Based on Nelson Thornes AQA Psychology A, May 2009
Created by goldsilvy, June 2010.
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Chapter 10 – Social psychological approaches to explaining aggression
Bandura’s Social Learning Theory (SLT)
Created in 1963.
Social cognitive perspective – behaviour influences by inherent psychological and socio-environmental factors. They are linked – reciprocal determinism – relies one on another.
SLT basic processes (ARRM)
a) Attention – focusing on behaviour
b) Retention – storing it
c) Reproduction – copying it
d) Motivation – incentive to show it
Vicarious reinforcement – indirect experience, observe consequences.
Presence of role model – similar and/or powerful – and self-efficacy are essential. Aggressive behaviour – disastrous consequences – less confidence – don’t carry out in the future, use other methods.
Support - Bandura (1961)
- 72 children – 36 boys and 36 girls
- Half of the boys/girls aggressive model; half: non-aggressive (18 each group)
- Aggressive scenario: half exposed to same-sex role model interacting aggressively (9 each group)
- Aggressive scenario: half exposed to opposite-sex role model interacting aggressively
- Control group: 24 children, no adult interacting with Bobo doll
- Before experiment: teacher and experimenter: rate level of aggressiveness – provides benchmark for comparisons
- Experimenter, adult and child enter room – adult one corner with mallet, construction set and Bobo doll; child another corner
- Experimenter leaves (5 minutes later):
- Aggressive scenario: adult takes mallet, verbal and physical violence on Bobo doll
- Non-aggressive: ignores Bobo doll and continues playing w/ construction set
- Experimenter comes back after 10 minutes
- Adult leaves, child taken to another room with lovely toys for few minutes, frustration built, toys for other children, child taken to yet another room – aggressive toys (Bobo doll, mallet, dart gun) + non-aggressive (toy lorries, cars, dolls, cards)
- Two way mirror – Bandura and colleagues observe
- Witnessed aggressive role model – more likely o be aggressive
- Boys more aggressive when role model male; same trend for girls, but weaker
(+) environmental continuity – small rooms the same for each child
(+) well defined method of coding the behaviour
(-) artificial nature – lack of ecological validity – artificial setting
(-) cultural bias – other potential cultural influences ignored
(-) demand characteristics – please the experiment, children please adults – heard in corridor ‘this is the doll you are supposed to hit’
(-) overplayed importance of intended role model
(-) Bobo doll – originally intended for punching – this might have influenced
Confidentiality of names maintained – BUT – videos of participants available in internet; children unaware of being filmed; lack of informed consent; full parental consent unlikely to be have been given.
Evaluation of Bandura’s SLT
(+) helps explain why children might copy; face validity; Jamie Bulger murdered by two boys aged 10 and 11, in prior to incident, boys watched Child Play 3
(+) SLT applied to other areas of antisocial behaviour, e.g. deviancy.
(+) focusing attention on power of media, not only aggression, but health, too, e.g. anorexia and bulimia.
(-) imposed etic – Western researcher, Western world, assumes all cultures have universal learning processes.
(-) deterministic – passively imitate the witnessed behaviour with no prior logical thought
(-) Runciman (1966) – aggressive behaviour due to relative deprivation – perceived difference between what you have and what you think you should have
(-) Dollard (1939) – not due to imitating aggressive behaviour, but frustration built up and cue arousal
(-) reductionist, biological factors ignored, e.g. neuro-anatomical, bio-chemical and genetic.
Deindividuation – decreased self-assessment and awareness; identification of individual difficult or impossible; when identification restricted, normal behaviour changes. Anonymity; reduced self-restraint; deviant and impulsive behaviour.
Singer (1965) – inhibitions decreased, topics of conversation can change, e.g. ‘discussion’ of pornography more liked and people contributed more
Zimbardo – sensory overload, altered states of consciousness (e.g. drugs or alcohol), decreased responsibility, level of arousal can cause antisocial behaviour.
Private self-awareness more important than public self-awareness (being anonymous); when you lose your PrSA, less able to regulate own behaviour. Reduced PrSA, rather than anonymity, leads to antisocial behaviour.
- Female undergraduates (FU)
- Study of learning
- Stooge – student; female undergrads – teachers
- ‘student’ completes set of tasks – shocks delivered if done wrongly
- Half FU wore laboratory coats and have their faces covered with hoodies
- Half FU – normal clothes, name tags and introduced to each other
- Told that ‘student’ either ‘honest’ or ‘conceited and critical’
- Irrespective of the description – deindividuated teacher twice as many shocks
- Individuated – different amount depending on the description
- 1,300 trick-or-treat children
- Naturalistic observation
- Wear costumes, hard to indentify – more likely to perform antisocial behaviors, e.g. stealing money or sweats
- 500 violent attacks in North Ireland
- Masked – more severe
Evaluation of deindividuation:
(-) not all crowds perform antisocial behaviours, eg.
