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Social Theory of Aggression

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Outline & evaluate one social-psychological theory of aggression

One social-psychological theory of aggression is the social-learning theory. Bandura suggested that as well as being learnt through direct experience, aggressive behaviour can be learnt indirectly, through observation of others. If a person observes aggressive behaviour in a model, they may imitate their behaviour, especially if they identify with or admire the model. The observer forms a mental representation of the event, including the consequences (rewards or punishments) of the models behaviour. Vicarious reinforcement is when the model is rewarded, and this will increase the chance of the behaviour being repeated. In this way, children learn appropriate and effective ways to use certain behaviours. When a person imitates the behaviour, they gain direct experience. The outcome of aggressive behaviour will influence the value of aggression for a child. When a child is rewarded for behaviour, this is direct reinforcement, and will make them more likely to repeat the behaviour. A child develops confidence in their ability to use aggressive behaviour successfully. If they are unsuccessful, they will have lower self-efficacy, so will be less confident that they can use aggression successfully, and will turn to other behaviours. A strength of social learning theory is that it is supported by empirical evidence, for example Bandura’s Bobo doll studies. Children who were shown a video of an adult being aggressive to a doll later behaved more aggressively towards the doll than the group who had seen a non-aggressive model and the control group, and they also imitated specific behaviours. Further evidence comes from Bandura and Walters, who found that the likelihood of the model being imitated depends on vicarious reinforcement. However, as these research studies focus on children, we can’t apply…...

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