How a Child Learns

How A Child Learns
IntroductionThis short report outlines ways in which children can learn new behaviours by watching others, which is labelled ???Social Learning??™. Over the years many psychologist have carried out research to better understand how children??™s behaviours are influenced, Albert Bandura and colleagues carried out one of these studies in the early 1960??™s. This group of psychologist predicted that children would imitate aggressive acts observed in certain conditions. They also were investigating what factors effect the child??™s behaviour, such as the gender of the adult. The StudyThe experiment by Bandura et al. (1963), as cited by Brace and Byford, comprised of ninety-six children aged between 35 and 69 months (around 3-6 years), with an equal numbers of boys and girls, at Stanford University. Bandura and colleagues carefully divided the children into four groups of 24, each child participating individually. All groups underwent similar procedures but with a slight variance in the exposure to violence.The experiment centred on an inflatable Bobo doll. The study alternated between male and female adults, known as models, behaving aggressively towards the doll for the children to observe. The four groups were as follows:? Group 1 observed a live model behaving aggressively towards the Bobo doll.
? Group 2 observed a film of the live model behaving aggressively towards the Bobo doll.
? Group 3 observed a film of a ???fantasy??™ model, cat-like creature, behaving aggressively towards the Bobo doll.
? Group 4 did not observe any aggressive behaviour towards the Bobo doll.The child was then lead into a second room where there were many toys. Once they started to play the experimenter told the child that these were the best toys and they are going to be saved for some other children. The child was informed that they could play with the toys in a third room. This room had many varieties of toys from dart guns to cuddly toys plus a Bobo doll, which the child had observed being used by the model. Bandura and colleagues observed and video recorded the child playing in this third room for 20 minutes from behind a one-way mirror.The FindingsAverage amount of aggression shown by boys and girls according to the gender and realism of models.CONDITION


Female Model
Male Model
Female Model
Male Model
Live model
Film model



(No model)

? Adapted from: Bandura, A., Ross, D. and Ross, S. (1963) ???Imitation of film-mediated aggressive models??™, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, vol.66, no.1, pp.3-11
The results showed that children??™s exposure to aggressive behaviour leads to more aggressive actions. This is true with all three experiments with exposure to violence compared to the child who did not observe any aggressive acts. Bandura et al. (1963) found that boys displayed higher numbers of aggressive acts than girls in all four groupings. The experiment demonstrated children??™s propensity to imitate aggressive acts they observe both live and through the media.The authors of Discovering Psychology commented on similar research:
???It also seems fairly well established that children are more likely to copy if the model is more like themselves (Bandura, 1973). Although these findings have not always been replicated in other people??™s research, in general other researchers have confirmed Bandura??™s findings (Ormrod, 1999).??™

(Brace and Byford, 2010, p. 123)EthicsSeveral ethical issues this experiment brought to light were; participation consent, whether the child??™s right to withdraw from the study was protected and what long-term effect the exposure to aggressive behaviour had on the child. Unlike today, in 1963 it was not a requirement to state an ethical review of the research.Social LearningThere are several suggested methods of how social learning operates. One possibility is through observing an aggressive model, real or fictional, creates memories of a particular behaviour and associates certain emotions and actions. This then means that, when a similar setting or situation arises, a person is more likely to respond in accordance with the stored memory (Berkowitz, 1993) stated by Brace and Byford. LimitationsWide ranges of studies have been completed looking at the correlation between media and aggressive behaviour. It has proven difficult to identify the sole reason for an effect, indeed there is still no unequivocal proof that screen violence alone leads to acts of violence which Brace and Byford, cited the study by Ann Hagell and Tim Newburn (1994). This compared 78 teenagers who had committed violent offences with a group of teenagers who did??™t have a criminal record.Conclusion? Children learn social behaviour through observation.
? Children exposed to a violent model make them more likely to display acts of aggression.
? Future studies are protected ethically under the Nuremberg code (1946) An inflatable Bobo doll (Words 799)ReferencesBandura, A., Ross, D. and Ross, S.A. (1963) ??? Imitation of film-mediated aggressive models??™, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, vol.1 66, no. 1, pp.3-11.Bandura, A. (1973) Aggression: a social learning analysis, Upper Saddle Place, NJ, Prentice Hall.Berkowitz, L. (1993) Aggression: Its Causes, Consequences, and Control, New York, NY, McGraw Hill.Hagell, A. and Newburn, T. (1994) Young Offenders and the Media: Viewing Habits and Preferences, London, Policy Studies Institute.Ormrod, J.E. (1999) Human Learning (3rd ed.), Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice-Hall.

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