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Social learning theory

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Describe and evaluate one social psychological theory of aggression- (24) There are 3 main types of aggression, pro-social, sanctioned and anti-social. Anti-social aggression does not benefit anyone, there are many theories which try to explain how being around others can cause us to act aggressively, such as the social learning theory. This theory is a behavioural theory which was developed mainly by Bandura. It is based on the principles of operant and classical conditioning. This theory claims that aggression, like all behaviour, is learnt from the environment. This occurs through a process called modelling- the individual observes someone behaving aggressively, and then imitates their behaviour. Certain factors make it more likely that we will imitate the aggression we see. We are more likely to imitate role models. A role model is likely to be an individual who is similar to us and who has desirable characteristics, for example we are more likely to imitate individuals of the same sex and who appear popular. An individual is also more likely to imitate a role model if they have low self esteem. ...read more.


Those who had seen the adult rewarded or had no consequences, acted a lot more aggressively towards the Bobo doll than those who had seen the adult punished. This supports the theory, as it shows evidence that vicarious punishment and reinforcement occurred. There are many limitations of Bandura's study. This study could be influenced by demand characteristics (when the participant tries to work out the meaning of the study and acts accordingly) as it is thought that the children were given cues which acted as an invitation to behave aggressively. Durkin stated 'where else does a 5 year old find a powerful adult actually showing you how to knock hell out of a dummy?'.If demand characteristics were present, the study loses internal validity. It is also likely that there were individual differences between the group exposed to aggression and the group that was not. The children in the group which acted aggressively, may have been aggressive due to other factors and not due to the influence of the role model. The children were also placed in an unfamiliar situation. ...read more.


This supports the social learning theory as it shows that societies have been affected by different amounts of aggression. It also shows that this theory is able to explain individual differences. The theory is criticised for its lack of detail and cohesiveness. It is rather vague on the details of how we influence our environment and make choices. It is unable to act as a detailed account of personality development. The social learning theory is a scientific approach, and therefore it is able to be tested and able to give rational explanations. Although the theory is also reductionist, as it doesn't take into account or other theories such as biological explantions. The social learning theory is unable to explain the increase in hormones during aggressive behaviour. For example when men appear aggressive, their levels of testosterone increases. This theory does not take into account any biological factors that influence aggression. Ultimately, it is important that other influences are likely to influence behaviour, but the SLT is able to explain the majority of aggressive behaviour and is able to provide useful implications on how aggressive behaviour should be presented and dealt with if we are to reduce its occurrence in society. Christine Wood ...read more.

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