Outline and evaluate two social psychological theories of aggression

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Emily Thomason

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. If they are rewarded they are more likely to repeat the behaviour. Children develop self-efficacy, which is confidence in their ability to successful carry out a behaviour. If aggressive behaviour is unsuccessful for a child, they will have a lower sense of self-efficacy so are less likely to behave this way in future.

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  There is strong empirical evidence to support the SLT. For example, Bandura’s Bobo doll studies found that children who observed a model behaving aggressively to the Bobo doll behaved more aggressively than those who observed a non-aggressive model and also imitated specific aggressive acts. This supports the theories claims that behaviour can be learned through observation. A criticism of this study is that it only used children participants, so we are unable to generalise these results to adults. However, Philips found that the daily homicide rate in America increases in the week after a major boxing match on TV, ...

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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.

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.

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.