again walked up to the Bobo doll and started hitting it. And not only were they hitting it, they were also yelling hit it, kick it. So these kids did that. But what about these kids? Did they not learn that behavior? So what they did to find that out was the researchers basically bribed these kids and offered them stickers and juice, you know, things kids love, if they could imitate the behavior that they saw on TV. And what they found was that the kids were indeed able to imitate that behavior. And this is a concept known as learning-performance distinction. And what learning-performance distinction is that learning a behavior and performing the behavior are two different things. You can learn a behavior, but not perform the behavior. But what's important to take away from this is that not performing the behavior doesn't necessarily mean you didn't learn the behavior. So again, just because these kids initially didn't perform the behavior of acting aggressive towards this Bobo doll, that doesn't mean that they didn't learn it because it was clear once you bribe these kids with juice and stickers and things that they like, they were in fact able to perform that aggressive behavior. So they actually did learn, even though they didn't act that way. And again, this is what's important when you think of that classic debate of whether they should ban certain types of violent video games. Because you'll hear people who are against the censorship saying, well, my child plays violent video games and doesn't act aggressive. Or my child watches violent movies and doesn't act the way that those people do on TV. But that doesn't necessarily mean that just because they're not performing that behavior that they're seeing, that doesn't mean they're not learning that behavior. So it's a scary thought to think about, right? And when it comes to learning, Bandura devised his own theory, known as Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory, talk about a mouthful. But it's pretty easy to remember if you ask yourself, am I motivated? So say that with me. Am I motivated to learn Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory? Are you motivated? Let's see. Let's write it out. Am I motivated? Well, I'm sure you are, if you're watching this video. But really this is a mnemonic that I came up with that might make it easier for you to remember it. The A stands for attention. The M stands for memory. The I stands for imitation. And motivated stands for motivation. So let's just remove these two letters, motivation. So this is Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory and the four components of it, attention, memory, imitation, and motivation. So let's use an example to illustrate what I'm talking about here. So let's say I want to teach you how to draw a star. So here we go. I want you to learn this. Did you see me draw it? OK, so in order to learn how to draw a star like I did-- of course, I don't know why you wouldn't know how to draw it anyway. But let's say that you've never seen this really interesting star before, OK? So you have to have an attention span long enough to watch me go through the movements of drawing the star. Not only do you have to have the attention span, you have to have a memory to remember me drawing the star. And what imitation means is you have to be able to imitate what I just did. So let's delete the star now. And if I were to ask you to draw it or imitate the way that I drew it, that would be imitation. And that would involve your memory and having an attention span long enough to do it. And then, of course, what it comes down to is motivation. If you're going to draw a star for me, you probably have the attention span long enough to watch me go through the movement. I'm sure your memory is good enough to remember me doing it. So I'm sure you're capable of imitating me drawing that star. But the question is are you motivated enough to do that? So if you were, you would do-- And that's Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory. So am I motivated? And if you just watched this whole video, I'm sure you are.