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  • Created on: 09-12-15 18:21

Social Learning Theory

Aggression is learned through:

  • Vicarious reinforcement
  • Observation
  • Imitation
  • Modelling (mediational processes)
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Research - Bandura: 

  • Bobo doll - lab experiment
  • Aggressive vs. Indifferent/Pro-Social
  • Boys more aggressive if role model is male


  • Artificial - controlled conditions
  • Lacks generalizability
  • Children demand characteristics - "the doll we are supposed to hit" 

Cultural Differences:

  • Kung San people at Kalahari Desert
  • No aggression in parenting - little opportunity to learn aggression
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SLT - AO2 (II)

Face Validity

  • Explain's media's influence
  • Jamie Bulger - killed by 2 10-year-old boys after watching Child's Play
  • However many see and don't imitate 


  • Passive absorption - implying no responsibility 
  • However, we have behavioral + cognitive control
  • Charlton: Introduction of TV to St. Helena
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Losing sense of socialized identity = unsocialized + antisocial behavior 

Refrain from aggression because of worry of punishment or being identified 

i.e. crowds, masks & uniform

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Deindividuation - AO2

Research Support - Zimbado

  • Repeated Milgram's experiment with female undergraduates
    • Deindividuated Group: Referred to by no name, in overalls and hoods
    • Normal Group: Name tags
  • x2 as many electric shocks when deindividuated

Contradictory Evidence - Johnson

  • Conforming to local group norms can be mistaken for deindividuation
  • Mask + Overalls [KKK] - more shocks than normal
  • Nurse Attire - less shocks than normal
  • Clothing is a confouding variable

Population Validity - Cannavale

  • Only females - qualitative differences + other biological + psychological influences
  • Men more prone to aggression when deindividuated 
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Deindividuation - AO2 (ii)

Ecological Validity - Diener

  • Artificial + not real life conditions
  • 1300 trick or treaters -- more antisocial when in a group or in a costume that covers their face


  • Presence of group determines behavior - strips responsibility and free will
  • Too simplistic - some people choose to be pro-social in groups (natural disasters) 

Nature vs. Nurture

  • Biological: Testosterone + Candidate gene
  • Much more complex 

Reductionist - Farah

  • Easier to study but not the full explanation (biology + environment)
  • Refugee camps: Overcrowds = More violence
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Situational Factors

Series of factors create a stressful environment:

  • Overcrowding
  • Frustration
  • Peer Pressure
  • Lack of External Constraints
  • Dehumanization

Guards and prisoners have uniform = allows them to deviate from rules of social conduct

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Situational Factors - AO2

Real Life

  • Abu Ghraib prison - time of day + no external constraints
  • Extreme change: well behaved --> abusive + aggressive

Research Evidence - Bandura

  • Dehumanisation - students over-hear "nice" or "animals"
  • Shocks significantly higher for the second group. 

Ecological Validity

  • Artificial but can be applied to real life atrocities
  • Attack of Hutu on the Tutsi bc radio station referred to them as "Inyenzi"
  • 800,000 dead
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Situational Factors - AO2 (ii)

Deterministic - Zimbardo

  • Military or powerful systems = lose free will = diminshed responsibility
  • Moral questions + Not everyone who was exposed to the same factors committed aggression
  • Individual differences

Alternative Explanation

  • More complicated 
  • Disregards biochemical effects of neurostransmitters + hormones 
  • (Serotonin + Testosterone) 
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Importation Model

Bring personal experiences and psychological characteristics in with them (inmates engage in more violence)

Normative systems developed outside might be imported into prison

Aggression wasnt a consequence of institution but a product of their characteristics

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Importation Model - AO2

Supporting Research - Harer & Steffenmeiser

  • 58 American prisoners: Black inmates higher rates of inter-personal violence 
  • Came from impoverished communities - Higher rates of violent crime

Contradictory - DeLisi

  • 800 inmates - gang involvement before prison
  • No gang membership had any bearings on their violence & misconduct levels

