Evaluate Bandura (1963)

Many people struggled with this essay in the mocks, apparently due to confusions with the 1961, 1963 and 1965 variations. It is imperative that you revise the AO1 sufficiently as it was apparent that many people could not remember enough specific descriptive detail in order to write an essay which was clearly grounded in the correct study.

How did I approach this essay?

  • First, I completed the essay planner sheet for studies (GRAVE) using the original Bandura (1963) pdf document: bandura1963
  • I cut and paste sections of the procedure from the study and divided it up into sections that I thought I could embed as chunks of AO1 to show my knowledge of the study.
  • I then thought about how these chunks relate to GRAVE focusing first on the strengths of the study
  • I then tried to find examples of problems with the study that I knew would fulfil the need for competing arguments; this wasn’t very easy as Bandura (1963) has many scientific strengths!
  • I then reflected on how I felt about the study in terms of creating a meaningful conclusion

Here is my completed planner sheet: essay-planner-sheet-8-bandura-63

Next up, I wrote the essay, trying to keep the mark bands as I went…as usual I have written a longer than necessary essay to model to you as many of the issues as I could think of which might then help you with other questions. I have stared with a very brief introductory sentence to show the examiner that I know which variation I am mean to be focusing on.

In 1963, Bandura aimed to explore the extent to which the behaviour seen on screen (film/TV) might be imitated by viewers. He also aimed to explore whether the imitation was dependent upon how life-like the characters were, e.g. human or cartoon-like.

One strength of the study is the relatively large sample of 48 boys and 48 girls (mean age 52 months) which suggests that the findings may be thought to be generalisable, however, on closer inspection it is apparent that the results are unlikely to be representative as all children were drawn from the Stanford Nursery school. The sample are therefore not representative of older children or adults and it is likely that the families that use Stanford Nursery are likely to be well educated and middle class. This is important as the findings may have been different for children from different socio-economic backgrounds.

On the plus side the study does have many strengths relating to its experimental procedure. For example, the study used a matched pairs to assign the Pps to the different conditions, e.g. whether Pps saw real aggression, screen aggression with human character or screen aggression with cartoon cat character. This is a strength of the study as participant variables relating to individual differences in aggression levels cannot impact the dependent variable. Furthermore, the matching was done by the experimenter and a nursery school-teacher using four 5 point scales to establish inter-rater reliability (Pearson’s=0.80), indicating the matching process was scientific and objective.

Furthermore, many would argue that the scientific status of the findings are further enhanced by the rigorous adherence to a standardised procedure. For example, all children were shown the potato prints/stickers before observing any aggression and in the real life aggression condition all children saw the models playing with the tinker toys for 1 minute before aggressing the BoBo doll and following the highly choreographed sequence of moves which included punches to the head, pommeling with a mallet, tossing the doll about and kicking it whilst saying set phrases such as “sock him in the nose” and ”pow!”. In the on-screen aggression group all children saw a 10 minute colour movie using the exact same actors and sequence of moves and script and finally in the on-screen  cartoon condition, all children saw same amount and types of aggression except the acts were performed by a female adult in a cat costume with a high pitched animated voice, fantasy land setting and with music at start and end of cartoon. This level of standardisation is important as it means the study can be replicated and tested for reliability and it also enhances internal validity as many potential confounding variables are controlled meaning changes in the number of aggressive acts subsequently performed by the children (DV)  must be due to the manipulation of the IV (the type of model observed).

This said, many would argue that high levels of standardisation such as this detracts from the ecological validity of the study. Some argue that the task and setting are artificial and in real life for example children are likely to watch TV with other people who may well talk about what is being watched and therefore reduce the likelihood of imitation. Also the BoBo is a toy which is designed to be hit and therefore it is possible that the children enacted these behaviour because they thought that this was what was expected of them. However this argument can be countered , as the children were observed from behind a on-way mirror and therefore arguably demand characteristics should be reduced as they did not know they were being watched, thus enhancing validity. This said, there was an experimenter in the room, in order to ensure the children’s safety and to make sure they did not try to exit the room.

The objectivity of the data collection was enhanced by the use of  point sampling every 5 seconds (240 observations per child) using a detailed observation schedule with “a priori-coding” which makes the measurement of the DV more reliable, however, one potential weakness was the fact that the observer was the same researcher who played the role of the male aggressive model and therefore his observation may not have been valid as he knew which experimental group the children were in. This could have lead to researcher bias. However, this argument is countered by the fact that his observations were deemed to have high inter-rater reliability for the 40% of children that were observed by another independent judge who did not know which group the children had been in.

Despite the many strengths of the study, there are some problems not least with the ethics. The young children were deliberately frustrated and upset by the standardisation of their mood in lab 2, where they were told they could not play with the attractive toys and they were made to feel inferior by the script which told them these toys were ” not for just anyone” . They were also put into a situation which was designed to make them aggressive. However, many would argue that given the parental consent and the over-arching objective to provide scientific evidence which could be used to apply pressure to television schedulers, the study’s potential benefits to society outweigh the minimal short-term costs to participants.

In conclusion, it would appear that Bandura has created a scientifically robust paradigm for researching imitative aggression and this particular  variation provided invaluable evidence that young children are highly vulnerable to imitating what they view on screen. As demonstrated in this essay, his adoption of the experimental method and use of objective, quantitative data means his data is relatively indisputable although further research with older children and adults would clearly add value. This said, the implications Bandura has latterly pursued in terms of the potential of the small screen to provide identifiable role models to promote pro-social behaviour has lead to global advances in women’s rights, literacy and health promotion through the use of the Sabido technique and this alone is surely enough to argue the unequivocal merits of this classic study in psychology.

Here is a copy of the essay in word document; go through and colour code …


  • the embedded AO1
  • the AO3 “signpost phrases” that show the examiner when we are being evaluative
  • the competing arguments
  • the balanced and nuanced conclusion

Now you have seen how to attempt a Bandura essay you should be able to do the same for the 1963 and 1965 variations.