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The following is a real example answer written exactly as the candidate wrote it.
It was given 7 marks for AO1 (accurate and detailed), but only 6 marks (basic) for AO2.
Describe and evaluate one social psychological theory of aggression.
(24 marks)
Social learning theory evolved from operant conditioning which considers the role of observation and the
effects that reinforcement has on our behaviour. Therefore, the social learning theory is all about
observation and imitation which we then apply to aggression.
Albert Bandura used the term ‘modelling’ to explain how humans can very quickly learn specific acts of
aggression. The term modelling is sometimes referred to as vicarious learning. This is an indirect way of
learning aggressive behaviour. This works when we observe aggression in others somehow being
rewarded. The next stage is self-efficacy, this is the belief that the aggression they have observed can be
imitated by them themselves. If they think they are capable and have the necessary skills they are more
likely to carry out these acts. Next, is the characteristics of the model. This means that an individual and
the role model are similar in some way e.g. gender. For an individual to use an aggressive behaviour over
time it must be maintained. For it be maintained it must be worth it and therefore getting some sort of
reward over it. Aggression may be maintained by external reinforcers and maintained by using reciprocal
determinism which describes the two-way relationship between the individual and the environment. There is
a great importance of the cognition in the acquisition of learning as well as the memory needed to recall
situations when aggression was a successful tactic.
Bandura’s study using the Bobo Doll was designed to demonstrate behaviour and the imitation of
aggression. They found that the children who had witnessed the model being rewarded were more likely to
display aggressive behaviour towards the doll than those children who observed punishment for such
behaviour because it was rewarded therefore reinforced with sweets and treats.
Bandura et al (1961) focused on the effects of observing aggressive behaviour being rewarded or
punished. However, there were major limitations of this as they are measuring play and so is unethical
and difficult to measure accurately.
Patterson et al (1982) also conducted a study into social aggression. Having beien referred to the Oregon
Social Learning Centre for Parents the findings were said to have been very effective and were taught
positive reinforcement techniques.
Forgassi et al (1996) considers the role of biology in the limitation of others behaviours. This study was
called ‘mirror neurons’. Potentially the discovery of mirror neurons is a major breakthrough in understanding
human behaviour although it must be remembered that the theory is still in the early stages of research
however it allows us to experience what others are doing and feeling.