Socially Sensitive

  • Undue prejudice against other social groups - Non-white prisoners are particularly vulnerable to being labelled as aggressive = No cause & effect, just correlatory

Inherent Gender Bias

  • Women biologically + quantitatively different - understudied and cant generalize 
  • May be irrelevant in terms of findings based solely on male research 
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Hormonal - Testosterone

  • Found in both sexes - adult males produce 10x more - from birth but increase during puberty (highest in males between 15 - 25)
  • Inc. in testosterone  - inc. in aggression - not a simple cause and effect mechanism 
  • Testosterone makes a behavior more likely to be expressed
  • Challenge Hypothesis - in monogamous species testosterone only rises above baseline breeding levels when there are social challenges (intrasexual aggression/threats to status)
  • Basal Model of Testosterone - hormone causes a change in a person's dominance - the more they have the more competitive and dominant they become
  • Males with high levels of testosterone demonstrate an increase in domninance by engaging in more anti-social behavior
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Testosterone - AO2

Supporting Research - Male mice castrated - overall levels of aggression reduced - when they received testosterone, it increased. In real life setting -- female hyenas are more aggressive + socially dominant - secrete more testosterone related hormones than males. 

Extrapolation - Relies on research with non human animals as for ethical reasons, androgens arent normally given to people to see if changes in aggression occur. Problem of generalisation. 

Evidence for Link w/Testosterone - Sig. correlatory evidence - salivary testosterone was measured in a sample of criminals. Highest testosterone = history of violent crimes // lowest levels = non-violent crimes. Correlatory research - cause and effect cannot be established. 

Determinism - All males will be aggressive - suggests a person cannot exercise free will to control their aggressive behavior bc at the mercy of biological mechanisms. Controversial + suggests being absolved from responsibility. HARISSON: testosterone to men - sig. increased aggressive responses on a frustration-inducing computer game. Effect not uniform acoss the board: little psychological change - few developed prominent effects = INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES

Gender Bias - Based on studies of males - levels of testosterone are easier to measure - not enough established research investigating the link between testosterone, dominance and aggression in females. Women with higher testosterone = higher occupational status - as a result of being assertive. Inc. testosterone expressed differently. 

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Neurochemical - Serotonin

Serotonin - low levels associated with aggression in both humans and animals

Normal levels - reduce aggression by inhibiting responses to emotional stimuli that trigger aggression. Exerts a calming inhibitory effect  leaving individuals less able to control their impulses. 

Low levels - pre-frontal cortex - remove inhibitory effect leaving individuals less able to control their impulses. Depleted levels - increase aggressive tendencies + makes individuals more susceptible to impulsive behavior

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Serotonin - AO2

Research from Non-human AnimalsFERRARI: Male rats fight everyday for 10 days - 11th day not allowed to fight, but researchers analysed the levels of serotonin in its brain. Anticipation of imminent fight, the rat's serotonin levels decreased. Biological BUT could be explained using behaviorist principles. 

Research from HumansMANN - weight loss drug which incidentally reduced serotonin levels in the brain. Researchers used questionnaires to assess hostility + aggression levels. Among males but not females hostility + aggression inc. after treatment. BOND: analysed clinical studies of antidepressant drugs that increase serotonin levels (low serotonin linked to depression) drugs tended to reduce irritability and impulse aggression

Practical Application - Relationship between alcohol and aggressive behavior - BADAWAY: alcoholconsumption caused major disturbances in the metabolism of brain serotonin. Acute short-term alcohol intake depleted serotonin levels in normal individuals. Susceptible individuals - depletion may induce aggressive behavior. Practical application for counselling treatments and alcohol awareness programmes. 

Psychology as a Science - Most research has been lab experiments - analysing chemicals in the brain is an objective method using scientific measurements. Rigorous control meets criteria of psychology of a science as it removes a lot of extraneous variables. Adds reliability to research.

Reductionism - MAOA breaks down the neurotransmitters after they've carried the nerve impulses from one cell to another around the brain. May be the interaction between genes and neurotransmitters that can be used to explain aggressive behavior. 