- 6 men and 6 women – taken to lit room (control group) ; another 6 and 6 – dark, no light room (experimental group)
- No specific instructions, do what you want
- ‘Dark room’ – 15 minutes – generally polite and social; by 60 minutes – normal barriers to intimate contact overcome; 50% cuddled; 80% physically aroused
- No aggressive action
Communication – improvement – no need to show face, harder to be identified – topics more perverse and varied.
Bloodstein (2003) – speech problems, e.g. stuttering, fewer when wear mask. Not being able to be identified – increase self-efficacy and decreased evaluation apprehension (fear of being judged, this affect confidence and social behaviour).
Mullen (1986) – more likely to help victim if wearing mask, i.e. identity harder to be revealed.
Watson (1973) – 24 cultures – warriors who disguise their identity, e.g. paint, tended to be more aggressive, e.g. more likely to torture.
Postmes (1998) – meta-analysis of 60 studies, no consistent finding that group influenced individual’s state and behaviour
Deterministic – aggression caused by losing one’s inhibitions – presence of group determines the aggressive behaviour.
Builds on Dollard’s frustration/aggression hypothesis.
Frustration doesn’t always leads to aggression, there needs to be a cue/stimulus to spark.
Berkowitz and LePage (1967):
- 100 university undergrads
- Each participants paired with a stooge – think it’s a real participant
- ‘Physiological reaction to problem-solving tasks’
- Mild electric shocks given by stooge; participant told that it’s reflection of their performance
- Poorer performance – more shocks
- Most shocks – angry group; only one shock – non-angry group
- Second part: swap roles
- Some cases: shotgun or revolver left in plain view
- Other cases: badminton and shuttlecock
- Angry group: more shocks and held them for longer when aggressive cues present, compared to non-aggressive cues group.
- Artificial environment – presence of guns unusual – not everyday life task
- Demand characteristics – possible that subject fulfilled experimenters expectations
- In replications no consistent trends established
- Consequentiality – only an experiment; not serious; weapon effect only work on those with no prior experience with weapons; consequences neither serious or permanent
- Participants didn’t know partners were stooges; the level of shocks given determined by researcher – double deception.
- Electric shocks – mild but real; protection of participants
- Debriefing, e.g. explaining nature of study, reason for deception, results, questions – not given
Evaluation: cue arousal
Ignores individual differences; replication of Berkowitz and LePage study – no consistent findings that cue, e.g. display of gun, would lead to increased arousal, and hence, aggressive behaviour. Ellis the same experiment – results opposite. Only few experiments found slight evidence that weapon can be a cue arousing factor, aggression more likely to be caused by other factors.
Reductionist – cognitive and biological factors overlooked. Multidimensional view more desirable.
Relative deprivation (RD)
Inequalities between groups – riots – e.g. LA 1992 and UK 1985
RD - difference between what they think they should have and what they actually have is the basis for aggression.
a) Fraternalistic RD – inequality and injustice experienced and felt as a collective group.
b) Egoistic RD – inequality and injustice experience and felt as an individual.
Encouragement of social mobility might reduce RD – less aggression and discriminatory behaviour.
Evaluation of RD:
Real-life examples of riots sparked because of perceived RD of one group over another, e.g. LA 1992 and UK 1985.
Theory doesn’t state how we should choose which group to compare to. Cognitive processes in terms of self-perception and comparison are ignored.
Kanin (1985) – theory of RD used to explain date rapists. Their need for sexual contacts not matched with their ability – mismatch of both results in aggressive acts of rape.
However, there are examples where there are clear differences between two groups, yet doesn’t cause aggression.
Practical application of theory should be a measure of its scientific success – RD very good, real life examples.
Evaluation of social psychological explanations:
Internal validity – demand characteristics; no external validity; participants too helpful to experimenters; nature of task and environment are artificial; no ecological validity, doesn’t represent everyday life situation.
Little consideration for environmental factors, e.g. noise, temperature and crowd; and biological factors.
Explanations of institutional aggression
Situational forces – factors present in social situations that can encourage aggressive behaviour that would otherwise not be seen
Zimbardo – Stanford Prison experiment – self-selected sampling; physical and psychological testing; ensure ‘normal’; random allocation – either prisoner or guard; Zimbardo instruction – maintain control but no physical violence.
