Psychology Aggression: Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory when explaining aggression: A01: Describing theory and its assumption (Bandura). A02: Evaluation of the theory. A03: Research that supports the theory and evaluate it (Bandura's Bobo doll experiment)

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Social Psychological Theories for aggression ­ Social
Learning Theory
A01 ­ Describing theory (9 marks)
Assumption = Aggression is caused by copying (social
learning theory)
One social psychological theory of aggression is social
learning. Social learning theory focuses on the way in
which we learn aggression from role models in our
environment, by watching aggressive behaviour that is
rewarded and copying it. This is called the social
cognitive perspective, involving social influences which
are interpreted by thoughts and interpretations.
Through this theory, Bandura claimed that aggression
could be learnt through the observation of others. This
involves vicarious Reinforcement (indirect
reinforcement) if observed aggressive behaviour is
rewarded then it is likely to be repeated by witnesses.
Observing the consequences of aggressive behaviour
will teach children about what is considered appropriate
and effective conduct. This predicts the likelihood of
them repeating the aggressive act. The reason that this
happens is because children form mental
representations, similar to schemas, with the
expectation that aggressive behaviour will always lead
to the rewards that they have witnessed. Classical
conditioning plays a role here as they begin to
associate aggression with reward in their minds. When
opportunities arise the child will display aggression
only if the expectation of reward is greater than the
expectation of punishment.
In reality this can lead to the maintenance of
aggression, through operant conditioning. If someone is
rewarded for the aggressive behaviour, which they
repeat in response to copying, then the chances of
them continuing to act in this antisocial way is
increased. For example, if someone copies a bully and
is in turn rewarded socially, then they will consider
aggression to be a valuable tool.
Finally, there is a part in the social learning of
aggression which is played by selfefficacy
expectancies. Children develop a confidence in their
ability to display aggressive tendencies based on their
previous experiences. Those who were not very good at
carrying out aggressive acts for personal gain have
lowered selfefficacy in their ability to use aggression to
successfully gain rewards. Therefore, they are less
likely to copy this behaviour in adulthood when they

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For example, someone may choose
not to copy a bully as they believe that they cannot
gain the same reward due to some limiting factor, such
as strength.
A03 (4 marks) A theory is only as good as the research which
supports it....…read more

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How well can it >Does not explain those who are exposed to aggressive role models and yet do not copy them. It may be
explain all that they are choosing not to copy through FREE WILL. Explanation is deterministic & so does not allow
aggressive for this.
behaviour? LINK: The theory of aggression is therefore less valid as it does not take this into account.
>It is also likely that cultural factors play a part in whether we socially learn aggression or not.…read more

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