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Outline and evaluate two social psychological theories of aggression

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Outline and evaluate two social psychological theories of aggression. (24 marks) Bandura believed that the potential for aggression may be biological, but the expression of aggression is learned. The social-learning theory (SLT) states that learning occurs through observation of a model. Imitation of an observed behaviour is more likely if the model is someone we aspire to or identify with or if they are rewarded. This is vicarious reinforcement. A child forms a mental representation of an event, including the possible rewards or punishments of the behaviour. When a child imitates an aggressive behaviour, they gain direct experience, and the outcome of the behaviour influences the value of aggression for the child. ...read more.


However, Philips found that the daily homicide rate in America increases in the week after a major boxing match on TV, providing evidence of social learning in adults. An advantage of the SLT is that it can explain differences between individuals, e.g. cultural differences and also differences within individuals, which can be explained by selective reinforcement and context-dependent learning, which is when people have observed aggressive behaviour rewarded in one situation and not in another. A limitation of SLT is that it is not a complete explanation of aggression, as it can't explain the impulse to aggress. After observing aggressive behaviour, people only behave aggressively if they are frustrated. ...read more.


Empirical support for this theory comes from Zimbardo's study in which female students were asked to shock a confederate found that those who were deindividuated by wearing robes and large hoods gave more shocks than those who were identifiable by wearing name tags. However, a criticism of this study is that deindividuation doesn't always lead to aggression, and can sometimes make people behave more peacefully, e.g. at a peace rally or when wearing a nurses uniform. It may be that deindividuation leads to conformity to group and situational norms. Postmes and Spears carried out a meta-analysis of deindivuation studies and found no evidence that deindividuation caused anti-normative or disinhibited behaviour. Knowledge of the effect of reduced self-awareness can be used to reduce aggression in football crowds. Using mirrors and video cameras forces people to think about themselves, and reduce aggression. ?? ?? ?? ?? Emily Thomason ...read more.

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This is a very well-written essay. It is confident and it's knowledge of social psychology and the nature of aggression expansive. The candidate writes clearly for and against Bandura's Social Learning Theory, and cites a number of appropriate studies in ...

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Response to the question

This is a very well-written essay. It is confident and it's knowledge of social psychology and the nature of aggression expansive. The candidate writes clearly for and against Bandura's Social Learning Theory, and cites a number of appropriate studies in order to validate their discussion about it. The candidate also questions other potential explanations of aggression and also what the SLT does not prove in humans, such as the cognitive and biological influencing elements that may demonstrate apparently unexplainable behaviour when considering only the SLT.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis is proficient and consistent throughout. There is every indication of a candidate who is able to achieve a top grade with this answer. The analysis is balanced and distributed well, with the candidate satisfying both question command well. They cite studies that bare strengths and limitations to the transmission of aggression within each approach (social, behavioural and psychodynamic) and all that is written is accurate and a clear portrayal of a great knowledge of the psychology of aggression.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is excellent. There is no cause for concern anywhere in the essay, with regards to improper use of psychological terminology or incorrect applications of grammar, punctuation or spelling.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 30/08/2012

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