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Social Learning Theory
- According to the social theories of aggression in a person is aggressive because of the environment that they find themselves in and the way that they are brought up.
- One mechanism could be through the social learning theory.
- The SLT suggest that aggression is learned through imitation and vicarious reinforcement of aggressive model.
- This means that if someone sees somebody being aggressive then they are more likely to be aggressive themselves.
- Someone is more likely to copy someone if that person is rewarded for their aggression, if that person is admired or looked up to, or if they are the same gender.
- For example, a boy is more likely to imitate their father than an unknown woman.
Bandura (1961,1963) – Bobo doll study
- 96 children at Stanford University were individually shown an adult being aggressive towards a Bobo doll either in real life or on a video.
- A control group saw the adult acting ‘kindly’ towards the doll. Bandura then put the child into the room with the doll and the same toys and observed their behaviour.
- He found that the children shown an aggressive role model imitated their behaviour and were more aggressive then the control groups.
- Furthermore, the children were more likely to imitate same sex-models and the person in real life. This clearly supports the idea that children learn aggression through social learning.
Evaluations of Bandura:
- It was only tested in America – lack population validity because in countries such as Japan children are much more polite so may find different findings.
- Good control in the experiment because it was a lab experiment but lacks ecological validity – real life applications may differ because it was in a very artificial environment away from the children’s home.
- The children may have experienced some demand characteristics having been forced to watch a doll being hit – they may have just thought it was what was expected. (SLT may not be a major cause of aggression)
- Used questionnaires and interviews of parents and teachers to assess households of aggressive children.
- They found that theses tended to have a coercive home environment where aggression is used as a tool to get what someone desires e.g. harsh discipline or shouting.
- This supports SLT since it suggests that the children are simply imitating the behaviour that they observe their parents/siblings performing.
- Aggression is shown to be learnt of different people.
- Therefore we can change children learning aggressive behaviour by limiting the amount of aggressive behaviour they see so teach the parents to become aggressive.
- Deindividuation is the loss of the sense of individual identity, and a loosening of normal inhibitions against engaging in behaviour that is inconsistent with internal standards. – More willing to do bad things when in a group.
The Stanford prison experiment:
- 21 male volunteers students selected who had carried out a variety of psychological tests to determine if they were physical and mental fit (no violent or anti-social tendencies).
- Randomly allocated prisoner or guards (guards paid $15 a day)
- Prisoner were dehumanised by the prisoners given ID number as names and in different uniforms. Guards had to keep the prisoners under control without physical violence –used push ups as a punishment
- Within 36 hours one prisoner had a breakdown, on the second day a rebellion broke ot when prisoners had barricade themselves into a cell.
- Only lasted 6 days meant to last 2 weeks
- The implications of these findings ordinary stable individuals can abuse power and behave in violent and anti-social ways if places in a situation that facilitates this
The Stanford prison experiment evaluation
- Unethical should have been protected from harm (physically and psychologically) – didn’t realise they had the right to withdraw and didn’t have full informed consent as they didn’t realise it would be so realistic
- Population validity – all participant were American male students
- Results were shocking so unlikely the students were displaying demand characteristics
- High ecological validity – cells and process very realistic
- Claimed there is a reduction of inner restraints when someone is submerged in a group.
- Individuals in groups fail to see the consequences of their actions, and the social norms they would follow are forgotten.
Factors that lead to deindividuation
- Le Bon suggested that deindividuation occurs because of:
- Anonymity – can’t be identified.
- A collective mind set – informational social influence (want to be right) + normative social influence (want to be liked)
- Used female students to give electric shocks to other female students who were actually confederates.
- One group wore their own clothes and ID labels whereas others wore enveloping white costumes and hoods.
- The group wearing white costumes gave much higher levels of shocks. This was explained because they were deindividualised so they could act more aggressively.
- However in a later experiment instead of the white they were replaced by nurse uniforms. The shock levels were lower
- EVALUTATION: Demand characteristics to conform to the job type. Maybe not all to do with deindividualisation but about social ques.
