Aggression - Social Learning Theory

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  • Created by: amehlia
  • Created on: 27-04-16 19:47

Social Learning Theory

The cause of aggression arises out of our interactions with others in our social world.

  • Bandura and Walters (1963): aggression could not be explained through only direct experience, we also learn by observing the behaviour of others. A person’s biological make-up can create a potential for aggression however the expression of aggression is what we learn.

    • Principles of SLT:

      • Observation: people (particularly children) observe the behaviour of role models that they identify with and then imitate this behaviour, this differs from Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning which suggested learning takes place through direct reinforcement.

      • Vicarious reinforcement: children learn behaviours by watching others be rewarded or punished for their behaviours, by observing consequences of other’s actions children learn what is appropriate conduct.

      • Mental representation: a child must form mental representations of events in their social environment, this representation must incorporate possible rewards or punishments for aggressive behaviours, and when possible opportunities for aggression arise the child will display the learned act of aggression as long as the expectation of reward is greater than the expectation of punishment.

      • Production of behaviour:

        • Maintenance through direct experience - if a child is rewarded for a behaviour then they are likely to repeat the same actions in similar situations, e.g. a child with a history of successfully bullying other children will attach considerable value to aggression.

        • Self-efficacy expectancies - children develop confidence in their ability to carry out the necessary aggressive actions, if aggressive acts have been disastrous in the past the child is likely to have less confidence in their ability to use aggression to resolve conflicts and therefore may turn to other means.

  • The Bobo Doll Studies:

    • Bandura et al.(1961)

      • Participants were male and female children, age range 3-5 years, half exposed to model interacting aggressively to Bobo doll and half exposed to model interacting in a non-aggressive way towards Bobo doll

      • Model showed distinctively physical acts of aggression for example striking it on the head with a mallet, accompanied by verbal aggression like saying ‘POW’

      • Children then frustrated by being in a room of toys and not being allowed to play with them, then taken to a


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