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  • Created on: 30-05-13 15:42

Social psychological theories (e.g. SLT, deindivid

Social psychological theories involve:

1) Social learning theory

2) Deindividuation

It proposes the causes of aggressive behaviour arises from our interactions with others in our social world.

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Social learning theory

Social learning theorists i.e. Bandura proposes aggressive behaviour is learnt through direct experience or by vicarious experience.

DIRECT REWARD: If a child is rewarded (gets what they want/ praised by others) for a behaviour, they are likely to repeat the same actions in similar situations in the future. A child e.g. who has a history of successfully bullying other children will therefore come to attatch a considerable value to aggression.

VICARIOUS REINFORCEMENT: When children observe and learn about the consequences of aggressive behaviour by watching others being reinforced or punished.

OBSERVATION LEARNING: Social learning theory suggests that we learn the specifics of aggressive behaviour (e.g. the form it takes), the situation that produce it and the targets towards which it is directed.

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Determinants of aggression

The likelihood of a person behaving  aggresive in any situation is determined by:

1) Their previous experience- both their own and that of others

2) The percieved consequences: expectation of reward must be greater than the expectation of punishment.

3) Cognitive social and environmental factors, such as aggression increasing in noisy situations.

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Social learning theory continued

Bandura argued for social learning to take place a child must be able to form a mental representation of the aggressive behaviour.

This involves:

The expectations of future outcomes when appropriate opportunities arise in the future, the child will display the learned behaviour. This is as long as the expectation of reward is greater then the expectation of punishment.

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Children also develop confidence in their ability to carry out necessary aggressive actions. Children for whom this form of behaviour has been disastrous in the past have less confidence (lower sense of self- efficacy).

Walters and Thomas found those who watched violent scenes, before giving an electiric shock chose to give higher shock levels. This supports indirect reinforcement from observed learning (watching the scene) and so the behaviour is imitated.

Mead examined 3 New Guniea tribes living near each other. Mead Found differences between tribes supports the role of social learning in aggression.

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Evaluation for the Social learning theory

:)can explain inconsistencies in aggressive behaviour. We may behave differently in 2 situations because aggression is rewarded in oone and not the other :) Theory makes quite a lot of sense, it seems obvious that environmental experiences must have an influence on social learning of violence in children. :) There is a lot of experimental support e.g. Bandura's Bobo doll study which makes it valid

:( Although Bandura was aware of potential biological factors influening aggresisve behaviour. Bandura never gave the academic attention that they observed hence he oversimplified the issues. Biological explanations have stressed factors unrelated to social learning e.g. testosterone. :(Supporting studies have methodological flaws e.g. demand characteristics and observer bias decreasing the validity. :( Theory can also be deemed as 'behaviourally deterministic', as it suggests that people positivel absorb observed behaviours and imitate it, without logicall thought for the implications .

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Fraser and Burchell explained this is a process whereby normal constraints on behaviour is weakened, as a person loses their sense of individuality.

It occurs when we are in large groups, part of a crowd, wearing a uniform or in an altered state of consciousness e.g. drugs, alcohol.

Recent suggestions say it is a reduced private self-awareness that leads to agression.

Dener explain deindividuation occurs when self-awarness is blocked by environmental events.

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Deindividuation continued...

Factors crucial for an deindividuation stare:

1) A strong feeling of group membership

2) Increased levels of arousal

3)Focus on external rather than internal events

Le Bon's crowd theory, provides an explanation of the collective behaviour of violent crowds. A 'crowd-man' is no longer conscious of his acts and when a man joins a crowd he descends several things in the ladder of cultivation.

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Deindividuation continued...

3 factors that emerge in crowds which leads to aggression:

1) Annonymity- presumes to emerge in crowds of sufficiently large sizes. The idea is that it is difficult to identify individuals.

2) Contagion- factor that occurs when members of the crowd stimulate and respond to irrational and violent feelings.

3) Convergence- occurs when crowd members gather together to express qualities with each individual.

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Contagion VS. Convergence

Contagion theory states the crowds cause people to act in a certain way. Convergence theory is the opposite: that people who wish to act in a certain way come together to from crowds.

Le Bon has been criticised for being socially insensitive, as he points the crowd in a particular way.

Milgram found ppts were more likely to give shocks when they couldn't see the victim. When in the same room the shock level went down to 40%. Although it is a supporting study, it has ethical issues as it causes distress towards particpants.

