Social Learning Theory of Albert Bandura: Analysis

Child development and welfare

Gemma Smith

An experiment was conducted to explore the social learning theory of Albert Bandura. The experiment involved small children that were exposed to different forms of aggression and violence to study if the behaviour modelled by an adult would then be reflected upon the child. The experiment provided a range of results that supported the hypothesis and some results that were unexpected. The experiment was effective for the purpose and the settings with the controls provided an ideal environment.

Albert bandura was a behaviourist who performed an experiment on children who had been exposed to different behavioural conditions. Bandura’s theory states “Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behaviour is learned observationally through modelling:from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviours are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action” (Social learning theory, 2013). Bandura believed that the behaviour of children could be shaped by either classical conditioning or through operant conditioning (The distance learning centre, 2013, pg. 8). Operant conditioning was brought about by Burrhus Frederic Skinner, more commonly known as B.F. Skinner, along with his theory that “he believed the best way to understand behaviour is to look at the causes of an action and its consequences” (Simply psychology, 2014). To study this theory Skinner performed experiments on animals (You tube, March 2007). He placed pigeons in individual boxes; kept the birds at three quarter of their normal weight to ensure they would be hungry then used food as a reward for their behaviour (You tube, March 2007). He used his controlled conditions to isolate the first type of behaviour where the pigeon would peck at a red disc to then be rewarded with food (YouTube, March 2007). The pigeon’s behaviour has now been shaped through operant conditioning to receive food through reinforcement after the desired response has been performed (Boundless, nd).

This type of conditioning be it positive or by the removal of punishment can be applied to the behaviour of children (Boundless, nd). A child that receives a reward for picking up the toys in their room for example will do this to receive the prize (Boundless, nd). Or a child’s behaviour could be altered by negative reinforcement such as a child’s favourite teddy or doll being confiscated if they did not perform a particular task. Therefore this demonstrates the power that reinforcement has upon the conditioning and the after affect being the repetition of the actions once the child has been rewarded (Boundless, nd). Reinforcement could easily have the opposite affect if the correct wording is not used and if there is not a clear explanation to follow (education.com, 2014). Then the effectiveness of the behavioural moulding is not as good as it could be. However if the parents are to use responsive language it demonstrates verbal guidance that is respectful to children by clarifying the rules and responsibilities, therefore giving the parents power (education.com, 2014). Although this may prove to be effective it raises some ethical issues. A parent could be considered as using positive reinforcement to manipulate the child (az central, 2014). This manipulation could be used to benefit the parent whilst placing the child in the middle (Parent alienation support, 2010). If a child were to provide reports to their main carer about the other parent to receive a reward this would be classed as manipulation and raise the point of it being unethical (Parent alienation support, 2010). When negative reinforcement is instilled the desired outcome is the same but the procedure is different (behavioural consulting, 2013). Instead of encouragement to promote more good behaviour something negative would be removed to motivate the child to respond (behavioural consulting, 2013). This can also prove to be effective if it is not used to an excessive amount or the psychological affect can damage the child’s self-esteem (global post, 2014). The damage can cause the child to become withdrawn or unwilling to try therefore giving their parents the ability to make them feel poorly about themselves (global post, 2014). Punishment is another form of reinforcement that can be used positively or negatively (behavioural consulting, 2013). Both can be used effectively if they are performed consistently (about.com, 2014). Skinner believed that this type of punishment would only be temporary and perhaps this is occurs because there is not an explanation to accompany the punishment (about.com, 2014). Punishment could also raise concerns later in life for a child whom is smacked for example; they may become aggressive or their behaviour could worsen into antisocial behaviour (about.com, 2014).

