Main Theories of Aggression

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Outline and assess the main theories of aggression

Aggression is an act of hostility with deliberate intention to harm another person against his or her will. Some psychologists believe that aggression is an important aspect of our evolutionary ancestry and it is understood better in that context, whereas others believe that aggression is best explained in physiological terms e.g. the imbalance of hormones or neurotransmitters in the brain. There are many definitions used to explain why humans/ animals become aggressive (

In the social learning theory (SLT) of aggression, Bandura (1962) suggested that the expression of aggression is learnt through social learning not ignoring the fact that the potential for the human aggression was biological. Bandura claimed that we learn specific aggressive behaviours for example, the form in which the aggression takes and how it is addressed to the target. Skinner, 1953 suggested that a child learns the aggressive behaviour through direct reinforcement while Bandura argues that a child learns by observing role models indirectly. Moreover, the SLT can be used to explain other behaviours such as eating disorders, personality etc. Research carried out by Phillip (1986) suggested the daily homicide rate in the US almost increased in the following of a major boxing match this suggested that the viewers were imitating the behaviour they watched from their ‘role models’. This clear shows that the SLT can also be used to explain the behaviour of both the children and adults. This is because aggressive behaviour is witnessed at home and at school as well as through the media i.e. reading books, watching television and listening to a certain type of music.

By observing the consequences of other’s actions, children learn the aggressive behaviour indirectly. This whole process is known as the ‘vicarious reinforcement’ whereby a child learns the likely outcome of the...
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