Check questioned male ppts at an American Uni. Check found 1/3 of the sample admitted they would be tempted to commit ****, if they thought there was a chance they would not get caught. Problem with this is there is a small sample size, and hard to generalise. Social desirability bias could have also risen from the questionnaire decreasing the validity.

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Evaluation for deindividuation

:) There is evidence that supports it, such as Zimbardo's prison study where they found the general deindividuation imposed by the overly keen guards, made it easier for guards to treat them brutally increasing the reliability. :) Makes sense that we reflect on social events on personal experiences e.g. the London riots, which was spread very quickly.

:(Deindividuation does not always lead to aggression, it could lead to pro-social behaviour e.g. peace protests.:( Reductionist, it oversimplifies and doesnt take into account such factors including... the environment and personality :( Deterministic, it doesnt allow for peole in the group not to be agressive, so treats everyone in the group the same.

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Institutional aggression

Refers to the violent behaviour that exists and becomes the norm in institutions. It also refers to collective violence between social groups. The institutions include: prisons, hospitals and borders such as the armed forces.

2 models to explain institutional aggression:

1) The deprivation model

2)The importation model

Situational factors can also help contribute to our understanding of aggression.

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The deprivational model

The problem is with experiences withing the institution; overcrowding, loss of personal rights and strict regime can be very stressfull.

Sykes outlined 5 deprivations;

1)Liberty- prisoners given numbers and had to wear uniforms. They had to ask before thet ate, slept or had a shower.

2) Autonomy- prisoners have no power and a few choices. They are also ofern told what to do.

3) Goods/services- Inmates font have the stuff we expect in the free world, whis brings a sense of failure.

4)Heterosexual relationshops: men find female companionship as part of their self identity

5)Security, fears for saftery because of violence and agression

:) Supporting evidence :( Determinist- all prisoners are deprived but many choose not to be violent :( Gender bias ... supporting research is based on male prisoners. Females may not act the same way to deprivations.

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The importation model

Aggression is imported from outside. Inmates who enter the prison with certain characteristics are more likely to engage in violence. Institutional violence is therefore to do with characteristics of prisoners themselves. Inmates therefore import violence from their own backgrounds: drug habits and social problems.

Irwin and Creesey identified prisoners into 3 subcultures:

1)Criminal subculture- follows norms of being a criminal

2)Convict subculture- position of power, most likely to turn aggressive

3)Straight subculture (one-time-offenders)- tend not to be aggressive when in prison

:)Research support from Harer and Steffensmeier found black inmates displayed significantly higher levels of violent behaviour but lower rates of alcohol and drug misconduct compared to white inmates. :) Keller and Wang found prison violence is more likely to occur in facilities that hold the most troublesome inmates. :( Culture bias- reflects American society might not be applicable to other counries :( Reductionist, set of factors that lead to violence not just personality :( lacks usefullness.

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Situational factors

Aspects of institution e.d. management style ans situation factors e.g. noise and space. In the book 'Lucifer's effect', Zimbardo emphasises the powerful influence that the situation can have on peoples willingness to inflict harm on others. In Stanford's prison experiment normal unadjusted college students became brutal and aggressive guards due to influential factors.

:) claims the same psychological processes occur in the Stanford Prison experiment as were apparent in Abu Ghraib :) Bandura et al supports the idea of dehumanization

:( Reductionist, focuses solely on environmental factors :( gender bias

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Neural and Hormonal mechanisms in aggression

Focussion on neual and hormonal mechanimss on aggression

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Neural mechanisms in aggression

What does this include:

1) Serotonin

2) Dopamine

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Low levels of serotonin removes the ability to control agression.

Brown et al founf major metabolite (waste product) of serotonin is low in cerebrospinal fluid of serotonin in agressive people. :) low levels of serotonin makes you more agressive :( correlational study- cant establish cause and effect so reduces validity.

Badway found alcohol consumption caused major disturbance in the metabolism of the brain serotonin.

:( alternative explanations of serotonin. Agression is not caused by low levels of serotonin in the brain but low levels lead to an increased number of receptors.

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Increase in dopamine activity is assosciated  with increase in aggression. Dopamine levels are reduced when eating.

Couppis et al found evidence that dopamine plays an important role in reinforcing aggression.

