Pro and Anti-Social Behaviour: Nature and Causes of Aggression

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Socal psychological theories of aggression including research studes relating to these theories.

Research in to environmental stressors on aggressive behaviour.

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  • Created by: Allie B
  • Created on: 26-05-09 14:27

Social Learning Theory

Bandura (1962) Suggested that all behaviour is learnt. SLT suggests that we also learn through observing others. Bandura distinguishes between the learning process of the aggressive behaviour and the performance of it. He suggests that we learn through models (i.e parents, teachers, siblings, friends, the media etc) but the likelihood of the aggressive behaviour being imitated depends upon on the perceived consequences of the behaviour. There are three main stages depending on the development of a behaviour:

1. Acquisition: Observing and learning the aggressive behaviour.

2. Instigation: Gradually taking part in aggressive behaviour.

3. Regulation: Whether the aggressive behaviour continues or not depends on reinforcement.

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Social Learning Theory


Direct: When the person who is acting aggressively is rewarded or punished for it.

Indirect (Vicarious Reinforcement): The person observes someone else that has been aggressive being rewarded or punished for it.

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Supporting Evidence and Evaluation of SLT


Cooper and Mackie: Found agressive behaviour in girls (9 and 10 year olds) increased after playing aggressive video games.

Patterson: Found differences in home environment of aggressive children and non-aggressive children. Affection is rarely displayed, aggressive techniques were used to cope with situations and physical discipline was demonstrated through physical punishment and verbal ridicule.

Bandura's Bobo dolls: The children who had watched a model behaving aggressively were more violent and imitated some of the exact behaviours they had observed.

Evaluation of the Social Learning Theory: It does offer an understanding of how children in particular may indirectly learn aggression from others. It has implications on the influence of media on children’s behaviour. Aggression is more complex than the social learning theory argues. Other factors will affect the amount of aggression a person exhibits.

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Deindividuation refers to situations where individuals feel anonymous, part of the crowd. This can occur when; they are surrounded by large numbers of people i.e. in a crowd or when they are in uniform, i.e. clothing makes individual identification difficult. These things could result in;

· A loss of personal identity

· A loss of responsibility

· A reduction in the fear of public disapproval

· Disinhibited – an individual loses their inhibitions that prevent them acting aggressively.

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Dividuation: Public and Private self awareness

Public Self Awareness: A sense of being visible to other people. When they are less visible and less likely to be identified they feel more anonymous. This reduces their self-awareness. As a result they feel a greater chance of getting away with behaviour that might otherwise be punished.

Private Self Awareness: This is a sense of self, their inner thoughts and feelings. However when they are immersed in a crowd, sharing a collective experience people tend to focus on what’s going on around them rather than themselves.This may result in more impulsive and less rational behaviour.

A decrease in public or private awareness may result in aggressive behaviour.

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Supporting research of Deindividuation

Supporting Evidence

Zimbardo: Zimbardo conducted a study in which female participants were asked to deliver electric shocks to a woman as part of a learning experiment. One group of participants wore bulky clothing and hoods, which covered their faces, were never called by name and were placed in a dimly lit room. A second group wore their regular clothes, were called by their name and had large name tags, and were placed in a brightly lit room. Results showed that shocks delivered by the hooded group were twice as severe as those given by the non-hooded group.

HOWEVER: Johnson and Downing criticised Zimbardo’s study as they found that participants wearing a nurse’s uniform didn’t give shocks to the ‘learner’ even though they were still deindividuated.

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Evaluation of Deindividuation

+ On some occasions deindividuation actually leads to more pro social behaviour, for example policemen and nurses etc. An individual can act independently, deindividuation is not always inevitable.

- Individual differences will play a part. Some people are more receptive to deindividuation than others. The theory assumes that everyone within a crowd or when their anonymous will conform and act differently, where as peoples personalities will have a huge influence on how people respond / act in different situations.

- Deindividuation does not always lead to aggression, there are many times when people are in large crowds and do not become aggressive.

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