Outline and evaluate two psychological theories of aggression

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A2 Psychology                                      

Outline and evaluate two Social Psychological theories of aggression.

Throughout this essay, I will be discussing aggression.  Firstly, what is aggression?  Aggression has been defined as “any form of behaviour directed towards the goal of harming or injuring another living being who is motivated to avoid such treatment.”  (Baron & Richardson, 1993).  This basically means to deliberately hurt others, whether physically or emotionally.  Various types of aggression have been identified.  These are, Person-orientated aggression, which is when the main goal is to harm another person and Instrumental aggression, which is when aggression is used in order to achieve a desired goal e.g. punching someone so you can grab their mobile phone etc.  An important factor to remember when studying aggression is the INTENT behind the action.  This is vital as it is the intent that determines if the action is aggressive.

There are various explanations for the cause of aggression, the main ones being The Social Learning Theory, The Excitation-Transfer Theory and The Deindividuation Theory. Throughout this essay, I will be outlining and evaluating The Social Learning Theory (SLT) and The Deindividuation Theory.

The SLT was developed from behaviourism and it focuses on the concept that behaviour is learned through modelling or imitation.  David Statt, (2003) describes The Social Learning Theory by stating, “The view that behaviour can be explained in terms of both direct and indirect (VICARIOUS) REINFORCEMENT; indirect reinforcement and identification lead to imitation.”

The SLT was an expansion on The Learning Theory, (which suggested that new behaviours were learned through direct reinforcement).  Direct reinforcement involves classical & operant conditioning.  The Social Learning Theory differs to this ‘Traditional’ theory as it includes INDIRECT Reinforcement as well as direct reinforcement.  Indirect Reinforcement includes vicarious reinforcement, which occurs when another person is observed to be rewarded for certain actions.  Therefore the observer may imitate these behaviours in order to obtain the same reward i.e. Learning by example (good or bad!!).  There are various factors of the SLT which can explain aggression, imitation of role models, cultural differences and home environment, to name but a few.

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Bandura believed that aggressive behaviour could be learned through social interaction.  He devised The Bobo Doll experiment (1961), which has been one of the most influential studies on observational learning.  The participants (young children) watched an adult behave aggressively towards a bobo doll.  The results of this study showed that children who observed the adult act aggressively imitated this behaviour, compared with children who had either seen no model or watched an adult who behaved in a non-aggressive way.

In 1965, Bandura carried out further research into aggression using the Bobo doll.  His aim was to determine ...

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