Aggression: Social Psychological (Deindividuation Theory)

  • Deindividuation theory for aggression (AO1: Zimbardo & the assumption of the theory. A02: Evalutaion of the theory. A03: Reseach that support the theory and evaluation of the research)                              
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Social Psychological Theories for
aggression ­ Deindividuation Theory
A01 ­ Describing theory (9 marks)
Assumption = Aggression is caused by
deindividuation (losing one's sense of
> Zimbardo claimed that aggressive behaviour was
the result normal constraints on behaviour being
weakened due to people losing their sense of
individuality in a situation (i.e. becoming
deindividuated). People who are deindividuated show
reduced private self-awareness. That is that they
are not evaluating their own behaviour in a privately
reflective way. This makes them more likely to break
the normal cognitive restraints that are placed on
aggressive behaviour.
> Factors which increase the likelihood of aggressive
behaviour through deindividuation include anonymity,
altered states of consciousness and diffusion of
> Anonymity (achieved through wearing a
mask/uniform or removal of name/identification)
leads to a sense of reduced individuality. This in turn
can lead to aggressive behaviour as the person is
detached from the normal inhibitions that they have
on their aggressive behaviour, e.g. a solider fighting
in a war would perform acts of aggression in this
situation that they would not normally perform when
dressed as a civilian. They may see that they are less
likely to be caught and held responsible for
aggressive behaviour when deindividuated through
anonymity, or they may simply feel `less like
themselves' and so more able to commit these
aggressive acts.
> Altered states of consciousness (achieved
through alcohol, drugs or sensory overload) leads to
deindividuation and can lead to aggression as the
person's normal sense of responsibility is weakened
by the experience. For example, a peaceful person
who takes drugs may show aggression due to a
reduction in their inhibitions and a disengagement of
their normal cognitive evaluation of a situation, as
they feel removed from their sense of individuality
through the drug taking.
> Diffusion of responsibility (achieved through
being part of a crowd or group) is a deindividuating
factor which can lead to aggression. He claimed that
people become part of a `faceless crowd' and may

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In a sense
they are less likely to be blamed for their aggressive
behaviour as they are deindividuated and the so the
responsibility is spread collectively across many
people. E.g. a mob who becomes violent may feel
excused by the fact that they are not acting alone.
> Zimbardo emphasised that when people are part of
an aggressive crowd they have reduced private
self-awareness.…read more

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Does not explain those who are deindividuated & not aggressive, e.g. schools
(uniforms), non-aggressive crowds (churches/peace rallies).
>Does not explain those who are aggressive & not seemingly deindividuated.
>What about those who resist deindividuation/aggression? E.g. Christina Maslach
How well can it
(women who stopped prison exp).
explain all
>This behaviour could be explained by people having FREE WILL over
deindividuation ­ theory does not account for that.
LINK: so, theory less valid as it can't explain everyone's behaviour.
>Unlike biological exps.…read more

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Assumption = That aggression is the result of
biological causes. Specifically, people may have
inherited aggression through their genes. This may
be that they have inherited faulty hormonal or
neural systems genetically.
Sandberg (1961) ­ Some males have been
identified as XYY males (having an extra Y
CourtBrown (1967) analysis of 314
hospitalised XYY patients indicated
hospitalisation was more likely to be a result of
aggressive behaviour
Cairns ­ Bred aggressive mice ­ showed
aggression in later life.…read more

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A03 (4 marks) A theory is only as good as
the research which supports it....
Evaluation of research and what it means for theory Evaluation of research & what this means for theory
When using twin studies, it is difficult to separate genetic The adoption study carried out by Hutchings and Mednick
and environmental factors. If the twins were raised in the used a very large sample size (14,000+).…read more

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Implies that we can control aggression by controlling genes.
E.g. genetic engineering in order to breed people who are calmer/less aggressive.
LINK: so, theory useful to society as can reduce aggression biologically.
Are they
> Yet, implications not feasible/possible to carry out, e.g. moral/social problems with
useful/what are
engaging in genetic engineering techniques and `playing God'.
> Implies that aggression is DETERMINED by biological factors (no FREE WILL) so we
cannot blame people and cannot punish people. So, justice system would not work.…read more

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Iraqi prisoners were more
reservists on night shifts (low status and
power). Alternatively, it could be that those
who have high status and power are abusing
their position by acting aggressively.
is the result of taking revenge on
someone/group for a past hurt within an
institution. This is a situational factor. E.g.
American soldiers in Abu Graib may have been
taking revenge on the Iraqi prisoners for the
September 11th attacks.…read more

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A02 ­
Evaluation of
the theory (12
>What about those who resist situational forces and do not act aggressively? E.g.
How well can Christina Maslach (women who stopped prison exp). The theory states that everyone
situational should succumb to the situational aggression ­ does not explain individual differences in
explanations aggression.
account for all >This behaviour could be explained by people having FREE WILL over situational
aggressive aggression ­ theory does not account for that.…read more

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Assumption = That aggression is the result of
biological causes. Specifically, people may have an
imbalance of hormones/neurotransmitters or
abnormal brain structure which can lead to
aggressive behaviour.
Neural Explanations:
> Role of prefrontal cortex = this controls aggression, damage
to it can lead to aggressive behaviour and personality change.
Cerebral Cortex generally inhibits aggression. Case of Phineas
> Role of amygdala = this stimulates aggression. Careful
lesioning of the amygdala can have a taming effect.…read more

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Taking tryptophan (a serotonergic drug which increases
serotonin levels) can reduce aggression in juvenile delinquents
& unpredictable institutionalised patients.
A03 (4 marks) A theory is only as good as
the research which supports it....
Evaluation of research and what it means for theory Evaluation of research & what this means for theory
Much supporting research was carried out on animals (e.g. Much of the research is fairly objective and testable in the
Wagner's studies on mice).…read more



Thank you for these. Helpfull really!!!

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