Bobo Doll Experiment
In 1961, children in APS Fellow Albert Bandura’s laboratory witnessed an adult beating up an inflatable clown. The doll, called Bobo, was the opposite of menacing with its wide, ecstatic grin and goofy clown outfit.
But when it was their own turn to play with Bobo, children who witnessed an adult pummeling the doll were likely to show aggression too. Similar to their adult models, the children kicked the doll, hit it with a mallet, and threw it in the air. They even came up with new ways to hurt Bobo, such as throwing darts or aiming a toy gun at him. Children who were exposed to a non-aggressive adult or no model at all had far less aggression toward Bobo.
Bandura’s findings challenged the widely accepted behaviorist view that rewards and punishments are essential to learning. He suggested that people could learn by observing and imitating others’ behavior.
Social Learning Theory
Social learning theory is a theory of learning and social behavior which proposes that new behaviors can be acquired by observing and imitating others. It states that learning is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context and can occur purely through observation or direct instruction, even in the absence of motor reproduction or direct reinforcement. In addition to the observation of behavior, learning also occurs through the observation of rewards and punishments, a process known as vicarious reinforcement. When a particular behavior is rewarded regularly, it will most likely persist; conversely, if a particular behavior is constantly punished, it will most likely desist. The theory expands on traditional behavioral theories, in which behavior is governed solely by reinforcements, by placing emphasis on the important roles of various internal processes in the learning individual.
There are three core concepts at the heart of social learning theory.
- People can learn through observation.
- Mental states are important to learning.
- Learning does not necessarily lead to a change in behavior.
The following steps are involved in the observational learning and modeling process:
- Attention: In order to learn, you need to be paying attention. Anything that distracts your attention is going to have a negative effect on observational learning. If the model is interesting or there is a novel aspect of the situation, you are far more likely to dedicate your full attention to learning.
- Retention: The ability to store information is also an important part of the learning process. Retention can be affected by a number of factors, but the ability to pull up information later and act on it is vital to observational learning.
- Reproduction: Once you have paid attention to the model and retained the information, it is time to actually perform the behavior you observed. Further practice of the learned behavior leads to improvement and skill advancement.
- Motivation: Finally, in order for observational learning to be successful, you have to be motivated to imitate the behavior that has been modeled. Reinforcement and punishment play an important role in motivation. While experiencing these motivators can be highly effective, so can observing others experiencing some type of reinforcement or punishment. For example, if you see another student rewarded with extra credit for being to class on time, you might start to show up a few minutes early each day.
According to Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” In other words, self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. Bandura described these beliefs as determinants of how people think, behave, and feel.Since Bandura published his seminal 1977 paper, “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change,” the subject has become one of the most studied topics in psychology. Why has self-efficacy become such an important topic among psychologists and educators? As Bandura and other researchers have demonstrated, self-efficacy can have an impact on everything from psychological states to behavior to motivation.
Our belief in our own ability to succeed plays a role in how we think, how we act, and how we feel about our place in the world. Self-efficacy also determines what goals we choose to pursue, how we go about accomplishing those goals, and how we reflect upon our own performance.How does self-efficacy develop? These beliefs begin to form in early childhood as children deal with a wide variety of experiences, tasks, and situations. However, the growth of self-efficacy does not end during youth but continues to evolve throughout life as people acquire new skills, experiences, and understanding.
According to Bandura, there are four major sources of self-efficacy:
- Mastery Experiences : “The most effective way of developing a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences,” Bandura explained. Performing a task successfully strengthens our sense of self-efficacy. However, failing to adequately deal with a task or challenge can undermine and weaken self-efficacy.
- Social Modeling : Witnessing other people successfully completing a task is another important source of self-efficacy. According to Bandura, “Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers’ beliefs that they too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities to succeed.”
- Social Persuasion : Bandura also asserted that people could be persuaded to believe that they have the skills and capabilities to succeed. Consider a time when someone said something positive and encouraging that helped you achieve a goal. Getting verbal encouragement from others helps people overcome self-doubt and instead focus on giving their best effort to the task at hand.
- Psychological Responses : Our own responses and emotional reactions to situations also play an important role in self-efficacy. Moods, emotional states, physical reactions, and stress levels can all impact how a person feels about their personal abilities in a particular situation. A person who becomes extremely nervous before speaking in public may develop a weak sense of self-efficacy in these situations.
Observational learning is sometimes also referred to as shaping, modeling, and vicarious reinforcement. While it can take place at any point in life, it tends to be the most common during childhood as children learn from the authority figures and peers in their lives.It also plays an important role in the socialization process, as children learn how to behave and respond to others by observing how their parents and other caregivers interact with each other and with other people.Psychologist Albert Bandura is the researcher perhaps most often identified with learning through observation. He and other researchers have demonstrated that we are naturally inclined to engage in observational learning. In fact, children as young as 21 days old have been shown to imitate facial expressions and mouth movements.
If you’ve ever made faces at an infant and watched them try to mimic your funny expressions, then you certainly understand how observational learning can be such a powerful force even from a very young age. Bandura’s social learning theory stresses the importance of observational learning.In his famous Bobo doll experiment, Bandura demonstrated that young children would imitate the violent and aggressive actions of an adult model. In the experiment, children observed a film in which an adult repeatedly hit a large, inflatable balloon doll. After viewing the film clip, children were allowed to play in a room with a real Bobo doll just like the one they saw in the film.What Bandura found was that children were more likely to imitate the adult’s violent actions when the adult either received no consequences or when the adult was actually rewarded for their violent actions. Children who saw film clips in which the adult was punished for this aggressive behaviorwere less likely to repeat the behaviors later on.