Discuss two social psychological theories of aggression

Topics: Psychology, Behavior, Aggression Pages: 5 (1615 words) Published: February 27, 2014
Discuss two social psychological theories of aggression (24 marks) One social psychological theory of aggression is social learning theory. SLT argues that like all behaviour, aggression is learned through both direct and indirect reinforcement. Behaviour which is reinforced, be that positively or negatively – positive reinforcement occurs when the behaviour causes desired outcomes, negative reinforcement occurs when the behaviour causes undesirable outcomes - is more likely to be learned and repeated. Operant conditioning states that learning the behaviour occurs through direct reinforcement, for example if a child cleans their room and is given some sweets (positive reinforcement) or when a child cleans their room so their parent stops telling them off (negative reinforcement). SLT unlike operant conditioning, believes that behaviour can also be learned and repeated through indirect reinforcement or vicarious reinforcement. This theory was developed by Bandura and claimed that the majority of behaviour is learned through watching others. It states that if people observe another person’s behaviour reinforced – positively or negatively – they are more likely to repeat that behaviour. Bandura named these observed people models and said that people are more likely to imitate the behaviour if the model they are observing is similar to them, powerful, admirable or nurturing, for instance a child’s parents would be their most probable model. One of the main differences between traditional behaviourism and Bandura’s view in social learning theory is that Bandura believes that observation alone is enough for learning to take place unlike Skinner who argues that learning is a consequence of reinforcement. Bandura says that in order for social learning to take place the following must be maintained; Attention, a person can only learn through observation if they focus on the models behaviour. Retention, the behaviour must be remembered. Production, the individual must have the capability to reproduce the models behaviour. Motivation, the individual must expect to receive the positive reinforcement for the modelled behaviour. Bandura devised an experiment to test his theory. To begin he exposed a group of children (both girls and boys) to a short video of an adult behaving aggressively toward a “bobo doll”. There were three groups; firstly, a group where the model being observed was rewarded for the aggression. Secondly, a group in which the model was punished for the aggression and finally a control group in which there were no consequences. After the film the children were then taken to a room full of toys which they were not allowed to touch, this resulted in making the children angry and frustrated. They were then taken to another room full of toys including the bobo doll. They were then observed. Bandura found that the children who saw the model being punished in the video performed the fewest aggressive behaviours while there was no significant difference between the occurrence of aggressive behaviours between the control group and the group in which the model was rewarded. From this he concluded that children learn and imitate aggression from observing an adult model. Although Bandura’s experiment had high levels of reliability due it being a laboratory experiment and having a strong control over both the IV and the DV, it was criticised on the grounds that it lacked ecological validity. The experiment was carried out in an artificial environment meaning that it cannot be applied to real life situations. Also the study doesn’t involve harming another human being it is just an inflatable doll, so it is arguably not a true representation of aggression. Still, Johnston et al found evidence for a correlation between play aggression and the rating of aggression by peers and teachers, so play aggression may be a valid measure of real aggression. There is also debate over how well we can generalise from the results of the experiment...
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