At first non-intrusive and interaction limited; by the end of the first day prisoners removed their numbers in protest – punishments more severe and perverse.
Hellmann – most degrading guard. Middle class, academic family, musician, love natural life, music, food and other people. Held love for fellow human beings; Assessed for psychological abnormalities; no preference to be either prisoner or guard – it could be situation in which he found himself in that corrupted his normal way of thinking.
Real life example – Abu Ghraib; AG is the result of interplay of the following factors:
a) Status and power: those involved were army reservists; night shifts; try to demonstrate some control and power; no superior officer checking.
b) Revenge and retaliation: revenge for killing fellow US soldiers, try to teach a lesson.
c) Deindividuation and helplessness of the situation: behaviour shown instantaneously with no prior negative thinking or reasoning
Individualistic (dispositional) factors:
Bad apples; depersonalise individual from the rest of the institution; is that the case? Human behaviour is largely determined by situational factors.
Evaluating explanations of institutional aggression
- Socially sensitive research - confidentiality, privacy - how was the data obtained? what can be published to public view?
- Nature of institutional aggression – very hard to control all the variables – often occur in natural environment – no causal relationship
Chronic stress – inability to respond to those stressors – reason for institutional aggression.
Aggression – viewed as ‘just’, ‘acceptable’ and ‘expected’; working environment – deviance, secrecy, silence and cynicism – lead to aggressive behaviour.
General strain theory – negative experiences and stress -> negative feelings and emotions -> absence of coping strategies -> violent behaviour.
Strain occurs when treated not as expected. Leads to disbelief in others. Anger and frustration might spur from negative relationships.
Black (2004) – motive – to improve current situation- through imposing negative behaviour on mass scale – collective liability. Root cause – cultural clash.
Deflem (2004) – terrorist actions – opposition to Western ideas, e.g. free market, capitalism, liberal democracy.
Barak (2004) – dispositional – motive behind violent behaviour – issues of shame, esteem and repressed anger; economic and political marginalization.
However, 9/11 and 7/7 attacks – terrorists were university educated; supportive and wealthy families.
TIP: show that you aware of dispositional and situational arguments for/against terrorism.
Chapter 11 – Biological explanations of aggression
Nature-nurture debate: internal vs external factors – two sides – same coin; both equally important.
47 XYY karyotype – Court-Brown (1965-67) – 314 patients with XYY – ‘best to hospitalize due to increased likelihood of aggressive behaviour’; view adopted with no prior critical research; media depictions contributed further.
Point later retracted; too late; scientists incorporated that into their thinking; XYY may have some effects on physical appearance, e.g. height, but aren’t more likely to be more aggressive.
TIP: when evaluating, you can evaluate different biological explanations, in addition to biological and social/behavioural theories.
Cairns (1983) – selective breeding can lead to more aggressive behaviour – created mice that are very aggressive in middle age, not when your or old; cannot generalize to humans; use of animal research – questionable; study wider range of animals create more informed models; is the end finding worth it?
Theilgaard (1984) – study XYY personality traits; one in 1,000; only height; no link between genotype and aggressive behaviour; thematic apperception testing – XYY gives more aggressive and less anti-aggressive interpretations; may seem more aggressive, but this might not lead to performing violent behaviours
Reductionist – no scope for other explanations, e.g. biochemical or brain structure.
Neural and hormonal mechanisms
Real-life example: RvSmith (1979) – murder reduced to manslaughter after taking PMT as a contributory factor.
Aggressive act caused by uncontrollable hormonal changes associated with monthly cycle; Nelson (1995) – positive correlation androgens and aggressive behaviour in male and female prisoners. However, measurements not taken at the precise point when the violent act was performed.
Puberty – aggression increases – androgen levels are higher.
Wagner (1979) – mice - castrated – aggression reduces – testosterone injected – aggression increases. Only correlation though.
Males – androgens – apart from aggressive behaviour – dominance, competitiveness, impulsiveness; measured in sport athletes – testosterone – more aggressive sport, more testosterone; higher testosterone, higher spatial ability, correlation; male hormones – not always negative.
- Western researchers – culture specific; difficult to generalize to other cultures; cultural bias
Harrison (2000) - individual differences – 56 men given testosterone, then frustration-inducing computer game, aggressive responses increased; not entire sample though; changes mainly psychological, minor physical.
Men with high testosterone – perform well in competitive tasks, poor in co-operative.
Basal model of testosterone – level of TSTR influences dominance; more TSTR, more competitive, more dominant; dominance of the effect of TSTR – more likely to take part in antisocial actions, more dominating.