Conditioning has been used before Bandura by John B. Watson and Rosalie Raynor (1920) in an experiment called little Albert (about.com, 2014). They experimented to see how phobias are the consequence of learnt behaviour (Mike Cardwell, Liz Clark and Claire Meldrum, April 2004, Psychology, third edition, Hammersmith, Collins, pg. 133). Banduras theory follows with the social learning theory (1973) being that violent behaviour is learnt by observing and copying another performing this (Mike Cardwell, Liz Clark and Claire Meldrum, April 2004, Psychology, third edition, Hammersmith, Collins, pg. 134). When Bandura performed the bobo doll experiment he set out to find if modelling influenced the behaviour of young children (youtube, May 2011). Watson and Raynor had the starting point and basis for Banduras theory to become more effective because people are social beings that may observe to learn (youtube, 2011). During the time of Banduras experiment the widespread view was that watching violence reduces aggression however Bandura wanted to prove that a child who watched an adult be violent towards the Bobo doll would then copy the behaviour not reduce it and that is what happened (youtube, May 2011). Modelling on a child could not only achieve what Bandura did but it could cause damage to the child (about.com, 2014). As observational learning has a great effect on what children learn as acceptable behaviour and for a child this shapes their personality (about.com, 2014). On the other hand John Bowlby (1907-1990) studied the attachment behaviour and believed that behaviours are instinctive (simply psychology, 2007). He said the behaviour becomes activated by any conditions that seem to threaten proximity (simply psychology, 2007).

A study to investigate whether children learn from observing a model exhibiting aggressive behaviour to a Bobo doll.

If violent and aggressive behaviour is modelled to a child then the significant outcome from the child will be aggressive.

Whilst the child observes the adult being aggressive or violent to the doll they may not repeat the action and act the opposite with the doll.

There is no significant difference between condition 1 (child praised) and condition 2 (child punished) when acting aggressively towards a Bobo doll.

An experiment will be carried out using controlled conditions and variables to prove that aggressive behaviour can be modelled to a child, which they will then copy.

The study will be an experimental and independent subject design. The independent variable would be the amount of children exposed to the aggressive and non-aggressive behaviour (simply psychology, 2011). The dependent variable is the measure of aggressive behaviour.

The participants included seventy two children and two adult’s one of each gender. The children were separated evenly into three groups. In one half of the first two groups there were six boys and six girls with a female and in the second half there were six boys and six girls (simply psychology, 2011). The third group did not contain a model. The children ranged in age from three to six years old (simply psychology, 2011). The experiment contains many children of a range of ages so as to provide a varied amount of results.

The apparatus needed for the experiment will be the videos of the children and model, a tick sheet to mark down the aggressive and non-aggressive acts. A stopwatch to be certain each observational study takes the same amount of time.

Conditions

Using novel objects to hit the Bobo doll

Playing without showing aggressive actions

Child 1 video 1

4

0

Child 2 video 1

4

2

Child 3 (girl, 5 years)

3

2

Child 4 (boy, 3 years)

4

0

Child 5 (girl, 4 years)

3

2

Child 6 (boy, 4 years)

4

1

Child 1 (boy, 3 years)

2

5

Child 2 (boy, 5 years)

1

6

Child 3 (girl, 4 years)

0

3

Child 4 (girl, 5 years)

0

5

Child 5 (girl, 4 years)

1

4

Child 6 (boy, 6 years)

2

5

Conditions

Using novel objects to hit the Bobo doll

Playing without showing aggressive actions

Row totals

Model being praised

22

7

29

Model being punished

6

28

34

Column totals

28

35

63

Inferential statistics

Using novel objects to hit the bobo doll 28/12= 2.3 35.5/12=2.95 F 2.95

Playing without showing aggressive actions 35/12=2.9 6.8/12=0.56 0.56

2.95/0.56= 5.26

The degrees of freedom for numerator are 15 and the degrees of freedom for dominator are 6. This makes my test two tailed therefore giving it a two directional outcome when looking at the results. This result does reflect the hypothesis and the alternate hypothesis but not the null hypothesis. The hypothesis and alternate hypothesis provides two directions to which the result can travel. The null hypothesis however is very specific to generalising that both of the conditions will not provide different results. Using the variance test provides information on two groups and as my results involved this test seemed appropriate to use.

