AQA A2 Psychology Unit 3: Social Psychological Theories of Aggression - Social Learning Theory and Deindividuation Theory Notes


A2 Psychology Unit 3: Social Learning Theory and Deindividuation Theory of Aggression Notes

 What You Need to Know:

· Social psychological theories of aggression, e.g. social learning theory and deindividuation theory.

Social learning theory (SLT) - According to SLT (proposed by Bandura), aggression can be learned by modelling, i.e. observing and imitating the aggressive behaviour by other people.

Social learning theory says that behaviour is learned in two ways:

· Directly through reinforcement (i.e. reward and punishment)

· Indirectly by seeing others being rewarded or punishment for behaviours (vicarious learning).

A number of factors make imitation more or less likely:

Self efficacy

· The belief that a behaviour is within an observer's ability to perform.

·  The person will only act aggressively in situations where they are more likely to be successful.

Characteristics of the model

A model is more likely to be imitated if it has:

·  Status

·  Power

·  Similarity (increasing self efficacy)

Four essential conditions for an individual to model the behaviour of someone else:

1. Attention - A person has to pay some attention to the behaviour of the model in order for it to be imitated. A number of factors influence the attention given to the model, including as already mentioned the status, similarity and attractiveness of the model.

2. Retention - The behaviour has to be remembered if it is going to be imitated.

3. Reproduction - The observer has to be able to replicate (i.e. copy) the behaviour.

4. Motivation - The observer must want to imitate the behaviour.

Evaluation of the social learning theory (SLT):

Johnny and Rocky study - Bandura et al (1961) looked at the effects of observing a model being punished or rewarded. They found that children who had seen a character in a film (Rocky) being rewarded for aggressive behaviour used more aggressive behaviour whilst playing than those who had not witnessed this.

Practical application - Patterson et al (1982) studied the origins of children with problem behaviour including aggression and found that parents had both modelled aggressive behaviour and rewarded problem behaviour. Training parents to model more appropriate behaviour helped the children.

Support from biology - mirror neurons are active not only when we perform an action but also when we observe it. This might be a biological basis for social learning.

Bandura (1965) - Bobo Doll Experiment

Method: In a controlled observation with an independent measures design, children watched a video of a male or female model behaving aggressively towards a Bobo doll. Their behaviour was distinctive - e.g. they used a hammer or shouted certain things. The children either saw the model being told off (punished) or being


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