Mazur and Booth (1998) – men with high TSTR – more likely to divorce or remain single; use weapon in fights; have bad debts.
Reciprocal model of TSTR – TSTR varies with dominance. Dominance is the cause of TSTR. Mazur and Booth (‘98) – 2,100 air veterans – TSTR reduced when married and increased when divorced.
Mazur and Booth (‘98) – studies not being peer-reviewed; validity; weakness.
SRTN – my abbreviation
Serotonin – inhibitory function; Davidson (2000) – compare violent and non-violent criminals – the latter have higher serotonin.
Vervet monkeys – reduce serotonin – increase aggression; vice versa.
Effects all over the body – low SRTN – aggression, overeating, depression, alcohol abuse.
Domestic pets – bred for reduced aggression – higher levels of SRTN
Tryptophan (serotonergic drug) – given to juvenile offenders and unpredictable institutionalized individuals to reduce aggressive tendencies.
- Deterministic: low serotonin – aggression; no free will
- Correlation researches; no causal relationship can be established
- Human subjects – ethical issues – ethical treatment – participants ought to be looked after rather than used; make human existence better – this can ensure that psychology can use members of public in investigations.
Bard (‘40) – cats – detachment of higher and lower brain through lesioning; hypothalamus – responsible for aggression; cerebral cortex – reduction; stimulate lateral hypothalamus – predatorial aggression; medial – vicious attack.
Amygdale – aggressive behaviour – lesioning of amygdale – taming effects; amygdalectomy – reduction of aggression; memory loss.
Frontal cortex – closely linked to amygdale and hypothalamus – frontal lobe damage – short tempered; irritability; annoyance.
Phineas Gage – 1848 – worker – construction of new railway; tamping iron – 1 metre long – entered through left head side, behind eye, pass through jaw. Still survived 11 years following the accident; only change – aggressive, unable to stay at any job for long.
Psychopathy linked to damage in amygdale; cats, rats, hamsters – neural processes surrounding amygdale – explain aggressive behaviour.
Problems of generalisation of animal researches to humans. Does the end results justify the use of animals? Balance the advancement of psychological understanding and ensure that any suffering is limited.
Still, biological explanations not enough – aggression caused by socialisation, e.g. Arapesh tribe (Mead, ‘35); observation of media; situational factors, e.g. alcohol; temperature, crowding, noise; cue arousal – result of frustration.
Chapter 12 – Aggression as an adaptive response
Evolutionary approach – behaviours and cognitive processes that enabled the survival will be passed on; nature side of nature-nurture debate.
Aggressive behaviour – animals
Animals – don’t attack to kill – instead – force to back down or submit; only use physical force if necessary.
Lorenz (‘66) – ethologist; humans are animals, hence show similar behaviour to animals; four main drivers behind behaviour: fear, reproduction, hunger and aggression. Aggression can only occur within (not between) species.
Functions of aggression:
a) Selection of strongest + fittest (females choose mates)
b) Survival of young (protection)
c) Balanced distribution of animals – each has own territory
Animals – ritualised aggression – assertion of power and maintenance of status - little harm – no real damage.
Gross (’98) – jackdaw behaviour – appeasement tactic – admits defeat + submissive behaviour; animal disputes show remarkable amount of restraint.
Lorenz’s work outdated and oversimplified – human and non-human behaviours the same, are they really? What is true for animals is true for humans, is it? Might only seem similar but underlying mechanisms might be different.
Aggressive behaviour – humans
Fromm (’73) – two forms of aggression: benign (animal alike; impulsive act if threatened), e.g. parent defending child from threat, and malign (not instinctive; evil), e.g. gang war, eradication of Jews from Germany during WWII.
Nelson (’74) – factors affecting aggression:
a) Process of learning: Bandura – observation
b) Structural causes: social rules or norms – without them, aggression more likely to be widespread
c) Psychological causes: highlights failings of biological approach; in animal kingdom, the aggression is directed towards the actual enemy, whereas in humans the cause might be due to personal reasons (mood) and/or situational factors, e.g. overcrowding, heat, noise, temp.
Aggression by humans – adaptive and useful; but not ritualistic – through the use of weapons -> destructive. Rooted deep desire to harm each other, not part of ritualistic system.
Advancement in weapon technology – no longer need to be in close physical proximity to the enemy; appeasement or distress signals that might stop the acts of aggression can no longer be applied.
Aggression – result of sexual competition; males compete for females to ensure they can pass their genes; aggressive behaviour necessary for reproductive success. Dominant image of man – ‘provider of valuable resources’, i.e. in practice – men need to be more assertive and aggressive.
