DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY – Bandura et al.: Background
Some developmental psychologists are particularly interested in how human beings
(and other animals) learn things. Obviously, we learn from experience and one of the
first psychologists to study this was John B Watson, over a hundred years ago.
Watson founded a branch of psychology called Behaviourism. As the name suggests,
Behaviourist psychologists look at behaviour and tend to ignore cognitions and other
“invisible” processes. They try to explain behaviour in terms of the environment we
are in and the stimuli we receive.
Pavlov’s Dog Since I started rubbing my puppy’s
nose in the mess he makes, he now
Another early Behaviourist was only poos and pees outside. How can
Ivan Pavlov who experimented you explain this with classical
on dogs. Pavlov was a biologist conditioning?
who wanted to study saliva but
What behaviours have you learned
needed a way to make his dogs from association?
slobber on demand. Because
the dogs tended to drool when What behaviours do children learn
food was brought to them, without associations?
Pavlov rang a bell just before How could classical conditioning be
every feeding time. Eventually, used to cure drug addicts? Would it
the dogs learned to associate work?
the sound of the bell with the
appearance of food and they would start to salivate uncontrollably whenever they
heard the bell, whether food turned up or not.
This type of learning is called Classical Conditioning and it’s the basis for most
animal training. It uses powerful associations to drum in knee-jerk responses.
Behaviourism really took off in America in the ‘50s and the way was led by B F
Skinner, America’s #1 Psychologist. Skinner did careful experiments using rewards
and punishments. His “Skinner Box” held a rat and a small switch. The rat would
eventually flick the switch by accident while exploring and this made food appear
from a dispenser. Eventually the rat learned to press the lever to get the food. In a
different version, the floor of the box was electrified and flicking the switch would
turn off the power for a minute and the rat soon learned to do this too.
This type of learning is
How do we use operant
conditioning when we train
Conditioning and it’s the
basis for a lot of human
How do teachers use operant learning too. Offering a
conditioning on pupils? reward to shape behaviour is
What behaviours do children learn called positive
without reinforcement? reinforcement. Taking away
something nasty when you
What effects do rewards have on
your behaviour? How about get the behaviour you’re
punishments? looking for is called
Social Learning Theory Blue tits have learned to pick the foil
A lot of Behaviourism is pretty inhuman and tops off milk bottles on doorsteps to
treats people as no better than performing dogs or get milk. Using conditioning and
lab rats. Neal Miller & John Dollard published social learning theory, explain how
they have learned this behaviour.
Social Learning & Imitation in 1941 and focused
instead on how we learn by watching other people What behaviours have you learned
and copying them. They pointed out that you from watching others?
don’t just learn because you’ve been rewarded; Celebrities are often expected to be
you can learn when you see someone else being “good role models” but they don’t
rewarded. This adds an important cognitive always live up to this. Can you think
component to Behaviourism – human beings look of any examples? Are people really
at their environment and they draw conclusions influenced by role models?
about the things they see. This is known as
Social Learning Theory (SLT) is particularly associated with Albert
Bandura at Stanford University. Although his
name is linked with his Bobo Doll studies in the My
early ‘60s, Bandura is still doing research. He favourite
prefers SLT to be known as Social Cognitive T-shirt
Theory these days, but the new name hasn’t really slogan
Learning to be Aggressive
Psychologists are very interested in aggression. Some psychologists think aggression
is an instinct. This is taking the nature side of the nature/nurture debate. If aggression
is instinctive then behaving aggressively might actually be good for us. Sigmund
Freud argued that releasing pent-up aggression is cathartic – it brings a sense of
relief, peace and calm. The trick is to find some socially acceptable way of venting
Other psychologists are more interested in the nurture side of the debate and focus on
how aggression is learned. This is where Albert Bandura comes in. Aggression is
often something we associate with excitement and being the centre of attention. Also,
aggression often gets rewarded, or at least makes something unpleasant stop. Finally,
we view a lot of aggression through TV. A study in 2001 found that on TV there are
5.2 acts of violence per hour and this was a big increase because back in 1997 there
were only 4.1 violent acts per hour.
1. What controls were used in Bandura’s study? [2 marks]
2. What is “inter-rater reliability” and why is it important when assessing
aggressiveness?? [2 marks]
3. What aspects of Bandura’s experiment might be harmful for a child? [2 marks]
4. This experiment was conducted nearly 50 years ago.Would children behave the
same way today? Why or why not? [2 marks]
5. What differences were there between boys’ and girls’ aggressive behaviour? What
explanation did Bandura give for these differences? [2 marks]