Social learning theory
Social psychological theories of aggression
Social learning theory
During your study of psychology, you will have noticed that aspects of human behaviour such as aggression can be explained in more than one way, and that these ways often conflict. These different explanations are what provide psychology with its unique perspective on understanding human behaviour. As you have seen, aggression is a term that is not easy to define, and why the behaviour is shown is difficult to explain. Social psychological explanations of aggression provide one perspective towards explaining the human behaviour of aggression. Social psychological explanation might include: social learning theory; deindividuation; cue-arousal; and relative deprivation.
environmental factors. He argued that the individual and the social environment were linked, something he called reciprocal determinism. Through Bandura’s eyes, social learning theory had, at its heart four basic processes:
determinism: one process or entity relies on another. Self-efficacy: knowing your own abilities and being confident with them.
Attention: how much do you concentrate on the model showing the behaviour?
Retention: storing the behaviour you witnessed.
Reproduction: copying the behaviour you witnessed. 4
Motivation: having good reason for showing the witnessed behaviour again, e.g. a ‘real’ or ‘imaginary’ incentive. The central part of these processes was the presence of a role model from whom behaviour could be copied. According to Bandura, the behaviour is often imitated from a role model, a person who seems similar to the child (e.g. in age or sex) or who is in a position of power (e.g. a pop idol, teachers or parents). While the presence of a model is important, the child sill needs to have a level of self-confidence that lets them imitate the behaviour. Bandura referred to this as self-efficacy. Bandura’s explanation of social learning theory was based on research that has become well known – his Bobo doll studies. Both the original study and variations of the study helped Bandura forward the view that human behaviour was often shaped by the socio-cultural processes of social learning.
If the exam question asks you to outline a social psychological explanation of aggression and you choose social learning theory, that’s fine. But remember that you need to outline the theory and not just Bandura’s Bobo doll study. Candidates often provide too little information about the theory that underpins Bandura’s thinking – the Bobo doll study was simply there to support his reasoning.
psychological theories of aggression
explain the cause of
aggression according to the social learning theory
evaluate social learning theory
Imitation: to copy, to show the same behaviour as another. Social learning theorists argue that those you are most likely to imitate are role models such as parents, teachers or idols. Social
cognitive perspective: a blending of social and cognitive psychology that attempts to understand behaviour through an interaction of social and cognitive causes.
What is social learning theory?
Social learning theory originated from the work of Gabriel Tarde (1912). Some well-known characteristics of social learning can be seen developing in what he referred to as a series of stages of imitation: the behaviour of role models the copying of the behaviour of those of a higher status the degree of contact with role model the degree of understanding of the behaviour.
According to Tarde, all were characteristic ways in which our social behaviour and responses could shape the actions of others. Tarde unofficially brought together the two largely opposing views of psychoanalysis and behaviourism. Social cognitive perspective: an explanation that extends the basic social perspective to include...
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