• Created by: bethany
  • Created on: 29-04-13 18:14

Social learning theory

The SLT claims that we learn aggressive behaviour by observing and imitiating others, eg if we see someone acting aggressively we will copy them. However, before we copy them we observe consequences to the observed behaviour that make the aggressive behaviour less or more likely to be copied. This is called vicarious reinforcement. If we see the aggressive abehaviour being rewarded we are more likely to copy the behaviour, but if we see the model being punished for their aggressive behaviour we are less likely to copy it. Once the behaviour has been copied, it is maintained through positive and negative reinforcement.

1 of 29

Social learning theory (A01)

Bandura et al Children aged 3-5 observed models interacting with a bobo doll, whilst some of the children saw the models behave aggressively towards the doll, the other half saw the model behaving neutraly to the doll. The children tended to copy whichever behaviour they had observed when given the oppurtunity to do so, thus showing how children will observe and copy behaviour.

Bandura and Walters Conducted a similar study to the above, but this time the children also observed the consequences of the models behaviour. When the model was punished for acting aggressively towards the doll the children were less likely to copy the aggressive behaviour, but when the children observed the adult model being rewarded (positive reinforcement) they were more likely to copy the aggressive behaviour. Thus showing the importance of the consequences of the behaviour and how this will affect the likelihood of a child copying aggressive behaviour.

2 of 29

social learning theory (A02)

Eron et al Found a + correlation between the lvel of violent tv watched by 7-8 year olds and their level of aggressiveness. Therefore, Eron’s finding support the idea that when we observe aggressive behaviour we are encouraged to copy it, in line with the suggestions of the SLT.

Haggell and Newbury Found no correlation between the amount of violent tv watched by young offenders compared to a control group. Thus arguing against the findings of Eron et al.

Philips F a link between the homocide rate in US and major boxing matches on tv, thus supporting the suggestions of the SLT that we observe and copy behaviour, therefore providing reliablilty to the theory as results appear consistent.

3 of 29

Social learning theory (IDA's)

(A) Behaviourist

(I) Ethics – blames parents

4 of 29


; is where a person loses their sense of individual identity and becomes anonymous. Zimbardo proposed that the larger the crowd the greater this feeling. Being anonymous we feel less accountable for our actions and thus less fearful and guilty in regards to our actions. This in turn allows individuals to go against their own moral standards and social norms and act in an aggressive manner.

Dunn and Rogers argue that deindividuation leads to a lowere public self awareness where we feel anonymous, have shared responsibilty and follow new norms. It also leads to lowered provate self awareness where we ‘forget who we are’ and allow groups norms and moral standards to take over.More recent formulations of deindividuation have focused on the importance of reduced private self awareness rather than public self awareness.

5 of 29

Deindividuation (A01)

Zimbardo et al’s standford prison experiment in 1973 shows the process of deindividuation and how this allows us to act more aggressively, going against our social norms. He found that when pretend guards wore sunglasses and mirrors, thus feeling anonymous and as they were within a group felt the responsibility was shared, acted aggressively towards the pretend prisoners within the experiment. This therefore shows how feeling anonymous can lead us to act out of character and aggressively as all the offices reported they were not aggressive outside of the experiment

6 of 29

Deindividuation (A02)

Deiner Conducted a study whereby 27 women were asked to give 1000 trick or treaters sweets. It  was found that the children who were made to feel anonymous, ie by wearing a mask that covered their face and being in groups, were more likely to steal extra sweets, defined as ‘more than one’ when the woman had to ‘answer the phone’. Therefore…

Zimbardo’s 1969 anonymous lab coat experimentFound that when women had to deliver shocks to another student in a study, they were more lilelyy to inflict a higher voltage if they felt deindividualised, ie were in groups with name tages, than identifiable, ie wore a name tags and own clothes, upon another student. The students who felt anonymous gave double the amount of schock as those who felt identifiable over 20 trials.

A supporting piece of evidence to the theory is that when mirrors and cameras have been introduced to ‘riot areas’ the level of aggressive behaviour decreased, presumably because the person’s private self awareness increased. 

7 of 29

Deindividuation (IDA'S)

(A) Behaviourist

(D) Free Will Vs Determinism

8 of 29

Institutional Aggression

; is violent behaviour that exists within an institution or group. Institutions incluede schools and prisons, but also larger bodies such as the armed forces.

There are two models to this theory, the importation model and the situational deprivation model.

9 of 29

Institutional Aggression - The importation model

The importation model claims that instituion violence is the result of the characterisitcs of the individuals who enter them. In the case of prison violence, this theory would claim that it is the inmates who enter the prison with particular aggressive tendencies who are likely to engage in aggressive acts that other inmates because they have ‘imported’ that behaviour into the environment.

