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Psychology AQA: Discuss one or more social psychological explanations of aggression

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Introduction

´╗┐Discuss one or more social psychological explanations of aggression (8 + 16 marks) According to the social learning theory, aggressive behaviour is learnt through the individual observing their role model. The individual is more likely to remember aggressive behaviour if the role model is being rewarded; this is known as vicarious reinforcement. Before the individual imitates the aggressive act, they first form mental representations in their mind of how they will enact it. Reproduction of this aggressive behaviour is more likely to be repeated for those individuals who have a higher self-efficacy in their ability to do this, because they have been successful at it in the past. When the individual receives a reward (such as praise, or money) for their aggressive behaviour, this acts a direct reinforcement and so will motivate the individual to behave aggressively in the future. This theory has been supported by a large amount of empirical and controlled laboratory experiments. For example the 1963 bobo doll study by Bandura found that children who observed an adult model being rewarded with sweets for their aggressive behaviour showed higher levels of imitation compared to children who observed the model being punished for showing aggressive behaviour,( such as being told off.) ...read more.

Middle

The individual has now stopped monitoring and self-evaluating their behaviour and attitudes, and become less privately aware, behaving impulsively. The processes of deindividuation proposed by the theory have been supported by a considerable amount of controlled laboratory experiments, such as the Zimbardo?s famous Stanford prison study. Participants were told to behave as ?guards? and ?prisoners? were their identity was concealed through dark shades for the guards, and number badges rather than names for the prisoners. Findings showed that due to the hidden identity of the guards and prisoners, each group was anonymous, leading to a reduction in public self awareness, making it easier for the guards to treat the ?prisoners? brutally. This strengthens the validity of the theory where anonymity has been proven to cause normal individuals to behave aggressively because they believe that they can ?get away with it? since there is a diffusion of responsibility. Nevertheless, although the study indicates the power of deindividuation to produce aggressive behaviour, it was not a real life situation and so prisoners and guards may have been acting aggressively so they could meet the demands of the study. The brutality of the guards and submission of the prisoners during the experiment suggest they were merely acting. ...read more.

Conclusion

For this reason, perhaps both theories should consider the diathesis stress argument to explain aggression as a combination of factors. This considers there must be a biological predisposition for aggressive behaviour which later develops under environmental triggers. It is also evident from every day experiences that some people choose whether or not to show aggressive behaviour, and so is not only the fault of role models or large crowds, rather the free-will of the individual as well. The deterministic assumption of both theories creates a lack of responsibility amongst individuals. Often large groups are seen as a scapegoat for people, and so could result in judges giving more lenient sentences to criminals. Besides this however, the SLT has provided a useful application for the real world, were we are now aware of the power of violence in the media. As such the government has introduced age restrictions on films and set the watershed on television to protect children from aggressive behaviour. This is also the case for the deindividuation theory were teachers can also advise children to think about the dangers of losing their personal identity in a large crowd, as well as the government implementing a ban of hoodies in public areas to remove the threat of the anonymity. ...read more.

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