SLT explanation of aggression

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SLT explanation of aggression

SLT is a branch of behaviourism developed by Bandura

  • Applied to aggression Bandura disagreed with the radical behvaiourist view that all aggressionn is a result of environment alone.
  • He also disagreed that aggression could be solely determined by biology.
  • His view was behaviourist in that he believed that the environment shaped aggression through observation learning but he also recognised the role of cognition.
  • He believed we constantly think about and monitor our behvaiours, a process he reffered to as 'self regulation'
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SLT explanation of aggression

SLT argues that aggression is learnt in four stages

  • Observation = An aggressive behaviour is observed. The person displaying the aggressive behaviour is known as a 'model' the model might be a family member, our peers or media figures.
  • Retention= A mental representation of the aggressive behaviour is made. It is remembered for future reference.
  • Reproduction = The aggressive behaviour is imitated at a seemingly appropriate time.
  • Motivation = In this stage a person will start to evaluate whether the aggressive act was appropriate and thus whether it will be repeated. If a person is positively reinforced for showing aggression then it is likely they will repeat the behaviour to gain more positive reinforcement. Postive reinforcement may be tangible or intagible, if the aggressive act is punished then it is unlikely to continue.
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SLT explanation of aggression

Factors affecting likelihood of imitation.

  • Self efficacy= refers to our abilities, i.e. whether we think we can carry something off. Example, when watching a boxing match and moves look easy to imitate our self efficacy is high. However is we watch a Jackie Chain film and the moves look complex and hard to imitate our self efficacy would be low.
  • Similarity= refers to shared features or beliefs based on gender, age, ethnicity, cultural background and anything else that makes us relate to a person. The more similar we are to a model showing aggression, the more likley we are to imitate it.
  • Vicarious Reinforcement= refers to the reaction the model recieves after displaying aggressive behvaiour. We are more likely to imitate an aggressive behaviour if the model displaying it recieved postive reinforcement for the act. This is because we think we might get positively reinforced for showing the same aggressive behaviour.
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SLT explanation of aggression

Bandura's Research 1963 - The Bobo doll study supporting the role of Observation and imitation.

  • Bandura used 6 groups of nursery school children from the university creche.
  • Group 1 and 2 were put into a room with a range of toys inculding a Bobo doll. An unknown adult entered the room male for the one group female for the other male. The adult started playing quietly but then attacked the Bobo doll. They punched it, kicked it, and threw it to the floor whilst syaing phrases such as 'hit him down' and ' POW'. The children were then taken to another room with a varied array of toys. They were told they couldn't play with them as they were reserved for other better children. This was said in attempt to fustrate them. They were then taken to a third roomn which contained aggressive toys, non aggressive toys and the Bobo doll. Their behaviour was monitored.
  • Group 3 and 4 went through the same procecdure but instead of seeing the adult in the same room as them, they watched them violently attack the Bobo doll on film.
  • Group 5 went through the same procedure but watched a cartoon character called 'Herman the cat' behave aggressively to the Bobo doll.
  • Group 6 was the control group who watched no aggressive acts towards the Bobo doll.
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SLT explanation of aggression

Bandura's research 1963 - The Bobo doll study supporting the role of observation and imitation.

  • Findings: The children in group 1 and 5 were found to mimic the behaviour they had seen. They violently attcked the Bobo doll using the same moves and phrases they had seen the adult use. There were no significant differences in the aggression levels of group 1 and group 5 demonstrating that violence has as much of a negative impact on screen as it does in real life. The findings also show that cartoon violence is just as damaging as human violence.
  • Why is this study relevant: This study provides support for the social learning theory of aggression as it shows that children will imitate aggression that they has observed. The fact that the children observed the very actions and words they had seen the adult use shows the impact that observational learning has on the development of aggressive behaviour.

 

 

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SLT explanation of aggression

Bandura et al 1963 - Rocky and Johnny supports the role of vicarious reinforcemnet.

  • This experiment went a step further and examined the effect of vicarious reinforcemnet on the likel'hood of imitating aggressive behaviour.
  • This study used 4 groups of nursery children. The children watched a five minute film showing two adult models Rocky and Johnny - play along together with toy cars and plastic farm animals.
  • Group 1 = Saw Johnny playing with the toys. Rocky then asks if he can play with them too and Johnny says no. Rocky responds by hitting Johnny several times with a rubber ball and baton. Johnny is then seen sitting in a corner whilst Rocky plays enthusatically with the toys. Rocky has thus been postively reinforced for his aggression.
  • Group 2 = Saw a different version where Rocky is punished. He is thoroughly thrashed by Johnny who leaves with all the toys. In this condition Rocky is punished for his aggression.
  • Group 3 = Saw Rocky and Johnny playing non- aggressively.
  • Group 4 = Saw no film at all.
  • Each group were then taken to a room containing the same toys present in the film.
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SLT explanation of aggression

Bandura et al 1963 - Rocky and Johnny supports the rols of vicarious reinforcement.