10 of 29

Institutional Aggression - The importation model (

Irwin and Cressey identified three types of prisoner subcultures and their relative level of aggression. Individuals that are part of the criminal/thief subcultures follow norms and values inherent within the professioanl thief or criminal culture, such as betrayal. Inmates that are part of conventional subculture are not part of a criminal culture before entering the prison and tend to identify with staff. Neither of these subcultures tend to be aggressive. However the convict subculture, where the inmates seek positions of power were found to be the most aggressive in and out of prison. Therefore their values are imported into the prison.

Poole and Regoli 1983 - studied juvenile offenders in four institutions and f a correlation between pre institutional aggression and inmate aggression

11 of 29

Institutional Aggression - The situation/deprivati

The situation/deprivation model claims that it is primarily the characteristics of the institution or situation that accounts for the violence. They argue, that it is the experience of imprisonment that causes inmates extreme stress and frustration that leads to aggressive behaviour. Sykes attempts to summarise some of the deprivations inmates have to endure; liberty, autonomy, goods and services, hetrosexual relationships and security. All these  deprivations lead to feeling powerless, helpless and stressed. To reduce these feels, the model proposes that, in some cases, inmates will act aggressive to gain desired resources and increase feelings of power.

12 of 29

Institutional Aggression - The situation/deprivati

Cheeseman found that most aggressive behaviour within prisons had no real purpose other than to alleviate stress.

13 of 29

Institutional Aggression (IDA's)

(I) very male dominated, gender bias

(D) n v n - the situational model lies heavily on the nurture side of the debate as it suggests our behaviour is influenced and caused by our contrained surrounding.

(D) F v D

14 of 29

Neural mechanisms in aggression - serotonin

Research suggests that the neurotransmitter serotonin plays a key role in violent and aggressive behaviour. At a normal lvel, Cases (95') f that serotonin has an inhibitory effect on the neural firing in the brain. However when serotonin as at a low level this inhibitory effect disappeard and individuals found it hard to contrl their aggressive responses. 

Supporting research

Mann et al administered the drug, DEX FEN FLUR AMINE to 35 healthy ppts. The drug is known to deplete the sertonin levels in the brain.The researchers used q'aire to assess the aggresiveness of the ppts following the treatment and it was found that in the male ppts, but not the female ppts aggressive behaviour increased.

15 of 29

Neural mechanisms in aggression - dopamine

The link between the neurotransmitter dopamine and aggresion is not as well stablished as that of sertoning and aggression, nonetheless research has show that increased levels of dopamine is linked to increased levels of aggressive behaviour. Buitelaar found that use of dopamine antagonists have reduced aggression in violent delinquents. 

Recent research suggests a slightly different role for dopamine. It is well evidenced that dopamine is produced in respones to rewarding stimuli such as food, sex and recreational drugs. It has therefore been suggested that individuals actively seek out be aggressive. 

Supporting research

Couppis have f that dopamine also plays a reinforcing role in aggressive behaviour. This research therefore supports the idea that some individuals actively seek out aggressive encounters because of these rewardingsensations these encounters provide.

16 of 29

Neural mechanisms in aggression - brain physiology

Research has suggested that the prefrontal cortex is involved in inhibiting aggressive behaviour. Raine et al used PET scans to compare brain activity of 41 convicted violent offenders and 41 control group. They found that those who had been convicted of very violent crimes, such as muder had reduced prefrontal cortex activity and abnorla activity in the subcorical regions in the brain such as the amygdala, (areas of the brain associated with emotion).

Supporting research

Weber et al - f that while playing violent video games, ppts had suppressed activity in the amygdala

17 of 29

Neural mechanisms in aggression (IDA's)

(A) Bioloigal

(D) Reductionism

(D) n v n - nature side of the debate

18 of 29

Hormonal mechanisms in aggression - cortisol

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal medulla and is an important part to the body's reaction to stress, Research has shown that low levels of cortisol is associated with increased level of aggresion, thus proposing an inverse relationship between the two. Virkkunen found that low levels of cortisol in violent offenders. A similar relationship was found in violent school children (Tennes and Kreye) A possible reason for reduced levels of cortisol leading to aggressive behaviour could be that having low ANS arousal is unpleasant, therefore the individual is aggresive to create stressful situations to stimulate the ANS.

Supporting research

Popma f a positive correlation between tesosterone and aggression in ppts with low cortisol

19 of 29

Hormonal mechanisms in aggression - tesosterone

Tesosterone is a male hormone, although it is still found in women but in low levels, the hormone is generally associated with aggressive behaviour. Tesosterone is associated with human and non human aggression, for example when tesosterone levels peak at the start of puberty this corresponds to a peak in aggressive behaviour. 

Supporting research

Kalat - f that young ment 15-25 years old, who are at their highest point of tesosterone levels show the highest level of aggression at this point in their lives.

