Good Monkey See, Good Monkey Do: The power of modeling and reinforcement in children

by Kelsey Crowder and Jerica Wild
Faculty advisor: Dr. Wind Goodfriend

Bandura et al.’s (1961) classic Bobo Doll experiment established children model aggression. In addition, children are more likely to model behaviors they have seen be reinforced (Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1963) and when the models are similar to themselves (Perry & Bussey, 1979). The present study investigated if children are just as likely to model altruism. Three video conditions showing a model existed: helping with positive reinforcement, helping with positive punishment, and playing with no helping, reinforcement, or punishment. Children watched one of the three videos, and were asked to play with the same toys as the model for five minutes. It was predicted that children who see the video of altruism being positively reinforced with praise and a reward will imitate those same behaviors, compared to other conditions. Another prediction is that girls will be more likely to imitate the behaviors in the video because the model is a woman. Helping in children was measured by participants matching the hand the toy was in or the words spoken by the model in the video (spontaneous helping was also measured). Research on providing children with positive role models enacting behaviors such as helping may increase children’s positive behaviors.