Social learning theory of aggression (Bandura,

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Social learning theory of aggression (Bandura, 1963)

There are 10 deliberate mistakes.

Albert Bandura (1963) felt that aggression couldn’t be explained using traditional learning theory whereby only direct experience explains the acquisition of new behaviours. Social learning theory.

(SLT) suggests that we also learn by observing others. What we learn are the specifics of aggressive behaviour (e.g. the forms it takes, how often it is enacted, the situations that produce it and the targets towards which it is directed). This is not to suggest that the role of biological factors is ignored, but rather a person’s biological endowment creates a potential for aggression, it is the actual expression of aggression which is learned.

Children primarily learn their aggressive responses through observation – watching the behaviour of role models and then imitating that behaviour. Where Skinner claimed that learning takes place through reinforcement, Bandura suggested that we learn just by observing role models who the child identifies with. Children also observe and learn about the consequences of aggressive behaviour by watching others succeed. This is called indirect or vicarious reinforcement. Children witness many examples of aggressive behaviour at home and at school, as well as on television and the movies. By observing the consequences of aggressive behaviour for those who use it, a child gradually learns something about what is considered appropriate (and effective) conduct in the world around him. Thus they learn the behaviours and they learn whether and when such behaviours are worth repeating.

Bandura (1986) claimed that in order for social learning to take place, the child must form mental representations of events in their social environment.

The child must also represent possible rewards and punishments for their aggressive behaviour in terms of expectancies of future outcomes. When appropriate opportunities arise in the future the child will display the behaviour provided the expectation of reward is greater than the expectation of punishment. If the child is rewarded (i.e. gets what he wants or is praised by others) for his (or her) aggressive behaviour, he is likely to repeat the same action in similar situations in the future. This is direct reinforcement. This will influence the value of aggression for that child. A child who has a history of successfully bullying other children will come to believe that bullying others is a good way to get rewards. Aggression will, therefore, have considerable value for that child because of its association with the attainment of rewards.

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