Social Learning Theory as an Explanation of Criminal or Anti-Social Behaviour

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Describe and Evaluate Social Learning Theory as an Explanation of Criminal or Anti-Social Behaviour [12 marks]

Social Learning Theory suggests that people commit crimes because they are exposed to criminal role models. They may look up to a criminal and pay attention to their behaviour. They may remember how a crime is committed and if they are able to carry out a crime themselves (reproduction) and they are motivated to do so, they may commit the same crime or similar crime themselves (modelling).

For example, a boy may observe an older boy shoplifting, and may pay attention to this act. If he is capable of reproducing this behaviour (or at least, believes he is capable) and sees how the older boy has been rewarded for carrying out the behaviour (by getting something for nothing), he may be motivated to copy the behaviour, especially if he identifies with the boy and looks up to him as a role model. Anti-social behaviour can be explained through observation of anti-social role models. The most powerful role models are those that are same-sex, have a high status, and are of a similar age to the observer.

If a model is rewarded, a behaviour is more likely to be copied. This is called vicarious reinforcement. For example, if a criminal is successful and becomes rich from their crimes, their behaviour is more likely to be imitated. A

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