Also research support from rats. Ferrari et al allowed a rat to fight everyday, but on the 11th day it was not. Found rats dopamine levels had increased and serotonin decreased in anticipation.

:( ethical issues, causes harm to rats

:( Difficult to establish a clear link. If you turn off dopamine the animals cannot move.

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Hormonal mechanisms in agression


1) Testosterone

2) Cortisol

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Males produce testosterone in the testes. Women produce it in similar amounts in the adrenal glands. The nature of link with agression is not simple cause and effect. Testosterone simply makes it more likely a certain behaviour will be expressed.

Book et al did a large meta-analysis of 45 studies and found a mean correlation of 0.14 between testosterone and agression.

:) Clear that testosterone has a role to play from supporting evidence :) Also has been used with athletes very effectively.

:( Testosterone measures are rarely taken at the exact time of agression. :( Small/ bias samples used in the studies e.g. deliquents.

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Inversed levels of corisol assosciated with higher levels of agression.

Van Gozen et al claims there is a link between agression and the hormone cortisol.

:( lack of consitent research evidence. Many studies have found no significant difference between agressive samples and controls in terms of lower cortisol

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:) Useful and important applications, research area e.g. in reducing violence

:( Reductionist- biological explanation is insufficient on its own e.g. the presence of a stimulus.

:(Gender bias e.g. mainly testosterone studies use male participants

:( Ethical issues e.g. giving people drugs to show agression .

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The role of genetic factors in aggressive behaviou

Research into behavioural genetics show that most aspects of behaviour is heredity to some degree.

Researchers have approached the investigation of genetic factors through twin/adoption studies and genetic identification.

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Twin studies

Research compares the similarity of MZ and DZ for a trait (in this case agression). If MZ twins are more alike in the trait it is suggested it is due to genetics. It is used to estimate inheritability

Mason and Frick found 50% of the difference between anti-social and non-antisocial behaviours could be attributed to genetics, with larger estimates found for more violent behaviour :( may be due to the environment which the study does not take into account.

Coccaro et al found genes accounted for more than 40% of individual differences in aggression, environmental influences accounted  for around 50% and physical agression accounted for 70% :( only a few studies have investigated agressive behaviour, not generally antisocial.

:( MZ twin share the same environment, so the environmental influences could be responsible for aggression

:( Correlation: cant establish cause and effect.

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Adoption studies

Research compares adopted children, with biological and adopted parents for a particular trait. Found greater similarity in levels of aggression between adopted children and biological parents.

Hutchings and Mendrick found a significant positive correlation between the number of criminal convictions for criminal violence among the biological parents, and the number of convictions for crimial violence among the adopted sons :) large adoption study

Miles and Carey found a  strong genetic influence which accounted for as much as 50% of the variance in aggression :( finding large numbers of MZ twin reared apart is extremely rare.

:( Most adoption studies dont take into account the adopted age. If adopted at an older age their social experience before adoption may be the case of agression.

:( Correlation: cant establish cause and effect.

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Genetic identification

Research has identified a number of 'candidate genes' though to increase the risk of aggression. Studies examine whether one particular variant of 'candidate gene' occurs more in people who display aggressive behaviour than in comparison group.

Retz er al found an assosciation between DRD3 the gene for dopamine receptor D3 (an impulsivity) and ADHD-  related symptom in violent offenders :( Genes for agression does not neccesairly predict behaviour.

Brunner er al studied male members of a family in the Netherlands who behaved in a violent manner. The men were found to have low levels of MAOA in their bodies, resulting in high levels of 3 neurotransmitters. A defect in the gene for MAOA was later identified in the violent members of the family :( casts doubt on the claim low levels of serotonin is assosciated with agression.

:) Very scientific and so can be tested

:( Deterministic, just beacuse you have a gene doesnt mean you will go on to be aggressive.

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:( Reductionnist, to believe genetics is the only factor

:( Major problems to genetic research in criminal ares (free will bs determination)

:(Research have an interactionist approach that genes and the enviroment are the only influence traits to agression

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Evolutionary explanations inclusing infedility and

Aggression originates in challenges forced by our ancestors and therefore serves an important survival function e.g. good hunters required resources and status.

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Natural selection

Weeds out characteristics that offer no advantage for survival and selects advantageous characteristics, such as aggression. We are therefore 'programmed' for agressin in our very basic nature form and inherited fighting instincts, which has an adaptive purpose.

