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Discuss Social Psychological explanations for aggression
One social psychological explanation for aggression is social learning theory. One aspect of social
learning theory is learning through observation. This means noticing another person's behaviour,
recording it in their mind, and then replicating it at a later point. Learning through observation and
imitation was a theory proposed by Bandura. This explanation has great real world application. For
example, Phillips found that in the USA, homicide rates were significantly higher in the week
following major boxing matches, implicating that the wrong-doers were displaying learned
behaviours. This was a correlational study, and correlation does not mean causation, so we cannot
link these two factors without more evidence.
Furthermore, social learning theory helps to explain cultural differences. The Kung San people rarely
show any aggression, because the adults do not reward physical aggression, nor do they model it.
Because there is no reward for aggressive behaviour, there is no motivation within the group to act
aggressively. Therefore we must avoid cultural bias assumptions and conclusions.
The BOBO doll studies show that there are a number of factors that determine whether observed
aggressive behaviour is imitated. For example, vicarious reinforcement, where the observed
behaviour is much more likely to be imitated if there is a desirable outcome.
However, there are many weaknesses with the BOBO doll studies. For example, the children could
have been showing demand characteristics by being aware of what was expected of them.
Another aspect of social learning theory is the role of mental representations. These show that
children who were described by their peers as highly aggressive were much more confident when
being aggressive towards the BOBO doll. Perry et al found this, and it is a strength because it
supports the role of expectancy and self efficiency.
Another aspect of social learning theory behaviour is the production of behaviour,. Behaviour is
maintained through direct experience. An individual