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Social psychological approaches to aggression

Aggressive actions: Intentional behaviours aimed at causing either physical or psychological pain (Aronson, 1999)

(Berkowitz, 1993) Hostile aggression: Act of aggression stemming from feelings of anger and aimed at inflicting pain

Instrumental aggression: Aggression as a means to some goal other than causing pain

Learned through classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning

Learning by direct experience: By doing something and as a result getting something you want, this behaviour is likely to get rewarded

Learning by indirect reinforcement: When a role model is seen as behaving in a certain way, and then imitating the behaviour

The main methods of social learning theory

Attention: Learning through observation, attending to a models behaviour

Retention: To model the behaviour, needs to be remembered and placed into long term memory

Production: The observer must possess the physical capabilities of the modelled behaviour

Motivation: receive positive reinforcement for the modelled behaviour

Bandura: Believed that aggressive reinforcement by family members was the most prominent source of behaviour modelling.

Media violence and aggression: TV has been examined as a powerful source of imitative learning. Several variable influence aggressive behaviour in the media, these are:

·         If the observed violence is thought to be real or considered fictional

·         If viewers identify with the aggressor in some way, more aggressive if they do not identify with the aggressive model

·         Observing unsuccessful aggression, in which the aggressor is punished tends to inhibit aggressive behaviour in the observer

Social learning theory of aggression – Bandura (1963)

Suggests that aggression is learnt from the environment through reinforcement and the process of modelling. Modelling involves learning through the observation of other people (models), which may lead to imitation if the behaviour to be imitated leads to desirable consequences. Bandura distinguished between the learning and the performing of the aggressive behaviour

He found that aggression may be learnt from models through observation, but the likelihood of it being imitated depends on the perceived consequences of the models reinforcement. Id its punishment, less likely to be repeated.


·         Methodological: Lab experiment – artificial, lacks ecological validity. Inducing demand characteristics

·         Does not provide a sufficient theory on its own, ignores other factors of aggression

·         Lab experiment increases reliability in results as variables can be manipulated and controlled

·         Out of date – 1963

·         Lots of support from background research (Liebert and Baron 1972) ]

Evaluation of slt of aggressive behaviour

-          Further empirical support from (piterson et al 1989) demonstrating role models are important in the development of anti-social behaviour and that parents are the most important ones

-          Cultural evidence (Mead 1935) Found that Arapesh is an example of a non-aggressive culture in which aggression is not admired (reinforced) or modelled by adults.

-          Can be applied to the development of psychological disorders

-          Based on research that is conducted in a lab therefore lacks ecological validity

-          Over


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