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How effective is the social learning theory in explaining aggressive behaviour?

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How effective is the social learning theory in explaining aggressive behaviour? The social learning theory (SLT) is the basic assumption that people learn, not through direct reinforcement but through the observation of models. The SLT is appliable to all behaviour, including aggressive behaviour, which can be defined as any action or series of actions in which the direct purpose is to cause injury or damage. The SLT is quite effective in explaining aggressive tendencies, e.g. why some people are more aggressive than others and why children raised in violent homes are more prone to aggressiveness, but it does not explain why there seem to be a gender difference concerning aggressive behaviour. Most of the research on the social learning theory in the context of aggressive or violent behaviour was done by Albert Bandura et al, (1963). He performed one laboratory test where children we grouped in 3 different groups, and the children in the first group observed aggressive acts performed by a model on a large inflatable toy, the second a model acting in a non-aggressive manner and the last group served as a control group. ...read more.


The social learning theory explains why people sometimes choose violence to solve some sort of problem - they have learnt in some way that it is acceptable (whether they have learnt it from their parents, television or someone else), it also explains why some people are more aggressive than others - because they have been encountered with more violence in their childhood than maybe others have. It does not, however, explain, like the biological perspective, the initial origin of aggression. According to the biological perspective, aggression is an evolutionary survival function, because every animal needs to be able to protect themselves and their offspring from threats. The SLT tells us that we learn our aggressive behaviour from our parents and surrounding, but who did they learn it from and the ones they learnt it from, who did they learn it from, and so on? There have to be some initial reason for why aggression exists and the SLT does not tell us anything about that. ...read more.


The SLT does however offer us much knowledge that the biological perspective does not. From the SLT we gain knowledge about why people react differently in different situations, which is actually the core of aggressiveness, while the biological perspective mostly just tells us what happens when a person turns aggressive, but not why he or she does so. In conclusion, the social learning theory is effective in explaining why some people are more aggressive than others and that we learn aggressive behaviour from models, it does not however tell us very much of the origin of aggressiveness. The implication of the SLT is that if aggressive behaviour is not observed or reinforced in a society, then it will not naturally occur. This is all very logical, but still there have to be some reason for why aggression exists. Aggressive behaviour has to have started somewhere or with someone, but if no-one taught it to this someone, then how can he or she have become aggressive? This is not possible to answer by the SLT, but it can be explained by the biological perspective - i.e. through evolution. Elin Johansson, IB1a 2007-04-20 Psychology S.t Eskils gymnasium -1- ...read more.

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