  • Findings: The children in group 1 showed higher aggression aggression levels in their subsequent play than the other groups.
  • Why is this study relevant: This study shows us that children do not imiate all aggressive acts that they have observed. If learning to be aggressive was simply a case of observe - imitate there would not be a difference in the aggression levels of group 1 and 2. The fact that group 1 was most aggressive shows us the role for cognition and provides support for vicarious reinforcement. Observes carefully consider whether they will imitate aggression based on what the outcome is likley to be. Thoes in group 1 saw the aggression get postively reinforced and so belived that aggression had postive outcomes.
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SLT explanation of aggression

Problems with drawing conclusions from Bandura's research

  • One limitation being low ecological validity, whilst Bandura's pps all attened the nursery at the university and so would be familiar with the building and the other children, the conditions they were exposed to were contrived and may have seemed artifical. This sense of artificalness may have caused them to act unnaturally and so it cannot be assumed that social learning theory explains the development of aggressive behvaiour in the same way in the real world.
  • Nerverless, there has been a number of studies carried out on children in real life situations which do seem to support the social learning theory of aggression. These studies indicate that the conclusions from Bandura's studies do apply to the real world and can be trused.
  • Support for this is provided by Onyskiw (200), who sampled over 11000 children aged 4-11. They had the childrens mothers complete questionnaires. They found that those children who witnessed aggression more oftern were themselves more aggressive.
  • Why is this study relevant? This study shows us that children may learn to be aggressive through observational learning in their own homes. It therefore supports SLT as an explanation of aggression. Furthermore, it looks at real life behaviours and so doesn't have the problems of low ecological validity that Bandura's research does.
  • This study is a big sample aids realiability, although with is being questionnaires more prone to socail desirability and individual differences.
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SLT explanation of aggression

Werner (2001) research study

  • Looked at a different set of models - peers. Two samples of nine year old children were taken. One sample had high levels of aggression and the other had low levels of aggression. The children were asked for their 3 best friends these best friends were then assessed for aggression. The aggression levels of all children were monitored for over a year. The resercher found that children who initially had low levels of aggression but  had aggressive friends gradually became more aggressive over the course of the year.
  • Why is this study relevant? This study shows us that children may learn to be aggressive through observing their peers it therefore supports SLT as an explanation of aggression. Furthermore it has high ecological validity. Another strength of this study is that it is a longitudinal study so aids the reliability.
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SLT explanation of aggression

Evaluation key points

  • Low population validity=  Whilst all of the studies outlined so far show us that SLT is a viable explanation for the development of aggression in children, it can not be assumed that SLT can explain the development of aggression in adults.
  • One study which supports the role of SLT can explain aggression in adults as well as children is provided by Phillips (1986), In this study Philips monitored all major heavy weight boxing matches between 1973-1978. He found a rise in homocide rates following these matches. Specifically he found that homocide rates rose by 12.5% in the 3 days following a major boxing match and then dcreased to 6.6% four days after a match. He also found a large increase in homocide rates for those fights that had the largest viewing figures. Interestingly, when a white boxer was defeated the homocide victims were likely to be white, and when a Black boxer was defeated the homocide victims were likely to be black.
  • Why is this study relevant? This study supports SLT as an explanation for adult aggression. SLT can easily explain the increase in homocide rates by arguing that the perpetrators watched the boxing match, retained the violence they had seen and then imitated this violence on their victim. The fact that the race of the defeated often matched the race of the victims indicates that the perpetrators were quite precise in thier imitation, in the same way that Bandura's pps often imitated the exact moves and phrases they had seen the adults use.
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SLT explanation of aggression

Evaluation research study Boyatzis et al (1995)

  • Supports Bandura's research study - Rocky and Johnny that cartoon chartacters can result to an imitation of aggressive behaviour just as dangerous of real life role models.
  • Divided American elementary students into two groups, group 1 watched a neutral program; whilst the other group watched an episode of Power Rangers. After the programs finished, the children were observed at play. Those who watched 'Power Rangers' showed 7 times as much aggression per 2 minute period than the control group. The boys often precisely imitated the characters' acts, such as their flying kicks.
  • This study shows us thar Banduras research findings can be extrapolated beyond the laboratory children do imitated the aggressive behaviour of attrative role models.
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SLT explanation of aggression

Issues and Debates

  • Whilst SLT is not a form of radical behaviourism it does still come down on the 'nurture' side of the nature-nurture debate. It does see a role of cognition but doesn't see an important role for biology when explaining aggression .This is a limitation because it ignores the possibility that some people are naturally (biologically) more aggressive than others. There is much research to show that Biological factors such as faulty genes and high levels of testostrone cause aggression and this explanation ignores the important role of these factors might play in the dvelopment of aggression.
  • A further limitation of social learning theory is that it is deterministic. This is because it implies that if a person observes an amired role modle commit an aggressive act and get positively reinforced fot it that person will imitate that aggressive behaviour if they have high self efficacy for the act. This explanation ignores the role of free will in that it doesn't account for those people who make conscious decision not to be violent despite being exposed to violence and reinforced for showing violence.
  • Am example of this would be the case of a person who grows up in a violent family and neighbourhood. They would observe many aggressive acts and most likely postively reinforced for showing these acts themsevels. They may however choose not to imitate the aggression as they dont agree with it and want something differnt for themselves.
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