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Infidelity and Jealousy

Infidelity triggers a jealous emotional state that may lead to an aggressive response.

Males: Infidelity leads to uncertainty about the paternity of child. Don't want to risk 'wasting' investment on offspring who may not carry their genes. Can be directed nto aggressive behaviors such as fighting or assault in order to keep their partner loyal. Seen as adaptive response. 

Females: Infidelity means resources will be invested elsewhere to care for another woman's offspring. Threatens reproductive survival and success - women want commitment and an emotional bond from their partner to help ensure children will survive until maturity.

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Infidelity and Jealousy - AO2

Research Support BUSS: 60% of men interviewed said they'd be more jealous if their partner had a sexual relationship. 85% of women said they would be more jealous if their partner formed a deep emotional attachment to someone else. Physiological measures: heart rate and galvanic skin response. 

Contradictory Evidence HARRIS: Similar results when using the same procedures.  When asked to recall personal experience, there were no significant differences between men and women - it was found that both focused on emotional infidelity. Difference between how we really respond to a situation + how we believe we would repsond to it - interviews must take care with answers as they may be subject to social desirability bias

Face Validity - Real life evidence: Thai court freed a former university lecturer after he admitted battering his wife to death in a jealous rage after discovering that she had visited a former sweetheart. Although verdict brought outrage from women's rights group over horrendous result of this act - stark example of the role jealousy can play in supporting evolutionary explanations of aggression.

Gender Bias - Largerly focused on men therefore ignoring that women also experience sexual jealousy + can behave violently as a result. This is supported by research that found women initiate and carry out physical assaults as often as men do. Generalizing from male to females is gender bias.

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Direct Guarding

Mate retention strategy employed by men to deter their mate from leaving or committing adultery. It's explained as a male's attempt to restrict their partner's independence and prevent other males from gaining access. 

Physically aggressive form because of confrontational situations it provokes. This includes prohibiting their partner from speaking to other men: intimidation or violence towards other men in order to ward them away.

Expects men to be more aggressive over infidelity as it has clear implications for the survival of their genes in terms of paternal uncertainty. DG is seen as adaptive - using aggression increases the likelihood, in the first instance of obtaining a mate, and then retaining her through direct guarding. 

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Direct Guarding - AO2

Research Support - Direct guarding strategies result in more aggression and violence - WILSON: women who agreed with questionnaire items such as he is jealous and doesnt want me to talk to other men -- twice as likely to have serious violence from their partners. 72% of these women at some point were required to have medical attention. 

Practical Application - Used to spot early indicators of violent behavior in men against female partners. Can be used to teach awareness to females and alert family members to the danger signs which may indicate a greater risk of future violence. Can be used in anger management+ rehabilitation

Reductionism - Too simplistic and limited - good face validity - evolutionary explanation reduces the complex behavior of aggression to simplistic concepts of jealousy and mate retention. Don't involve infidelty or female partners. Fails to acknowledge explanations such as the role of neurotransmitters such as serotonin or hormones such as testosterone.

Nature v. Nurture - Can be explained through the link to jealousy and infidelity or mate retention strategies. This behavior ensures a person's genes are passed down to future generations. Sounds plausible however it focuses solely on the nature side of aggression and jealousy thus ignoring nurture. Much research support for other explanations such as the social learning theory which suggest aggresison isnt entirely biological and an interaction between bio factors + environmental ones

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Group Display of Aggression

War is the formation of a coalition to attack others within the same species. Seems contradictory from an evolutionary perspective and therefore the adaptive and functional benefits must outweigh the possible costs for the in-group.

Willing to fight if confident of victory + odds of being killed are relatively low

Success in battle can give a male warrior status and increase his attractiveness to females + improve his chances of reproducing

Winning also allows one group status over another giving them success to vital reosurces - land, water, fuel, women. Acquiring these increases the chances of survival of each member within that group as well as increasing the chances of successful reproduction in the future.

