Social psychological explanations: SLT

  • Social learning theory (SLT) applied to aggression:
  • AO1:
  • Aggression learned directly through postitive and negative reinforcement:
  • Bandura's social learning theory (SLT) acknowledged that aggression can be learned directly through operant conditioning (positive and negative reinforcement and punishment). For example, a child who angrily snatches a toy learns aggression brings rewards - direct positive reinforcement. 
  • Most aggression learned indirectly, through observation and vicarious reinforcement:
  • Observational learning explains most aggressive behaviour. A child observes models (e.g. parents) being aggressive and works out how aggressive behaviour is performed. Children also observe the consequences of a model's aggressive behaviour - if it is rewarded the child learns aggression can be effective in getting what they want. This vicarious reinforcement - it makes it more likely that the child will imitate the model's aggressive behaviour. 
  • Social learning requires attention, retention, reproduction and motivation: 
  • Four cognitive conditions are needed for observational learning to take place. 
  • Attention: observer notices mode's aggressive actions.
  • Retention: observer remembers model's aggressive behaviour anf forms symbolic mental representation of it. 
  • Reproduction: observer repeats behaviour
  • Motivation: observer imitates behaviours if they have an expectation that behaving aggressively will be rewarding. 
  • Self-efficiency increases each time aggression brings rewards:
  • Self-efficiency is the extent to which we believe our actions will achieve a desired goal. A child's confidence in their ability to be aggressive grows as they learn that aggression can bring rewards (e.g. child who regularly hits others to get a toy leanrs they have the motor skills to do so and this ability comess easily to them). 
  • Key study: Bandura et al. Social learning of aggression:
  • Young children individually observed an adult model playing with toys,


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