- Deindividualisation at school and at music gigs– doesn’t make you more aggressive.
Questioned male college students and found that almost one third would commit rape if there was no chance they could be caught.
Examined the “baiting crowd” phenomenon in America. In 10 out of 21 reports of suicide jumpers in America, the crowd encouraged the person to jump. This was more likely to occur in large groups at night.
- Suggest that deindividuation has four effects of decreased self-awareness: Poor self-monitoring of behaviour
- Reduced need for social approval
- Reduced inhibition against behaving impulsively
- Reduced rational thinking
- So an explanation for aggressive behaviour is that the loss of identity when part of a group means that individuals feel less constrained by the norms of social behaviour and able to behave in an anti-social way.
- Defined by aggressive behaviour that occurs within an institution.
- This may be motivated by social factors rather than frustration and anger.
- Institutions include: army bases; prisons; hospitals and schools. - Caused by wanting to be liked – normative social influence.
Dysfunctional Power System
- There's something about the structures and the organisation that causes people to do things that they otherwise wouldn't.
- Zimbardo (2007) proposed the “Lucifer effect”, where good people do bad things because of the environment.
- Institutional Aggression is an interaction between:
- 1. Situational Factors (Zimbardo)
- 2. Agentic State (Milgram)
- Zimbardo (2007) linked some specifically to aggression:
- Inexperienced Personnel
- No Schema yet how to behave, so go along with instructions.
- Great Stress
- Can cause you to accept otherwise unacceptable decisions
- Isolation from the outside world
- Allows you to accept different Social Norms
The state of mind in which individuals believe they are acting for someone else, they are the other person’s agent and so they do not have personal responsibility for the actions, i.e. they are following instructions or orders.
An example of agentic state:
- Milgram 1963:
- 40 males volunteers recruited via newspaper ad
- Participants were instructed to administrate an electric shock everytime they got an answer wrong increasing 15v each time
- Partcipants didn’t realise the shcoks weren’t real until the end of the experiment
- Findings: all participants went to at least 300v and 65% went to the maximum of 450v
- The prods used made the participants feel that they weren’t responsible but the experimenter was
Neurons and Hormones::
Brain structures linked to aggression in healthy individuals moral decision making and judgements activates the dorsal and prefrontal cortex (fear and stress – how we deal with it) and the amygdala – more aggressive individuals more damage in these brain regions especially amygdala is linked to aggression.
- Serotonin plays an important role in social decision making by keeping aggressive social responses in check.
- Serotonin usually reduces aggression by inhibiting the firing of the amygdala, which might otherwise lead to impulsive or aggressive behaviour.
- If there are low levels of serotonin the brain, there is less inhibition of the amygdala.
- As a result, when it is stimulated by external events, it becomes more active, causing the person to act on their impulses, and making aggression more likely.
- Therefore, low levels of serotonin have been associated with an increased susceptibility to impulsive and aggressive behaviour.
Virkkunen et al 1987
- Found that people with a history of criminal behaviour tend to show lower level of serotonin.
- This supports it as more likely to act on impulsively therefore it suggested to lead to criminal behaviour occurring
Brown et al 1990
A metabolite (waste products) of serotonin tends to be lower in people who display aggressive impulsive behaviour
- There appears to be a link between dopamine and aggression in that increases in dopamine can produce an increase in levels of aggressive behaviour.
- Its associated with reward and pleasure. But since D is a source of pleasure, may be people seek aggression as it feels good.
- For example, the increased rates of aggressive behaviour found in the schizophrenic population are believed to be the result of raised levels of dopamine in the brain.
- The role of dopamine in aggression is also demonstrated in studies that have used amphetamines, which increase levels of dopamine. Lavine (1997) found that when participants were given amphetamines, there was a corresponding increase in their levels of aggression
Coupiss and Kennedy 2008
- Found that dopamine may be a consequence of aggressive behaviour rather than a cause.
- They suggest that some people may seek out aggressive encounters because of dopamine is release as a positive reinforcement whenever they engage in aggressive behaviour.
