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How Theory and Research Are Connected Bandura's Bobo Doll Experiment



This article examines how Bandura’s bobo doll experiment shaped the development of social learning theory. The limitations in the design of the bobo doll study are also distinguished. Note, until now the study continues to evolve the social learning theory as more researches build upon it. Therefore, no study is truly finite as new knowledge based upon its foundation is created - hence study limitations. Nevertheless, the limitations of one study often result in additional studies. This article can also be found at
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By Fredrick Norfleet
Sunday, March 15, 2020
© FB. Norfleet Publishing
How Theory and Research Are Connected Bandura's Bobo Doll Experiment
There are many Theories of Psychology Behavioral Psychology, Developmental
Psychology, and Cognitive Psychology. Cognitive psychology, "explores the branch of mental
science that deals with motivation, problem-solving, decision-making, thinking, learning, memory,
and attention" (Cherry, 2020, P. 1). There are three primary learning theories classical conditioning,
operant conditioning, and observational learning. Theories help researchers explain, predict, and
understand observable phenomena by conducting research experiments. Theories and research
connect in a deductive approach because researchers use theory to guide the design of a
research study in testing a hypothesis.
For example, throughout the 1960s, Albert Bandura performed experiments on the
observational learning theory. The research experiments that Albert Bandura conducted know as
the "Bobo Doll Experiments" (Mcleod, 1970, P. 1) examine if observable social behaviors,
specifical aggression, can be developed by observation learning. According to Cherry, K.
observational learning "describes the process of learning through watching others, retaining the
information, and then later replicating the behaviors that were observed" (Cherry, 2020, P. 1). In
1977 Alfred Bandura completed his research, which resulted in Bandura's (1977) Social Learning
Theory. His theory declares, "children learn social behavior such as aggression through the
process of observation learning - through watching the behavior of another person" (Mcleod, 1970,
P. 1). However, there are several limitations to Bandura's study.
Critics of the Bobo Doll Experiment say, "the demonstrations are measured almost
immediately; therefore, such snapshot studies, we cannot discover if such a single exposure can
have long-term effects." (Mcleod, 1970, P. 1). To silence the critics, Alfred Bandura could have
used a longitudinal study to address the limitation mentioned above. A longitudinal study involves
looking at variables over weeks, months, years, and in some cases, decades. For example,
"research reveals that since aggressive behavior is learned, nonaggressive ways of interacting
with the world can also be learned" ("Preventing Violence by Teaching Non-Violent Problem-
Solving", 2020, P. 1). Therefore using a longitudinal study, we could learn if the children would
behave aggressively toward the Bobo Doll after being taught nonaggressive ways of interacting
with the world.
Cherry, K. (n.d.). Cognitive Psychology. Retrieved March 4, 2020, from, S. A. (2014). Bobo
doll experiment. Retrieved from
Mcleod, S. (1970, January 1). Bobo Doll Experiment. Retrieved March 4, 2020, from
Preventing Violence by Teaching Non-Violent Problem-Solving. (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2020,
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