Outline and evaluate two social psychological theories of aggression. (25 marks)
One theory to explain aggression is deindividuation. This process is where an individuals self-perception is lowered by being in a large group of people, and having a greater sense of anonymity. This lowered self-perception results in a lesser concern of evaluation by others, so behaviour can become very out of character, and anti-social. Deindividuation can become heightened, the more anonymity there is (for example wearing a uniform), or whilst in an altered state of consciousness (being under the influence of drugs or alcohol).
Zimbardo (1969) conducted a study on female undergraduates.They were put in groups of four, and were required to give electric shocks to 'aid learning'. Half of the participants wore lab coats, and hoods that hit their faces, and were never referred to by name. They were sat in separate cubicles. In the other condition, they wore large name tags, were introduce to each other by name, and were also able to see each other when seated at the shock machines. Those in the deindividuation condition shocked the 'learner' for twice as long as the identifiable participants. This suggests that when the person has anonymity to hide behind, they have a decreased concern for evaluation by others, resulting in more anti-social behaviour.
However, this only supports the fact that deindividuation produces only anti-social behaviour. Deindividuation can also promote pro-social behaviour, when prosocial environmental cues are present. It is also criticised by the fact that not all large crowds are aggressive- they don't have to produce out of character behaviour at all, anti-social or prosocial- they could produce neutral behaviour.
A supporting study was conducted by Robert Watson (1973) who looked at warriors from 23 different societies, and observed how much a warrior changed his appearance prior to going to war, and the levels of aggression with which the warriors tortured and mutilated…