Found that the use of antipsychotics successfully reduced the incidence of aggression amongst violent offenders.
Coupiss et al 2008
- Found that rats drugged and low in dopamine will find it very hard to move.
- It may not display aggressive behaviour because its movements restricted.
Evaluation Biological approach
- These studies tend to be based on animals studies which may not be relevant to humans as our brain structure tend to be very different compared to animals such as rats (Coupiss et al 2008)
- Most studies are based on correlation and correlation doesn’t mean causation so therefore the studies may not be as valid as they seem.
- It’s very hard to study these neuron transmitters as they do so many jobs
IDA biological approach
- Its deterministic as neuronal mechanisms are to do with the individuals biology therefore they can’t control it themselves so they are not blame-worthy of the behaviour they show.
- This can help create strategies to help aggressive people stop displaying this behaviour which can be helped especially by medical research
- Its reductionist as it takes the complex mechanisms of neurons and hormones in relations to aggression and explains it through simplifying it which can end up too simple to explain all the reasons why people are aggressive.
- This is because neurotransmitters are only to do with our biology so it doesn’t take into account other factors such as the environment that the individuals grew upon.
- Therefore doesn’t show social factors. This limits the extent that aggression can be explained to.
- Kalat et al 1998: found that 15-25 year old men with the most testosterone tended to commit more crime.
- Archer 1991: did a meta-analysis of 5 studies and found a low positive correlation between testosterone and aggression.
- Booket et al 2001: put together 45 studies and found a correlation of +0.14
- Olureus et al 1980: found no different in testosterone between delinquent and non-delinquent boys.
- Actually not a clear cut association with aggression.
- However testosterone is related to ideas of social dominance and masculinity. Aggression is only one way that people express these behaviours.
Stress hormones: ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormones) and corticosteroids
- Kruk et al 2003: found that increased ACTH is linked to an increase aggression – the more stress you have the more aggressive you are.
- Stress acts as a trigger for ACTH and aggression BUT correlation is not causation. It tends to be that cortisol is linked to increased aggression
- Virkkunen 1985: violent offenders tended to have lower levels of glucorticoids then non-violent offender.
- McBurnett et al 2000: looked at 38 boys (7-12years) referred to a clinic for ‘problem behaviour’. After 2 and 4 years salvia was used to measure cortisol levels. These with lower cortisol were found to be more aggressive and called ‘meanist’ by their peers.
- The biological approach to aggression also states genetics plays a role.
- Tested by using twin/adoption studies, studies of individual genes and studies of violent populations. Research suggest aggressive tendencies may be inherited
- Compared the degree of similarity for aggression between sets of MZ twins (100% of genes) and DZ twins (50% of genes)
- If the MZ twins are more alike in terms of aggressive behaviour, then this should be due to genes rather than the environment (both share the same environment but MZ are more genetically alike)
- Coccaro et al 1997 found nearly 50% of the variance in direct aggression behaviour (aggressive towards others) could be attributed to genetic factors.
- Able to separate out the influence of environmental factors and genetic factors in aggression.
- If a positive correlation is found between aggressive behaviour in adopted children and aggressive behaviour in their biological parents a genetic factors is implied.
- If a positive correlation is found between the child and the rearing family its an environmental effect – nuture.
- Hutching and Medrick 1975 study of over 1400 adoptions in Denmark found a significant number of adopted boys with criminal convictions had biological parents (particularly father) with criminal convictions – provides evidence for a genetic effect
AO1 – A gene for aggression:
- It has been suggested there may be a gene that leads to temperament/personality characteristics that makes an individual more at risk of committing violent crimes
- Although no individual gene for aggression has been identified in humans, a gene that produces a protein (MAOA) and regulates the metabolism of serotonin has been associated with aggressive behaviour.
- Abnormally low levels of MAOA may lead to lowered levels of serotonin – associated with impulsivity and aggressive behaviour.
Caspi et al 2002
- Researchers discovered a variant of the gene associated with high levels of MAOA and a variant associated with low levels.
