Social Psychological Approaches to Aggression

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  • Social Psychological Approaches to Aggression
    • Institutionalisation Aggression
      • Refers to violent behaviour that exists within certain institutions/groups. Acts of inst agg range from physical abuse of individuals to genocide. Involves more complex psychological processed than interpersonal agg & major models have been proposed.
    • Social Learning Theory
      • Bandura (a behaviourist who agreed with conditioning) added another way of learning behaviour of indirect, vicarious learning; learning from seeing others in society learn.
        • SLT suggests we learn from watching role models' behaviour & imitate that behaviour if the consequences are effective.
        • Not just a stimulus-response theory; believes that we have a mental representation of the actions we see & an understanding of the consequences (reward/punishment)
          • When oppertunities arise in the future similar to the situation we have seen we have the ability to choose whether to use the action or not, depending on what we have learnt.
        • SLT is based on learning theory of traditional behavioursist but also contains an element of cognitive theory as it has the input of mental representation & decision making.
        • Similar to Op Con. behaviour that is rewarded is more likely to be repeated (Thorndike's Law of Effect) eg if aggressive behaviour is seen to be successful then it is maintained but this time through direct reinforcement.
          • Development of CC & OC suggests more depth & accuracy of explanation.
        • We gain confidence in using the behaviour (self-efficiacy) & if this is low then we are forced to find an alternative behaviour.
      • Bandura's Bobo-dolls: conducted several studies that support theory, development of studies shows it has been thoroughly explored & thought through.
        • Basic Study: Children aged 3-5 both gender. 1/2 saw adult act agg. towards the doll, 1/2 saw adult act non-agg. Children then 'frustrated' & taken individually into room with doll. Those in cond 1 exhibited more agg behaviour than cond 2.
          • Props act as demand characteristics.
      • Has P.A: explanation that agg can be learnt fom the media proposed a ban on violent films & TV. However this preposition fails to take into account competance & performance.
      • Explains inconsistencies in peoples behaviour eg if someone is agg & dom at home but meek & sub at work, they have learnt to behaviour differently for different situations.
      • Explains culture differences, Wolfgang:proposes  some cultures emphasize/model agg behaviour whereas others strongly disagree with it eg the Utku. Sowhat culture you are from influences what you learn.
      • Bio explanation stresses factors unrelated to SLT.
    • Deindividuation
      • A process where normal constrainst on behaviour are weakened as a person loses their sense of individuality. Common in large crowds & when the ind can be anonymous eg wearing uniform. Can be caused by altered sense of conciouness eg drugs
        • People feel less responsible for their actions when they have lost their sense of identity, it is almost like they lose their morals of what is right/wrong so behaviour alters dramatically. People feel part of the crowd, not individual & not identifiable
      • Diener details deind as 4 effects of decreasing self awareness: poor self monitoring of bahvaiour, reduced need for social approval, reduced inhibitions against behaving impulsively, & reduced rational thinking.
      • Supported by several studies.
        • Zimardo's Prison Exp: Stanford Uni, 60's, mock up prison in basement of uni. Students act as either jailers or prisoners (randomly allocated) planned to last for 2 weeks but shut down after 6 days due to cruel behaviour of jailers.
          • Criticised for brutality of jailers: may have been acting in terms of 'percieved social roles' rather than actually 'losing their sense of socialised individuals'.
        • Zimbardo: showed female students would deliver electric shocks to other students if they wore bulky clothes & hoods to cover faces.
        • Johnson & Downing: compared p.s when dressed in KKK uniforms vs nurses uniforms. The former  delievered more shocks than control group & latter delivered less.
      • Has P.A: uniform in army & schools to so that soldiers & children obey.
      • Diener et al: deind may cause prosocial behaviour rather than agg eg expressions of collective goodwill at religious rallies.
      • Researchers have failed to distinguish effects of anonymity of those being aggressed against to those doing the aggressing, and whether agg is incresed when the in group do not recognise us or when the out group cannot.
      • Social psychological research demonstrates strong normative influence of groups on individuals, so rather than individuals persuing agg behaviour due to deind they may be conforming to the local group norm.
      • Explains London riots in 2011.
  • Ethical Issues: Socially Sensitive, cause of agg is learning from role models.
  • Not reductionist: inlcudes ideas from both behaviourist & cognitive approaches.
  • Ethical Issues: Socially Sensitive, reason for agg.
  • Deterministic: giving agg behaviour an excuse, suggesting no free will.
  • Culture bias: emic constructs, appreciates that all cultures are different. Explains why ind diff occurs.
  • Free will debate: actions are down to the individual.
  • Determinist debate: cannot control behaviour.


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