Outline and evaluate two or more social psychological theories of aggression

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Outline and evaluate two or more social psychological theories of aggression.
Deindividuation theory is a social psychological explanation of aggression. It explains how rational
individuals can become aggressive hooligans in a mob or crowd as it suggests that losing their sense
of identity and self awareness deindividuates people. Individuals in groups fail to see the
consequences of their actions, and the social norms they would normally follow are forgotten and
this is when aggressive behaviour occurs. Deindividuation causes people unquestioningly to follow
group norms instead of personal norms and sometimes these group norms lead to aggression.
According to Zimbardo, in a crowd we feel anonymous and unaccountable and thus are less
concerned about negative evaluations by others and less likely to be prevented from acting
aggressively by guilt or shame. Prentice-Dunn identified two factors involved in Deindividuation; loss
of public self-awareness where individuals lose a sense that others are aware of them and that they
are identifiable. Loss of public self0awareness leads to a loss of public standards of behaviour or a
lowering of inhibitions. Another factor is loss of private self-awareness where the individual loses
their own sense of awareness of themselves. Loss of private self-awareness leads to a loss of
internal standards and hence an over-reliance on environmental cues, for example others in the
crowd.
Research evidence supports the idea of Deindividuation. Zimbardo found, in a replication of
Milgarm's shock study, that hooded and anonymous, and hence deindividuated, participants were
more likely to shock other participants than those who were identifiable. This suggests that
anonymity would appear to contribute to aggressive behaviour. However, it was suggested that the
wearing of white hoods by the participants and the subsequent association with the Ku Klux Klan may
have affected the intensity of the shocks given, rather than the anonymity of the participants.
Deindividuation theory has also been supported by different cultures in a study by Watson. A
cross-cultural study was conducted and found that warriors who disguised their appearance tended
to be more aggressive, suggesting that deindividuation effects are universal. This research was
supported by Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment where the guards wore military styles
uniforms and silver reflector sunglasses, making eye contact impossible. It was thought that this
disguised appearances and deindividuation was what caused the guards to show aggressive
behaviour. Also during this experiment prisoners were dehumanised and thus deindividuated by the
clothes they wore and being addressed only by their number, thus increasing their anonymity which
made it easier for the guards to behave aggressively towards them. However, there is some dispute
as to what caused the aggressive acts of the guards and it has been suggested that they were acting
in terms of perceived social roles, rather than losing their sense of socialised individual identity. The
study failed to tell us much about how real guards behave, but rather how people behave when they
are asked to act like guards.
Also, in Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment and replication of Milgram's study, there is the
ethical issues that need to be considered. In particular, in the Stanford prison experiment,
participants were subjected to much psychological harm and stress, in particular the prisoners who
were humiliated and abused. Zimbardo himself accepted that certain aspects of the study were
unethical and admitted that he became over-involved in the study. In fact, the prisoners were
treated so brutally that the experiment had to be stopped after just six days.

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In the replication of Milgram's study, ethical issues included deception, and lack of informed consent,
as the participant was not told the true nature of the study and so had to be deceived. The
participants right to withdraw was also an issue as it was made to seem that they had to continue
shocking the learner. Ethical issues like these however, can be overcome with debriefing, which
Zimbardo implemented.…read more

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Research evidence supporting Social Learning Theory comes from Bandura Bobo doll experiment
where children were shown various scenarios involving aggressive behaviour to a Bobo doll by a
model. He found that children in the aggressive condition showed more verbal and physical
aggression. Bandura concluded that the chances of aggressive acts being imitated increased if the
aggressive model was reinforced but decreased if the model was punished.…read more

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