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Albert Bandura: Father of Cognitivism, famous for modeling studies. 1925 - present

Biographical Information

Reciprocal Determinism

Albert Bandura started out in the behaviorist camp, where reinforcement for past experiences wholly determines a person's behavior. He realized that this was too simple to totally explain aggression, so he theorized that not only does the environment mold behavior, but that behavior molds the environment right back. This theory was called reciprocal determinism.

Later, Bandura added a third factor into personality -- a person's cognitive processes, including images and language. This led heavily into cognitivism, causing Bandura to be named "Father of the Cognitivist Movement".

Bobo Doll Studies

Albert Bandura's most famous set of experiments were the Bobo Doll studies. In the experiments, Bandura had groups of children watch a video tape of one of his students beating the crap out of a bobo doll. Then, he moved the children to another play room containing toys they *were* allowed to play with, including a bobo doll and many of the tools used by the woman in the video to beat the doll (hammers, balls, etc.).

As many parents could predict, the children proceeded to imitate the woman on the video nearly exactly, even mimicking specific phrases she yelled when beating on the doll. This was notable because neither the children nor the woman on tape were rewarded for their actions. The experiment repeated with varying groups of children, with varying people on tape administering the bobo doll beatings, and even with a real clown as the subject of the beatings. (After watching the video of the clown being beaten, the children were led to a room containing a real clown. The kids immediately began to pummel it.) No reinforcement was given except for the lack of punishment, revealing this to sometimes be a reward in and of itself. Additionally, this revealed that children easily pick up behaviors from others around them, suggesting that violence at home, at school, and in the media can teach children that violence is OK.


There are four steps required in the modeling process:

  1. Attention: Anything that lessens your attention to the role model will decrease the chances of your learning the behavior. If you are sleepy, sick, drugged, nervous, or distracted, you will learn less well. Also, if the model appears to be attractive, prestigious, competent, or similar to yourself, you'll pay more attention.
  2. Retention: This is where Bandura's thoughts on imagery and language come in. You have to retain what you've seen somewhere in your memory -- the more vivid the retention, the more accurate your modeling can be.
  3. Reproduction: You have to be physically capable of imitating the behavior. If you don't know how to swim, you probably won't benefit from watching Olympic swimmers. However, if you are on a local swim team, watching others' techniques would probably help you tweak your own.
  4. Motivation: The typical behaviorist reinforcements serve as motivation for repeating modeled behavior. You will probably mimic behavior is you have been rewarded for the behavior in the past, if there is a promised or an imagined reward, or if you see someone else get rewarded for it. You are less likely to mimic a behavior if you have been punished in the past, if punishment is threatened, or if you see someone else get punished for it.

Bandura developed a modeling therapy for use with phobics. His original research was done with herpephobics (snake-phobics). He had the phobic stand at a window looking in on a room containing a cage holding a snake and an actor. The actor would fearfully approach the cage, talking himself through every step, and sometimes even pretend to be overwhelmed with fear and run back to the edge of the room, only to try again. Gradually the actor walked to the cage, opened it, picked up the snake, and draped it over his shoulders, all the while calming himself verbally. After seeing this, many phobics were able to repeat the actor's actions after only one attempt. The phobics were always told that it was an actor -- there was no deception involved; only modeling.

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