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Warfare - AO2

Supporting Research - Cross-cultural evidence - CHAGNON - Yanomamo tribe sccessful warriors had more wives and children than those who were less successful in battle. Most young men who had killed were married + most men who had never killed in battle were not.

Historical Evidence PINKER - modern day war men fight to secure access to women in order to pass on their genes. WWII - Germans invading Eastern Europe - systematic acts of sexual assault and women in concentration camps abused. 20,000 Muslim girls and women sexually assaulted during the religiously motivated atrocities in Bosnia. One aim was to make women pregnant and raise as Serbs - passing on their genes. 

Can Explain Gender Differences - Men: war can be advantageous for reproductive success. Women: rarely involved in war as females reproductive success not affected by number of available males. Involve themselves in such risky behavior would be disadvantageous to survival of women. Gender differences illustrated by the physical differences between men and women. Men larger, faster and their skeleton is more robust. Male competition important in human evolution

Conflicting Evidence MONTAGU: contradicts evolutionary explanaton by arguing that whilst human aggression may be a universal occurrence, warfare is not. Warfare is a social construct for control and domination of land and resources -  associated with certain societies. This has been supported by ethnographic research in societies where aggression and warfare seem to be entirely absent - CHEWONG: Malay Peninsula. Contradicts evolutionary experience as if warfare due to evolutionary reasons, warfare would be universal throughout different societies. As it's not - environmental influences. 

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Warfare - AO2

Reductionism - Doesn't consider social factors - Aggressive Cue Theory by Berkowitz proposes that relationship between frustration and anger mediated by cues in the environment which are associated with violence, such as guns. Participants gave others more electric shocks when a revolver and a shotgun were in the room than not. 

Nature v Nurture - Adaptively through behavior that ensures a person's genes are passed down to future generations. This sounds plausible however it focuses solely on the nature side of aggression, ignoring nurture. Much research support for other explanations such as the SLT which suggests aggression is not entirely biological and interaction between biological factors and environmental ones may provide more conclusive findings

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Sports Events

Natural selection favours genes that cause humans to be altruistic towards members of their own group but intolerant towards outsiders. Protect members of our own group to ensure survival and successful continuation of their genes. 

Display a connection to the group: football kits, scarves, and even supporters of the in-group describe themselves as we. 

Xenophobia - can be used to explain aggressive towards sports teams. Wilson: claims it was documented virtually in every group of animals displaying higher forms of social organization

SHAW AND WONG: mechanisms prompt suspicion towards strangers would have been favored by natural selection. Enabled ancestors to avoid attack, enabling survival and thus leaving behind offspring.

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Sports Events - AO2

Research SupportCIALDINI: university football team did well, students showed a greater tendency to wear clothes that identify them as belonging to that particular university. Use pronouns we to describe the winning team. Unsuccessful: supporters distance themselves from failure. Dissociate. 

Research Support for XenophobiaPODALIRI and BALESTRI: Italian football crowds - terrances - chants and banners not only openly xenophobic but strengthened the cultural identity of supporters by stressing the differences between different teams.

Practical Application - 1992 German teams played in shirts displaying the slogan My Friend is a Foreigner - minimise aggression. BRADBURY: although process made, much more is needed to be done. 

Cannot explain all sports events: Cant explain why football is more prone to hooliganism - athletics, swiming and other sports where they wear team clothes and wave flags. Social factors must be taken into account. 

Alternative Explanation - Deindividuation Theory - used in order to explain aggression in a sporting context. Spectators when part of a large group, may lose their individual identity and are seen as just a member of the spporting group. During this process they lose their sense of socialized individual identity, becoming faceless within the group. = unsocialized. Dont feel they'll be punished as an individual. Social influences must be taken into account.

Deterministic - Based on intrinsic drive towards survival and determined by past environments overlooking the notion of free will + fact that people can choose to be aggressive. Thoughts + emotios + social factors = aggression more likely. Exert free will over these acts of aggression.

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