Social Learning Theory - Aggression

Revision cards of the AO1 and AO2/3 of The Social Learning Theory of aggression which can be used when answering a question about the Social Psychological Theories of Aggression.

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  • Aggression is any form of behaviour directed towards the goal of harming or injuring another living being who is motivated to avoid such treatment.
  • Berkowitz and Bandura - aggressive behaviour in non human animals can be explained in terms of instinct, aggression in humans is product of learning
  • Can be learnt through direct learning - classical and operant conditioning
  • Mainly through indirect learning.
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Indirect learning

  • Observation
  • Modelled learning without a reward or punishment
  • Vicarious learning with a reward or punishment
  • Bandura found that those who witnessed a model behaving aggressively showed high physical or verbal aggression than those who didn't
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Vicarious Learning

  • Bandura showed children a film in which the model behaved aggressively
  • Found that children who witnessed the model being punished were less likely to imitate the aggressive behaviour
  • Those in the no consequences and reward showed similar levels of aggression
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Four processes in observation and imitation

  • Attention - more likely if person is prestigious
  • Retention - actions are remembered
  • Production - Reproduce what we remember
  • Motivation - actions are reinforced negatively / positively.
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Likelihood of imitation

  • Similar - same sex, similar age
  • Desirable - celebrity/media personality
  • Self-esteem
  • Dependent - highly dependent on others
  • Direct Reinforcement - must respond strongly to rewards
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Evidence for nurture

  • According to SLT aggression is learnt
  • Would expect different levels of aggression in different cultures
  • Research to provide evidence for this
  • Margaret Mead - observed Mundugumor and Arapesh tribes from Papua New Guinea
  • Mundugumor were highly aggressive
  • Arapesh were very non aggressive
  • SLT can account for aggression
  • Product of nurture - differences cross cuturally
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Violent video games

  • SLT argues that aggressive behaviour in video games should be modelled if they are successful
  • Evidence in favour of this
  • Anderson and Dill - found that those playing more violent video games at school age, engaged in more aggressive real life behaviour
  • Playing violent video games can have long term effect
  • Leads to distorted scripts which can transfer to real life behaviour
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Practical applications - nurture

  • Idea that aggression is learnt and modelled has led to practical applications
  • This limits the amount of aggressive behaviours that children can view
  • There are now age ratings on games and films
  • Little violence can be shown before 9 (watershed)
  • However, most parents do not fully implement these guidelines and often allow children to play or watch violence inappropriate for their age.
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Evidence against nurture

  • Does not consider role of nature in development of aggression
  • Rhee and Waldman - identical twins more similar in anti-social behaviours than fraternal twins
  • Cannot dismiss role of nature in aggression
  • SLT is reductionist - does not consider the role that genetics play
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  • It is difficult to differentiate role of genetics and social learning in aggression
  • Could be interaction of the two
  • Plomin et al - aggression is an interaction between your genes amd the environment your parents create for you that suits your genes
  • More appropriate to consider how the 2 explantions interact with each other to produce aggression
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