How does the social learning theory explain aggressive behaviour?

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The social learning theory is a concept that tries to explain human aggressive through direct observation and imitation for example if a child saw their parent act aggressively towards another person they would be more likely to imitate that behaviour themselves. Bandura conducted a series of studies in relation to this theory using a bobo doll. For example in 1961 Bandura et al conducted a study involving male and female ageing from 3-5 and split them into two groups. One group were shown a video of a model acting aggressively towards a bobo doll e.g hitting it on the head, the other group were shown a video where the model was not aggressive. The children were then put in a room with a bobo doll, those in the group who saw the aggressive model imitated the aggressive behaviour they saw, whereas those who saw the non-aggressive model were not violent at all.

Later Bandura wanted to see why children would imitate models. In 1963 Bandura and Walters conducted another study with 3 conditions with young children. All watched a video of a model acting aggressively towards a Bobo doll, however one group saw the model be rewarded for their behaviour, another saw them punished and the third saw no consequence. When placed in a room with the doll after those who saw the model be rewarded acted the most aggressively towards the doll, those who saw the model punished acted the least aggressive and those who had no consequence were somewhere in between. Bandura called this vicarious reinforcement, which states when we are rewarded for our behaviour we are more likely to repeat it.

Bandura also stated that children need 4 things in order to learn and repeat aggressive behaviour. ATTENTION- they must lay attention to the aggressive beanviour, RETENTION- they must remember what they have seen so they can then repeat it later, REPRODUCTION- they must be physically able to reproduce it and MOTIVATION- they must be motivated to do that behaviour e.g. Expect an reward.

Rebecca A. A Level Psychology tutor

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