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Two social psychological theories of aggression are the social learning theory and deindividuation. Both these theories intend to explain why people are aggressive.

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Introduction

a) Outline two social psychological theories of aggression. Two social psychological theories of aggression are the social learning theory and deindividuation. Both these theories intend to explain why people are aggressive. The Social Learning Theory of aggression states that aggression is not innate; it is learned through the environment. Bandura says humans are not born aggressive but acquire these behaviours through direct experience or by observing the actions of others. Direct experience is where aggressive behaviour is reinforced and is therefore more likely to be reproduced. Vicarious experience, or observational learning, as it is sometimes known, is where an individual observes a role model behaving aggressively and subsequently imitates the behaviour. For behaviour to be imitated it must be seen as being rewarding. There are four component processes in the theory. These are attention, retention, production and motivation or reinforcement. There are a number of factors that influence the likelihood of a behaviour being imitated. These included the extent to which the reward is valued, previous experiences of aggressive behaviour (both direct and vicarious), how easy the task is, how admired the role model is and how similar the role model is i.e. ...read more.

Middle

b) Evaluate the two theories of aggression that you outlined in part (a) The most famous studies on the Social Learning Theory were carried out by Bandura in the 1960's. There were a number of variations to the studies. One study to illustrate the Social Leaning Theory was carried out in 1961. A total of thirty six boys and thirty six girls aged between three and five years were used as participants. There were two conditions in the experiment: an aggressive condition and a non-aggressive condition. In the non-aggressive condition children played individually in a room and then watched an adult "model" play quietly with toys. In the aggressive condition the children watched the model show aggressive behaviour towards a Bobo doll. Aggressive behaviour included punching, hitting with a mallet and shouting. The children were then taken into a room with a number of toys including a Bobo doll and mallet along with other toys such as crayons and dolls. The children from the aggressive condition showed more aggressive behaviour towards the Bobo doll than children from the non-aggressive condition. ...read more.

Conclusion

The individuals took on a role within the group and let the rest of the group guide their behaviour. The deindividuation led to increased brutality and a reduction in social conscience. This experiment had high ecological validity as both the environment and the behaviour were realistic. The findings of the study can be applied to real life situations in prisons. There were also realistic measures of aggression as both verbal and physical aggression was measured. However this study has been raised ethical concerns. Even Zimbardo himself acknowledged that the study had been unethical in terms of protection from harm and lack of informed consent. There are also real life situations which support the deindividuation theory. Mullen (1986) analysed newspaper reports of lynch-mob violence in the United States. He found the large the mob, the greater the level and duration of violence. The deindividuation theory does not explain certain situations such as in an emergency or disaster when a crowd comes together to help. The theory is also a reductionist as it does not take into account biological factors. It does not take into account personality characteristics or other biological influences such as hormones. ...read more.

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