Social Learning Theory of Aggression

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Danielle Tingley and Kirsty Sullivan A2 psychology
Social Learning theory
Originated from Gabriel Tarde (1912) key characteristics of imitation were; behaviour of role
models, coping behaviour of those of a higher status, degree of contact with role model and
understanding of the behaviour. A developer of this is Albert Bandura. He proposed that the social
learning theory is where children can learn through observing different behaviours or imitating them.
Bandura thought there to be four main processes to the social learning theory; attention, retention,
reproduction and motivation.
Bandura believed in `reciprocal determinism' where the world and a person's behaviour cause each
other.
Children learn aggressive behaviours through seeing others being rewarded or punished for their
behaviours. Here the child experiences vicarious reinforcement, where they learn how to behave by
seeing other people rewarded or punished for their actions. Children therefore learn about the
nature of aggressive behaviour, where it is appropriate and the consequences.
Children can also develop confidence in their ability to use aggressive behaviour to get what they
want. Those who are confident can use aggressive behaviour effectively to achieve, and are high in
self-efficacy, those with less confidence resort to using other methods instead.
Research into the social learning theory of aggression:
Bobo dolls study
72 participants used
Child went through the process individually but grouped into conditions. (Equal number of boys to
girls.) Half in experimental groups were exposed to an aggressive model whilst the other half had a
non- aggressive model. 24 children in a control group were shown no adult role model.
Following exposure to the role model ­ children were frustrated that they were not allowed to play
with the attractive toys that were provided.
Children with the aggressive role model showed to be more verbally and physically frustrated with
the Bobo doll compared to those exposed to the non-aggressive role model. The children with the
non-aggressive role model showed virtually no aggression towards it.
Evaluation:

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Danielle Tingley and Kirsty Sullivan A2 psychology
Weakness:
Artificial nature ­ lacks ecological validity (realism)
Was only performed in one cultural setting ­ other culture influences were ignored. Imposed etic
The child's behaviour may have been the result of demand characteristics as they may have wanted
to impress the experimenter. Often children want to please adults.
Overplayed the importance of the intended role model and the bobo doll was originally made for
punching ­ knowledge of this could have influenced the child's behaviour.…read more

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