Social Psychological Theories of Aggression Essay

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Social Psychological Theories of Aggression

Social learning theorists propose that behaviour, such as aggression is learnt through observation, imitation and behaviour shaping. This behaviour is learnt automatically through observation of male and female role models, for example parents, peers and media characters. Whether or not this behaviour is imitated depends on the type of reinforcement that the role model receives.

Vicarious reinforcement involves the outcome of a role models behaviour, for example if a child observes a parent acting aggressively and receiving positive rewards for they are more like to be imitate this behaviour in the future, than they would be if the role model
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This supports the Social Learning Theories of aggression as the children learnt through observation of the role model, imitation of their behaviour and behaviour shaping. Also they received sweets and praise as a form of positive vicarious reinforcement thus meaning that there was a chance of repetition of the aggressive behaviour outside the laboratory setting. The vicarious reinforcement is also a direct consequence that will have an effect on the chances of the child repeating the behaviour. As if the child was punished they would have been less likely to act aggressively again.

On the other hand, it is possible to say that the children were manipulated into responding aggressively towards the BoBo Doll as they were teased and may have become frustrated because they could not touch the toys even though they had to watch the role models playing however it is not actually stated how long the children remained aggressive for. The experiment can be said to be unethical and morally wrong because the children were trained to be aggressive, as they were probably not used to watching adults behave some immaturely. Also as the experiment was preformed in a laboratory it therefore lacks eco-logical validity, as it may not have real life consequences.

Another study that supports the Social Learning Theories of aggression is Patterson et al (1989). This
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