This week in seminars we have been looking over a rather well-known psychological experiment. For many in my group, this was a new thing for them, but for me: I was already familiar with the research as I had to learn about it in my psychology a-level.
The psychological experiment goes as follows… Bandura, Ross and Ross took 36 boys and 36 girls from the Stanford University Nursery school. The children were aged between 3 and 6.
The 72 children were separated into three groups: Aggressive model, non-aggressive model and the control group without a model. In the modelled groups, 12 saw a female model and 12 saw a male model. This can be seen visually in the image below:
There were three stages to the experiment, the first: Modelling. Each child was shown a room containing toys individually. In the aggressive model group, the children watched a model behave aggressively (hitting, shouting ‘Pow’ and ‘Boom’) towards a ‘Bobo doll’ toy.
In the non-aggressive model group, the children watched a model behave non-aggressively (played quietly ignoring the doll). The final group of children, the control group, were not exposed to a model at all.
The second stage: Aggression Arousal involved all the children being subjected to ‘mild aggression arousal’. Each child was taken to a room with ‘attractive’ toys. As soon as the child started to play an experimenter would stop them and tell them that these toys were reserved for other children.
The third stage tested ‘delayed imitation’. The room had a range of toys which included the ‘Bobo doll’. The child was left in the room for 20 minutes and was observed through a one-way mirror and an experimenter who was sat in the room.
The results showed that children who had observed the aggressive model had made more imitative aggressive responses than those in the other groups.
These findings supported Bandura’s Social Learning Theory. This theory suggested that children learn through observation – watching the behaviour of another person.
What does this mean for media? The media is often blamed for violent behaviour. What this experiment showed is that behaviour is imitated. If behaviour can be learnt in person then it can be learnt through the media. However, this is a very simplistic idea as there are many things that can cause someone to be violent, not just the media and I think we can all agree that scapegoating television, for example, may not be the best to help these problems.