Connor and Levine - f that rats who are castrated after birth have lower levels of aggression when tested as adults

20 of 29

Genetic factors in aggressive behaviour (MAOA)

Researchers have discovered that the gene responsible for producing the enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) may also be associated with aggressive behaviour. MAOA breaks down noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine after they have sent nerve impulses from one brain cell to another. Noradrenaline plays a key role in our body's fight or flight response (the 'fight' being linked to aggressive behaviour), whilst serotonin and dopamine imbalances habe been found in patients with high levels of aggression. Therefore, research suggests that it is an abnormality of MAOA that can cause aggressive behaviour. 

Supporting research

Bruner et al studied a family in the Netherlands, of whose male members displayed aggressive behaviour. The men were all found to have abnormal levels of MAOA which lead to low levels of noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. 

21 of 29

Genetic factors in aggressive behaviour

Research into genetic factors being a cause of aggressive behaviour tend to use twin studies to idenity corresponding concordance rates, using these to idenitify what extent the behaviour is due to inherited genes. Lyons et al found that similar CR existed between MZ and DZ twins during childhood, but in adulthood MZ twins had significantly higher CR of aggressive behaviour that DZ twins. Lyon proposed this was due to our environment being controlled when we are younger, for instance, our parents decide what violent tv we are to be exposed to. However, when we are older, we make our own choice in life and Lyon argued this may bring about the expression of inherited aggressive tendencies. 

22 of 29

Genetic factors in aggressive behaviour

Supporting research

McGuffin and Gottesman - f a CR of 87% for aggression in MZ twins compared to 77% in DZ twins, suggesting a genetic factor in determining our aggressive behaviour.

The stress diathesis model can be applied to explain the lack of 100% CR of McGuffins and Gottesman's findings. It could be suggested that the aggressive gene that is inherited lyes dormant in an individual and it is the environment that later activates it. This therefore explains why some MZ twins go on to be more aggressive than their twin and provides a viable explanation to the theory as a whole that we inherit an aggressive gene.

Another piece of DR was conducted by Mason and Frick, who conducted a meta analysis of 12 twin studies involving 3795 twin pairs. The researchers concluded that approximately 50% of aggressive and anti social behaviour can be attributed to the role of our genes. 

23 of 29

Genetic factors in aggressive behaviour

Research into the role of our genetics also uses adopting studies to disentangle the influence of the environment from the influence of our genes. One adoption study that supports the idea that inherited genes contribute to aggressive behaviour was conducted by Hutchings and Medncik. They reviewed over 14,000 adoptions in Denmark and found a positive correlation between the number of convictions for violence between adopted children and their biological parents. 

24 of 29

Genetic factors in aggressive behaviour (IDA'S)

(A) Biological

(D) F v D - inherited gene

25 of 29

Evolutionary explanation of group display of aggre

One evolutionary explanation for group display in sport was developed by Wilson who incorporated the idea of Xenophobia (a fear and hatred of strangers). This evolutionary explanation suggests that a group display of aggression towards outsiders in instinctive due to xenophobia. Successful humans are altruistic towards members of their own group, for our ancestors this was essential their survival as it meant a greater level of safety but also a wider access to resources. Our ancestors were also intolerant towards others outside of their group as this would have meant increased competition for resources, and possibly a threat towards the sexual reporduction of females within the group. Therefore, this evolutionary theory explains we now display aggressive behaviour as our ancestors used this behaviour as means to enhance their survival chance and this adaptive behaviour has been passed on through our genes. When we are at sporting events, the opposition is 'a stranger', thus this adaptive behaviour instilled in our genes causes us to act aggressively. 

26 of 29

Evolutionary explanation of group display of aggre

Another evolutionary explanation for group displays in sport is based on territory. Territorial behaviour is common in animals, which typically show threat displays when they feel their home territory is being threatened. This form of territorial display has it's human equivalent in the aggressive displays of sports teams prior to a match, for example the Samao team in 1991 adopted a war dance before the rugby world cup. To our ancestors, this act of aggression would have meant they were protecting their resources and thus enhancing their own chance of survival. Therefore, this theory explains we display group aggression in sports as this behaviour had an adaptive advantage for our ancestorsto defend valuable resources and this instinct has been passed through our genes. 

27 of 29

Evolutionary explanation of group display of aggre

Podaliri and Balestri found that in Italian football crowds during the 1980s carried out openly racist behaviour from xenophobic political organistations. They also strengthened their own cultural identity by stressing the difference between North and South of Italy. Therefore SR

Evans and Rowe analysed data of 40 football matches in the 1999 season and found the level of disorder with games involving the national side was greaten than those involving the club side. This therefore supports the theory that we act aggressive due to xenophobia as english clubside are more ethnically diverse than the national side teams, thus would cause less of a xenophobic response. 

Both support one another, therefore good = reliability to the theory. 

(M) lacks empiral evidence - theory does

28 of 29

Evolutionary explanation of group display of aggre

(A) Biological approach

(D) f v d

29 of 29


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Aggression resources »