- Those with low levels were significantly more likely to grow up to exhibit anti-social behaviour BUT only if they had been mistreated as children.
- Even those with high levels of the variant who had been mistreated didn’t display anti-social behaviour.
- Show the interaction between genes and environmental factors determines behaviours such as aggression.
- Problems: many of the reported studies of aggression rely on parental or self-reports of aggressive behaviour others use observational
Miles and Correy (1997)
- Meta-analysis found the way of assessment significantly affected what was founded to be the cause of the aggressive behaviour.
- Those using parental self-report were explained by genetic factors. Those using observational methods were explained significantly less by genetic factors and more by environmental factors.
Evaluation of genetics:
- Difficulties determining what is/is not a product of genetic inheritance
- These influences may interact with each other. Genetic factors may affect which environmental factors have an influence and vice versa.
- The genetic factors in the twin’s studies and adoption studies show it is clearly the nature debate because the adopted children had the same aggression as their parents even though they weren’t brought up by them.
- Therefore this is to do with biological factors not social factors. This could allow us to give these people treatments before they are too aggressive as we would know who are predisposed.
- Scientific because you can measure the amount of MAOA protein produced so it can be replicated and its objective. This also allows it to be falsifiable
- A group demonstrating how powerful they are; this can be done by sports, warfare and genocide.
- Based on evoluntionary theory as it suggest that by demonstrating power you are more likely to survive.
- Sport demonstrates this by showing off how much power and strength the group has to dominate the society they live in, it also helps to attract mates meaning they can select which mate they want – which seems to be the best to produce off spring so there genes survive
- Warfare as they steal other peoples resources and the more resources you have the more likely to attract a male and spred their genes also may make it more likely to survive.
- Genocide – its shown as by killing rival genes it gives them a competitive advantage to survive as they have more resources for your family by having more land and food.
Research done on Group display
- Data from the NIBRS: which was an empirical study of divisions in FA college football programme in 2004-5 and found that the host team communities had an increase of violent act related offences on game days especially when the results were unexpected - upset
- Widmeyer and McGuire 1997: who analysed over 800 ice hockey matches and showed an increase of aggression but only between teams that met more frequently.
- Phillips: who did research on 18 championship heavyweight boxing matches between 1973 and 1978. The 3 day following the prize fight there was a significant increase in American homicide rates.
Evaluation of research done on group display
- All this research has high ecological validity because it all studies on real life situations showing this explanation is reliable. Although the validity of these experiments could be questioned because of the amount of extraneous variables that may have not been taken into account.
- However the sample size of these studies have been limited to only people who watch support therefore unable to generalise finding to all sections of society.
- Can be used ensure survival by using mate retention strategies to keep their mate.
- Jealously is an innate universal behaviour in response to the risk of sexual infidelity which may produce aggressive behaviour towards the mate.
- This is because there is an evolutionary drive for them to only invest resources for their offspring.
- They can only ensure that it’s their offspring by making sure that the woman is unable to cheat.
- This is shown in jealously by keeping hold of your mate by keeping them closer to you.
- Men want their mate to stay faithful so they make sure they are raising their own offspring and not wasting their resources on someone else’s.
- Whereas the evolutionary explanation says women want their mate to be faithful because they want the men’s resources and doesn’t want them getting attach to another woman and giving her the resources instead.
- Daley and Wilson: support this theory by showing that males were more upset about sexual infidelity whereas women were more upset about emotional infidelity.
- They also found that male jealously is simply a mate retention mechanism which is a form of direct guarding them.
- This may product aggression toward their mate since you are guarding them to stop them taking the resources.
- Harris: found who studied actual infidelity and found no gender difference they were both more upset about emotional infidelity.
- Boss and Shackleton also supported the theory by studying 107 married couples on mate-retention tactics.
- Compared to women, men reported more use of humbling himself (giving in to every wish) and intra-sexual threats such as beating up the other man.
- Compared to men, women reported more verbal possession and punishing infidelity such as leaving if he’s unfaithful.
- Supported by Dobash and Dobash 1984 victims of domestic violence frequently cited jealously as a major cause.