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Dicuss one psychological theory of aggression

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Discuss one social psychological theory of aggression. One social psychological theory is deindividuation. This is the loss of all self responsibility when somebody is in a large group i.e. at a football match. As there is less feeling of anonymity people feel less restrains on their behaviour and as a result people act more impulsively and follow behaviours that are surrounding them at the time. When a group is merged together then the feeling of individuality ceases. Gustave le Bon (1892) said that individuals 'transform' when part of a crowd, the crowd results in a collective mind taking possession of the individual. He also suggests that being in a large anonymous group leads to more anti social behaviours. ...read more.


It was found that the deindividuation group gave the learner electric shocks for twice as long compared to the individuation group. There was a higher level of aggression as a result of high anonymity levels. However, Prentice-Dunn et al (1982) thought differently about Zimbardo's experiment. He believed it to be a result of self-awareness not anonymity. When somebody if thinking as an individual they are more self-aware of their social behaviours so will not act as aggressively. When they are in a group they loose their individual awareness so do not behave according to social norms. This theory has also been tested culturally. Robert Watson (1973) gathered data from 23 different societies of warriors. ...read more.


Although deindividuation is linked to aggressive behaviour it can create pro-sicial behaviour. This can be better understood when we look at the days after Princess Diana's death on 31st August 1997. This catastrophic event led to higher levels of positive social norms as many people flocked to Buckingham palace to place flowers and pay their respects. Another real life application that can be supported by research is the Ku Klux Klan uniform in America in the 60s. Members of the Ku Klux Klan dressed up in costumes to hide their identity which resulted in higher levels of aggression as it minimised the levels of guilt and shame. Mullen (1982) looked at newspaper cuttings of 60 lynchings in the USA between 1899 and 1964. It was found that the more people there were in a mob the more savagery in the killings. ...read more.

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This essay outlines some key research findings into deindividuation, but shows a lack of sophistication in the understanding of the concept itself and how it can be applied to real life situations. The Ku Klux Klan is one good example of a situation that provides anonymity, but the others are not. Better examples would be a riot under cover of darkness, or crowd situations with a high level of externally focused stimulation in which private self awareness becomes submerged such as a football match, or Hitler's Nuremberg rallies.
The essay also lacks A level depth. Although a plausible theory, deindividuation is an internal mental process which is notoriously difficult to operationalise and measure - it cannot be directly observed and self-report measures are unlikely to produce valid findings. A better analysis of the research would have drawn out the tentative, indirect and correlational nature of conclusions. Anothe way to develop depth would be to draw comparisons with the social learning approach to aggression, which has some more convincing research evidence.

Marked by teacher Jo Wilcox 17/02/2012

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