Albert Bandura

& his contributions to psychology


  1. Albert Bandura was born December 4, 1925.
  2. 1949 – Graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Psychology.
  3. 1952 – Received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Iowa.
  4. 1953 – Began teaching at Stanford University.
  5. 1974 – Served as President of the APA.
  6. 1980 – Received the APA’s Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions.
  7. 2004 - Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology, American Psychological Association.

What led to the discovery of this theory?

After earning his Ph.D., he was offered a position at Stanford University. Bandura accepted the offer (even though it meant resigning from another position he had already accepted) and has continued to work at Stanford to this day. It was during his studies on adolescent aggression that Bandura became increasing interested in vicarious learning, modeling and imitation.

Albert Bandura's Social Learning Theory & the Bobo Doll

Albert Bandura's social learning theory stressed the importance of observational learning, imitation and modeling. "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," Bandura explained (Bandura, 1977). His theory integrates a continuous interaction between behaviors, cognitions and the environment.

His most famous experiment was the 1961 Bobo doll study. In the experiment, he made a film in which a woman was shown beating up a Bobo doll and shouting aggressive words. The film was then shown to a group of children. Afterwards, the children were allowed to play in a room that held a Bobo doll. The children immediately began to beat the doll, imitating the actions and words of the woman in the film.

It was significant because it departed from behaviorism’s insistence that all behavior is directed by reinforcement or rewards. The children received no encouragement or incentives to beat up the doll; they were simply imitating the behavior they had observed. Bandura termed this phenomena observational learning and characterized the elements of effective observational learning as attention, retention, reciprocation and motivation.