Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models - Bandura, A., Ross, D. and Ross, S.A. (1961)


To demonstrate that if children were passive witnesses to an aggressive display by an adult they would imitate this aggressive behavior when given the opportunity.


36 boys & 36 girls with average age of 4 years old were matched on levels of aggression ( matched pairs design)

Research Method

The research method used in this study was a Lab experiment.


1) Aggressive condition - 24 children observed adult being aggressive to bobo doll - (6 boys with same sex model; 6 boys with opposite sex model ; 6 girls with same sex model; 6 girls with opposite sex model)

  • Physical- hit with mallet, threw in air, sat on it
  • Verbal- “Pow!” “Sock it to him”
  • Sequence repeated 3 times over 9 minutes

  • 2) Non-Aggressive Condition - 24 children observed adult playing and ignoring bobo doll - (6 boys with same sex model; 6 boys with opposite sex model ; 6 girls with same sex model; 6 girls with opposite sex model)

    3) Control group- 24 children
  • In some conditions the model is male, in some female.
  • IV: Aggressive/Non-aggressive model; sex of model; sex of child.
  • DV: Imitative learning (eg. aggressive behavior).
  • After 10 minutes participants taken to arousal room in groups of 6 and shown attractive toys
  • Taken to observation room with a variety of non-aggressive toys (crayons) and aggressive toys (dart gun and 3ft Bobo doll)
  • 20 minutes in room- observed through 1-way mirror
  • 2 observers- inter-rater reliability
  • Responses recorded every 5 seconds

  • Children in either aggressive and non aggressive condition were put in corner of experimental room and witnessed the behavior of a model interacting with the toys. The child was then taken to the observation room for 20 min as observers recorded their behavior with the given toys in the room (looked for imitation of models behavior)


  • The children in the aggressive model condition imitated more aggressive behavior than the children in the non-aggressive model condition.
  • Boys responded more aggressively than girls.
  • The boys in the aggressive model conditions showed more aggressive responses with male model than female.
  • The girls in the aggressive model showed more physical aggressive responses if the model was male but more verbal aggressive responses if the model was female.

  • Weaknesses

  • TLow ecological Validity - Children exposed to stranger models
  • long term psychological effects (snap shot Data)
  • Aggression or playful ?
  • Unethical

  • Ecological Validity

    Low ecological Validity seeing as how the children were exposed to models that were strangers to them and they had no interaction with the model prior or during the coarse of the experiment.


    Children tend to imitate aggression when exposed to it , especially with a same sex model. (boys and male model) Boys proved to be more aggressive than girls. Male model fit the stereotype, boys follow the aggression of the male model, whether or not they child imitates the model is based on the child's development of his or her gender identity


  • Participants matched according to level of aggression ( Matched Pairs Design )
  • High level of control of the Independent Variables.
  • The experiment can be easily replicated again.
  • Large amounts of Quantitative Data collected - (240 data points per child collected)

  • Ethics

    Maybe unethical seeing as how young children were exposed to aggressive behavior and this could cause long term psychological problems.

    Bandura, A., Ross, D. and Ross, S.A. (1961)

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