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Our ancestors experienced one major challenge: to find a mate and hold onto her. Competition with others for a mate is the root of much male-sex agression, which enhances reproductive success. This may lead to the development of jealousy, where opposite sex agression can occur dye to fear and infidelity.

Evolutionists argue men and women differ in their types of jealousy they show. Males experiene sexual jealousy and females emotional jelousey which can cause agression.

Evolutuonary explanation: Men are agressive towards the same sex as they need to compete with other males for access to choosy females. They are also aggressive towards the opposite sex to prevent the female from being unfaithful as males face paternity uncertainty.

Males risk wasting investment in an offspring that may not be their own, so show more jealous , violent aggression relating to female infidelity.

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Females shown to be aggressive to the same sex when competing for quality men. Also to prevent infidelity. If a male is unfaithful, the female partner risks losing his time, resources, energy, protection and commitment to her children.

It is often verbal agression against other women to maintain their own status and reduce attractivenness of competitors, especially using verbal criticism of the physical attractiveness of other females and their proximity (Buss and Dedden).

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Miller found from a study of 44 battered wives living in a hostel in Cabada, that 55% of them cited jealousy as a reason for their husbands aggressibe behaviour :( bias, does not include view from males and so lacks validity

Daly and Wilson reviewed conflicts that led to a murder in Detroit, and found: 58/214 cases of murder studies, sexual jealousy was the main factor which involved two men contesting a female partner. :) meta-analysis= reliable :(done in Detroit therefore culture bias so hard to generalise

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:( Reductionist- hard to use one explanation of agression when it is really complex

:( Deterministic- are we slave to aggressive genes?

:(Cultural differences/ individual differences

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:( Reductionist- hard to use one explanation of agression when it is really complex

:( Deterministic- are we slave to aggressive genes?

:(Cultural differences/ individual differences

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Explanations of group display

Evolutionary explanations of group display (3):

1) Lynch mob

2) Sport events


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Lynch mob

The behaviour of lynch mob van help to explain group display in humans. The power threat hypothesis is: Blalock argues groups that pose a threat to the majority are more likely to be discriminated against, and be subject to violent action. As minority group members grow, majority intensify efforts to maintain dominance. It represents a fear of political power. Ridley suggests group display of solidarity and discrimination against outsiders become more likely when groups feel at risk. Therefore a majority recieve a threat from a subgroup, which makes that subgroup more likely to be discriminateg against. Agression functions as a display of power, by the majority and a threat towards a subgroup.

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In the late 1800's the lynching of Black people in the Southern states of the USA, became an institutionalised method to maintain white supremacy. So lynching is where a group of people without legal authority kill a pperson for some presumed offence.

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Evaluation of lynch mob

:) Patterson claims lynch mobs were more active during this period as it was a time (after the collapse of slavery) when communities felt at risk.

:(Contradicts power-threat hypothesis. Clark found the main victims of lynch mobs were not considered to pose any threats, political or economic, to the dominant community

:(Statistical evidence on lynching must be approached with caution many go unrecorded

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Sport events

This is a ritualised form of agression. It fulfils the psychological need to belong in a group and to believe the ingroup is the best group. The behaviour is thereforw a way of secuting power and status and access to resources without threatening survival of group members. Aggression serves as adaptive for both players and crowds.

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The Haka performances of New Zealend rugby union team, involves moves and chants designed to intimidate the opposing team.

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:) Widmeyer and McGuire found an increased actual agression only occurred in teams that met more frequently

:(Guttman notes that there is no single theory appropriate to explain the behaviour and violence of sport crowds.

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This is attacking some species. Natural selection favours agression towards those not part of the 'in' group. This seems contradictroty due to the risk of life. It therefore means benefits musts outweigh the costs. War allows us to gain status, access to resourcs, land and women which will increase the chances of survival in the future.

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In World War 2, Germans ***** women in concerntration camps. More than 20,000 muslim girls and women were ***** as part of the genocide programme in Bosnia. Thw aim was to make the women pregnant and raise the children on Serbs (Allen).

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:) explains objectors to war-risky behaviour for survival

:( Deterministic, are we slave to our genes

:( Reductionist , trying to explain a behavioyr as compex as war

:( Anderson argues there are non-violent societies who live in corporate friendless, this means even if there are evolutionary advantages to warfare they are not acted upon.

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A set of 45 very useful and detailed notes.  Thank you!

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