Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory, AO1 and AO2.

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AO1 - Social Learning Theory

  • Bandura and Walters: aggression cannot be just the result of direct experience
  • SLT: we learn by observing others
  • We learn the specifics of aggression - its forms, how long it is enacted, the situations that produce it, and the targets towards which it is directed
  • A person's biological make-up creates a potential for aggression, and it is the actual expression of the aggression that is learned
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AO1 - Bobo Doll Study

  • Bandura et al
  • Participants: 3-5 year old children
  • Half exposed to adult models interacting aggressively with a life-size inflatable Bobo Doll
  • The model struck it on the head with a mallet and kicked it around the room, with accompanying verbal aggression like saying POW
  • Half were exposed to adult models behaving non-aggressively towards it
  • Children were then shown attractive toys that they were then not allowed to play with
  • This would have upset them and increased their chances of acting aggressively
  • They were then taken to a room that included, among other things, a Bobo Doll
  • Children in the 'aggression' condition reproduced a good deal of the physically and verbally aggressive behaviour of the model
  • Children in the non-aggressive group exhibited virtually no aggression
  • 1/3 of the children in the 'aggression' group repeated the model's verbal responses - none of the non-aggression group did
  • Boys produced more physical aggression than girls, but there was no gender difference in verbal aggression
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AO1 - Observation

  • Children learn through observation: watching and imitating
  • This is at odds with Skinner's operant conditioning theory, as it does not require direct experience
  • Watching people being rewarded/punished = learning about the consequences of aggression (known as vicarious reinforcement)
  • Aggressive behaviour: films, TV, school
  • Learning about consequences = learning about appropriate conduct in the world
  • Learn which behaviours are worth repeating
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AO1 - Mental Representation

  • Bandura: social learning = forming a mental representation of an event in one's own personal environment
  • Must associate punishments/rewards with expectations
  • The child will display the learned behaviour as long as the expectation of reward is greater than the expectation of punishment

Maintenance Through Direct Experience

  • If a child is rewarded (gets praise/what they want) for behaviour, s/he is more likely to repeat the same action in future
  • A child will attach value to aggression if he has a history of bullying

Self-Efficacy Expectancies

  • Children develop confidence in their ability to carry out aggressive actions
  • If they weren't very good at a behaviour in the past, they have less confidence in their ability to use aggression and will seek to find other means
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AO2 - The Role of Punishment

  • In the Bandura-Walters reward/punishment model study, the children may have shown lower levels of aggression because the punishment prevented LEARNING, not PERFORMANCE
  • Bandura repeated the study offering rewards to the children who acted aggressively
  • Learning does take place regardless of reinforcements, but production of behaviour is subject to reinforcement
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AO2 - Applicability to Adults

  • Phillips: daily homicide rates in the US almost always increased following a major boxing match
  • Viewers were imitating what they saw - SLT
  • (However, it is just a correlation)
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AO2 - The Role of Vicarious Learning

  • Unlike operant conditioning, it explains aggressive behaviour in absence of direct reinforcement
  • Although Bandura's participants behaved more aggressively after observing an aggressive model, they were never rewarded for any action
  • The concept of vicarious learning is necessary to explain these findings
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AO2 - Individual Differences in Aggressive Behavio

  • Explains differences in aggressive and non-aggressive behaviour between and within individuals
  • 'Culture of violence': some subcultures develop norms that sanction violence
  • Some cultures may emphasise and model non-aggressive behaviour, creating individuals with lower levels of aggression
  • Differences within individuals are related to selective reinforcement and context-dependent learning
  • People respond differently in different situations: aggression is sometimes rewarded and sometimes not
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IDA - Validity

  • The children in Bandura's study may have shown demand characteristics
  • One child arrived saying "look Mummy, there's the doll we have to hit"
  • Studies also focus on aggression towards a doll, not a person who will hit back
  • HOWEVER Bandura then showed the children footage of a woman beating up a live clown: they then proceeded to beat up the live clown in the next room
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IDA - Cultural Differences

  • Among the !Kung San of the Kalahari desert, aggression is comparatively rare
  • When two children argue, parents neither reward nor punish them
  • They physically separate them and try to distract them onto other things
  • Parents also never use physical punishment, and aggressive postures are avoided by adults and devalued by the society as a whole
  • Absence of direct reinforcement + absence of aggressive model = no aggression
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