Men evolved living in groups – define boundaries of group behaviour, formulate the ‘in’ group and the ‘out’ group; the mentality ‘us’ and ‘them’ leads to aggression; led to xenophobia – need to feel socially dominant, spur conflict, aggression etc.
Australopithecus – small stumpy legs; useful in male-male combat – supports evolutionary explanations.
Female-to-female aggression – less physical, more verbal, reducing attractiveness of the opposition, gives evolutionary advantage to the name-caller.
Process of being unfaithful – might lead to sexual relationships with someone other than your partner. Has an impact on quality of communication between partners and others. Triggers emotional state that threatens the relationship and the current status quo. Leads to attempts of eliminating the threat. Often violent and aggressive.
Sexual infidelity triggers sexual jealousy; male point of view – uncertainty of paternity + sexual jealousy; female point of view – if pregnant after infidelity, sexual jealousy influenced by lack of time and resources given to her and the offspring. Lack of emotional support makes female aggressive; in men, it’s the suspicion of wife’s infidelity.
Most common reason for aggression in relationship.
But, might also be the case that some males lack effective ways of mediating and responding to situations of jealousy, compared to non-violent males.
Men more likely to respond aggressively to rival, whereas women tended to be more emotionally and behaviourally reactive. In US, murder-suicide cases are estimated at approx. 1,500 deaths per year. The reason – rejection, maybe? Evolutionary explanation – jealousy – a way to keep a mate; males tend to display mate tending and guarding + aggression to reduce risk of sexual infidelity. Females, less frequently.
Group display of aggression
Freud – individual’s mindset different to the group’s one – merging of minds based on a common opinion; enthusiasm of being in a group leads to reduced inhibitions.
LeBon (1896) – crowd behaviour result of individuals’ minds; atmosphere causes contagion – members fall under the influence of a collective mind; take on suggestions from a group and imitate actions; group behaviour taken up quickly, because of the atmosphere; this might lead to circular reaction, emotions spread/copied and intensified; this can explain the social unrest.
Convergence theory – motive behind group behaviour – converge into one location of similar-minded people.
Turner (’57) – emergent norm theory (ENT) – individual no norms to follow, because situation is unique – see what others do, base own behaviour on that. If one person's behaviour is distinctive, then gets attention; behaviour gradually taken as norm; crowds are not passive – logically thinking mass of individuals; hence crowd behaviour can sometimes be unpredictable, as it depends on the norms taken by the group.
Value-added theory (VAT):
- VAT: encourage formation of group over time
- Cultural bias – Smelser, Western researcher, ethnocentric – one fits all
1. Structural conduciveness
2. Structural strain
3. Growth and spread of generalised belief
4. Precipitating factors.
5. Mobilising the collective for action
6. Reaction of agencies of social control
Society not well regulated – change individual’s view of appropriate behaviour; assessment of one’s own needs; if society offers incentives are rewards that interests an individual, then selfishness and self-prevail might outweigh the respect for others.
Human behaviour is a reflection of societal regulation; Sztompka (2004) - result of logical and systematic evolution thorough stages of development.
Freud provided very early description of crowd behaviour + foundation for others to work on; BUT – he did not follow principles of science, i.e. did not use hypothetetico-deductive method in his researches.
LeBon – does group have a ‘soul’?; do groups take on a ‘life on their own’?; Smelser suggested that certain conditions and situation might contribute to formation of a group.
Convergence theory – group behaviour rational and logical; contrary to LeBon – contagion irrational.
Turner and Killian – ENT – explains most crowd behaviours – but how exactly are the norms adapted?; theory does not take into account non-verbal processes, hence can be viewed as incomplete.
Smelser – VAT – logical – does not take into account complexities of the crowd behaviour; hard to test – crowd behaviour occurs at great speed; difficult to anticipate; covers broad geographic area; few traces; hard to interview the members; imposes a risk of injuring the observer.
Convergent theory – gathering of fans
Contagion – booing on the referee
Emergent norms – standing when anthem is being played
No single theory that can explain all the behaviours of sport crowd.
Black people stigmatised as ‘niggers’; not seen as individuals.
No aggression: Cassidy (2007) - Mela – month-long Hindu festival – 50million people; crowd behaves well; increased generosity, support was noted; crowd behaviour can promote good, non-aggressive behaviour; does not always lead to occurrence of aggression.
- Naturalistic observation in accordance to BPS ethical guidelines; public place – people expected to be observed.
The notes are for AQA Psychology A - PSYA3 - Aggression