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Bandura, (1963) explained aggression in humans by the means of the `social learning theory', which
suggests that behaviour (including aggression) can be learnt by the observation of others; vicarious
learning. Individuals are more likely to imitate a model's behaviour if the model is similar to oneself,
such as being the same gender or similar in age, the model is perceived as having desirable
characteristics such as celebrity or has power such as parents or teachers and if the observed
behaviour (aggression) is rewarded; vicarious reinforcement. Aggressive behaviour that is punished
is less likely to be repeated.
Bandura and colleagues adapted the traditional `social learning theory' to allow for cognitive and
motivational factors. This development is called `the social cognitive theory'. Cognitive processes
involved, included the individual's perception, recollections and interpretation of the situation as well
as expectancies; the individual's belief that a consequence will follow an action.
Reciprocal determinism; another concept introduced by Bandura refers to the process by which the
individual's learning is controlled by the environment but this process is reciprocal as the individual
acts will change the environment thus affecting future behaviour. Behaviour, environmental
variables, interacts. For example, a child doesn't like going to school; therefore, he/she acts out in
class. This results in teachers disliking having the child around. This results in the child acting
inappropriately, forcing the teachers disliking to create the child around. This results in the child
acting inappropriately forcing the teachers to create a more restrictive environment, which increases
the child's dislike of school.
Supporting evidence towards the explanation of aggression through social learning theory comes
from Bandura et al (1963). Bandura et al looked at 72 nursery students and divided them into three
groups, controlled groups, aggressive and non-aggressive. The children were exposed to an
aggressive/non aggressive model who hit/did no hit the bobo doll. It was found that children
exposed to aggressive role model acted more aggressive, supporting the idea of social learning by
learning through the imitation of role model increasing the credibility of the theory of social learning
towards the explanation of aggression.
However a drawback to the study it is culturally biased therefore it is not applicable to non-western
societies as most studied are conducted in the west, therefore this decreases the validity of the
study and as a result it has a negative effect towards the theory that it supports.
Further explanations proposed for aggression include the De-Individuation theory (Zimbardo, 1969),
which refers to a psychological state of decreased self-evaluation and concerns about the evaluation
of others, in situations where identification is difficult or not possible. This leads individuals to act in
an aggressive way.
There have been several studies supporting this theory such as a study conducted by Mann (1981)
who studied the `bating crowd'. He analysed 21 incidents of suicides reported in American
newspapers in the 1960s and 70s and found that in 10 of the 21 cases where a crowd had gathered
to watch baiting had occurred (i.e. The crowd urged the potential suicide to jump). These incidences
tended to occur at night, when the crowd was large and when the crowd was some distance from
the `jumper'. These findings suggest that a crowd can encourage aggressive behaviour supporting
the theory as crowd increases the chances of aggressive behaviour, therefore these findings
increases the credibility of the theory towards explaining aggression.
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However a disadvantage of the study is the sample size as only 21 incidents were studied, this is an
issue as the low number may not be suitable to use to generalise to the general public, consequently
this decreases the findings of the study as well as a decrease of the credibility of the theory
supported towards social theories of aggression.…read more