The Bobo Doll Experiment

Theory can be described as two or more variables that have been hypothesized or demonstrated to yield certain results to see if there are correlations between variables. There are functions and qualities of theories that Applying theories to research: The interplay of theory and research in science (2006) suggests that “theory ought to tell us why the variables or constructs are expected to relate to or influence one another” (Gelso, 2006, p. 457).

Research informs theory development in various ways. As theory development relates to the Bandura bobo doll experiment, Albert Bandura lead several experiments through an observation of a total of 72 children to establish if aggression could be obtained through imitation and observation (McLeod, 2014). This led to Bandura’s social learning theory which better informs and contends that children do learn social behaviors through observation learning and watching others (McLeod, 2016).

Of course, there were limitations of the Bandura Bobo doll experiment. Psychologists contended that there was a low level of real-life validity. A laboratory is not a real environment. Other limitations were that there was not any interaction with the child and the model. Also, if the children did not have any identity with a Bobo doll in the past, then they would perhaps not act in a certain way.

Furthermore, later studies such as the 1990 Cumberbatch experiment with Bobo dolls contended that children who have never played with a Bobo doll were five times more inclined to imitate aggressive behavior that they see towards the doll, rather than children who have had previous experience with Bobo dolls.

For a theory to be proven or tried, there must be research and testing behind it; without this research the theory would be considered bias (Gelso, 2006). The Bobo Doll Experiment places kids in groups. Some se the adults be aggressive, some see no aggression, and some do not even see any adults in the room. Then they were placed in the rooms with toys (McLeod, 2014). The results were as followed, “children learn social behaviors such as aggression through the process of observation learning – through watching the behavior of another person” (McLeod, 2014).

One of the limitations of the Bobo Doll Experiment study is that it is uneasy to see if this would have a long-term effect on the children (McLeod, 2016). The view of if the child would be aggressive or not is a small window. To find out if this affected them in the future, or long term, it may be that researchers would need to bring these kids back later on down the road. This then could help, even in a slight way, to see if it could be a long term effect. Which in hand can also make this unethical. If the kids carry this aggression into a long-term behavior, the study would be unethical. Studies should only be conducted, ethically. Meaning if a study can have a longterm effect on someone it is unethical.

  1. Gelso, C. (2006). Applying theories to research: The interplay of theory and research in science. In F. Leong & J. Austin, The psychology research handbook: A guide for graduate students and research assistants (pp. 455-464). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. Doi:10.4135/9781412976626.n32
  2. McLeod, S. A. (2014). Bobo doll experiment. Retrieved from
  3. McLeod, S. A. (2016). Bandura – Social Learning Theory. Retrieved from

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