The experiment has clearly proven that children do learn from observation and can show just how much behaviour can be modelled to a child. A child’s way of thinking has been uncovered in this experiment when the results are explored. This is reflected when looking at the age range of the children and their results. In the Praised section of the table the ratings are all between three and four but as soon as the children are being punished for their behaviour the numbers dramatically drop and begin to range from zero to two. Although the results for non-aggressive behaviour under praise were surprisingly low whilst the punishment was high from three up to six on the scale. The controls that were put into place were effective and not in a way to be misleading to the child. For instance there was a kitchen set, a ball or two, a gun and a mallet. Even though the children used these for their own weapons these ideas were not modelled by the adult. The experiment could be described as ethical and unethical. Ethical because modelling behaviour is a way to teach children the difference between what is acceptable and what is not. On the other hand it is not ethical do use a blow up doll to demonstrate a child causing pain to it just because they have been shown to do so. How does it prove that the same child would repeat the actions months later on the Bobo doll and if that child does this because they remember it or their behaviour has changed. If the experiment were to be carried out again the Bobo doll would not be used another way of demonstrating behavioural changes should be used to vary the results. The results cannot be generalised to the whole public in every aspect but perhaps the ideas could be. The experiment is not generalised enough from the beginning the children were tested to see how aggressive they were to start with and with everyone being different the results would be inaccurate. The theory of social learning has some value in terms of associating many children to this type of learning from a very young age. The research could be expanded to deeper exploration in to the brain and what triggers are common in already aggressive people to what the triggers are for those whom are not aggressive my nature against the impartial people. The results for this can link the behaviourism to many types of crime, antisocial behaviour and even domestic violence.

In conclusion the experiment to find out if modelling aggressive and violent behaviour would influence a child to observe and copy seems to have been proven a success. Albert Bandura’s theory can be applied to so many different aspects to behaviour and he chose one of the most interesting areas. The results have shown what power adults can have over their children and that reinforcement is not something to be taken lightly but supports the social learning theory. Conducting an experiment with small children was a good place to start because of their innocence and little or lack of knowledge of morals.

Word count: 2063

References

http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/social-learning.html Social learning theory 2013 http://www.distancelearningcentre.com/access/assessments/cdw/dip_cdw_child_rearing_assess.pdf bandura 2013 http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html skinner 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_ctJqjlrHA Skinner March 2007 https://www.boundless.com/business/motivation-theories-and-applications/modern-views-on-motivation/reinforcement-theory/ Reinforcement theory nd http://www.education.com/reference/article/positive-guidance-techniques/ positive reinforcement 2014 http://yourbusiness.azcentral.com/ethical-consideration-negative-positive-reinforcement-27520.html ethics and reinforcement 2014 http://parentalalienationsupport.com/2010/09/09/methods-of-emotional-manipulation-understanding-parental-alienation-using-behaviorism/ ethics and reinforcement 2010 http://bcotb.com/the-difference-between-positivenegative-reinforcement-and-positivenegative-punishment/ negative reinforcement 2013 http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/effects-negative-reinforcements-selfesteem-14366.html negative reinforcement self-esteem 2014 http://psychology.about.com/od/operantconditioning/f/punishment.htm punishment 2014 http://psychology.about.com/od/classicpsychologystudies/a/little-albert-experiment.htm Watson and Raynor 2014 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zerCK0lRjp8 albert bandura may, 2011 http://psychology.about.com/od/early-child-development/a/experience-and-development.htm experience and development 2014 http://www.simplypsychology.org/bowlby.html Bowlby 2007 http://www.simplypsychology.org/bobo-doll.html bandura Bobo doll 2011

Book

Mike Cardwell, Liz Clark and Claire Meldrum, April 2004, Psychology, third edition, Hammersmith, Collins