Social learning theory see's aggression in two ways, both involving operant conditioning;
- Direct reinforcement - where behaviours are reinforced, making them likely to be repeated
- Indirect reinforcement - where observed behaviours that are reinforced are imitated (vicarious reinforcement)
Through social learning theory, humans learn the value of aggressive behaviour and how and when to imitate specific acts of aggression. Much research has been done has been done on media influences, showing that if observers identify with the perpetrators of aggressive behaviour, the more realistic or belivable the aggressive acts are, the more likely these acts will be imitated.
- Bandura et al (1961/1963) found that children imitated aggressive acts on a bobo doll if the model was reinforced. Aggression was more likely if the child identified with the model or had low self-esteem. This supports social learning theory.