Social Learning Theory and Its Application to Aggression
Social learning theory proposes that social learning occurs when the individual views a modeled behavior that they value, observes an act if the model has a role model or admired status, and when a person imitates a learned behavior (Bandura, & Ribes-Inesta, 1976). The basic foundations of the theory are applied to education policies, understanding psychological disorders, training courses, behavioral modeling, in the media and has a plethora of further applications in today’s society. Another application of the theory is for criminals, violence and aggression. Whether referring to violence in the media, domestic violence, community violence, bullying and others, aggression and violent behaviors can by dissected and expounded using social learning theory. Social learning theory is one of the most commonly used behavior theories regarding criminology and aggression. Albert Bandura, one of the more important contributors to social learning theory, believed that aggression could not be explained by a simplistic behaviorism theory. When looking at aggression, Bandura sought to find out how aggressive behaviors are established, why they behave antagonistically and how to determine if an individual will continue to display patterns of aggression (Evans, 1989). Social learning theory’s three main propositions are that social learning occurs from observations and from internal reinforcement; and that learning a behavior does not necessarily mean that a person will demonstrate such actions. Social cognitive theory builds upon this last point and is based on the idea that people’s morality affects social learning. Eventually, Bandura believed that the two theories should converge and that it provides a better way of understanding social learning and aggression. In his effort to prove social learning theory, Bandura performed what is known as the Bobo doll experiment. This experiment was very controversial as Bandura sought to prove that aggression was learned through imitation of others. Children between the ages of three and six were brought in to a room with an adult in one corner and the child in the other. The child’s side contained fun activities while the adult’s side contained a toy set, a mallet and a Bobo doll. The child was told that the toys in the adult corner were only for the adults. In three different groups, children were either subjected to an aggressive adult that would punch and kick the Bobo doll, a non-aggressive adult that would play with the small toys and ignored the Bobo doll and another group where no adult was present. After the ten minute session the child was brought into another room with many toys and after only two minutes, the child is told that they are no longer allowed to play with those toys. The frustrated children were then brought back into the first room, where the experiment sought to measure the physical and verbal aggression, the amount of times the mallet was used as other forms of aggression and other forms of aggression that did not show imitation of the original adult. The experiment found that children exposed to the aggressive adult were more likely to act more aggressively than the others. The study also found that boys were much more likely to be aggressive and that imitation increased when the model was of the same sex (Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1961). Bandura concluded that the children observing adults are more likely to think that the behavior is acceptable, therefore the child is inclined to use aggressive actions in future situations. Although the experiment had its share of criticisms, there have been many variations on the experiment. The Bobo doll experiment has sparked a flood of parental censorship within the media as movies now have a rating system and every television show is required to display their rating. As controversy stirs around violent video games and movies, many believe that if children are not...
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