lovex
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Hi,
I was wondering if anyone would be so kind as to mark my essay and give me any points of improvement. Or alternatively just suggesting some generic essay tips. I'm really struggling with writing my essays. I'm aiming for as high mark as possible so I would love to know what I need to add to go from where I am not to full marks. Thank you.

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Discuss evolutionary explanations of human aggression, including infidelity and jealousy. (8 + 16 marks)

The evolutionary theory suggests infidelity as a cause for aggression. According to the theory, in a relationship a man will become aggressive if his partner is unfaithful to him. Evolutionary psychologists suggest that this is due to him worrying of investing his resources on a child who is not his and therefore not benefitting his innate desire to spread his genes. The worry of being cuckolded leads to aggressive behaviour.

For females, the evolutionary approach suggests it is the concern for her potential offspring which triggers aggression. They worry that infidelity may lead to her partner leaving her and her offspring with no resources, thus decreasing the offspring’s chance of survival. It is said that the innate desire to protect one’s offspring and the threat to this ideal is the factor which results in aggression. However, unlike males, females profess a greater fear of emotional infidelity rather than sexual, as shown by Buss’ study.

Buss conducted a study of male and female students where he measured their stress response when asked to imagine their partner having sex with or being in love with someone else. He found that males became most stressed at the thought of sexual infidelity whilst women feared emotional infidelity more. This supports the evolutionary explanation that infidelity is a trigger in aggression, thereby increasing its validity. The study is also reliable as the biological tests are objective and empirical. Therefore, there is no concern about social desirability bias or experimenter expectation which increases the validity of the study.

The evolutionary approach fails to consider a myriad of factors, such as biological. It is extremely reductionist to only consider the evolutionary path as an explanation for human behaviour, including aggression. The biological approach suggest that testosterone is an important factor in aggression. In a study of mice, after castration aggression decreased. As testosterone is produced in the leydig cells in the testes, castration would have decreased the hormone production significantly. Therefore, a correlation can be denounced between aggression and testosterone. However, as it is only a correlation it is hard to predict the direction, therefore a cause and effect relationship can’t be established. However, the findings still support the view that testosterone levels affect aggression, therefore decreasing the credibility of the evolutionary explanation and deeming it too reductionist.

The theory is also deterministic. It suggests that we have no free-will not to be aggressive when confronted with infidelity. It may be argued that it is only those who lack the appropriate method of mediating who will display aggression and not everyone like the theory suggest. Therefore, the theory can only be applied to those lacking sophisticated mediation skills, decreasing its ecological validity.

Evolutionary explanations are also criticised for being a lazy argument, where behaviour is explained away sing speculative information of our ancestors. We are unsure of our ancestors’ behaviour as it was never formally observed and recorded and therefore the theory’s validity decreases.
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Legendairy
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Sorry honey, 0+0 ... some marks for QWC,

All the best,

Legendairy
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PythianLegume
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I took aggression as a PSYA3 module and got an A* in Psychology, so hopefully my advice will be useful, although your teacher is obviously the best source.

Firstly, you need more content. Ideally quote a few more studies or academics, but at the moment you simply lack the content to achieve the highest marks, in both AO1 and AO2 (especially the latter).

Your AO2 should start with the research that supports, and then the research that contradicts, the theory. The bulk of AO2 is evaluating the evidence for and against the theory you described for AO1. At the moment, the study you cited was only described, so would count at AO1. I suggest expanding your description of the theory and using that study, and others, as AO2 by explicitly stating how they relate to the validity of the theory.

Be careful with saying that evolutionary theories don't take account of biology - they almost certainly do. Evolutionary theories explain the overall trends and ultimate causes and explanations for behaviour, whereas biological theories explain the immediate causes. You also in the paragraph about biology stray too far from the question. The question is about evolutionary theories, don't get bound up describing biological theories in any great detail.

Expand upon your determinism point - what evidence is there to suggest that people can mediate their responses to infidelity or aggressive feelings?

Lastly, spice up your final point. Evolutionary theories are fairly unscientific; they lack falsifiability and proper empiricism - two of Popper's criteria for effective, valid science. You can't falsify evolutionary theories for the same reason you can't find proper empirical evidence for them - we can't observe evolution of the brain or behaviour.


I'm not experienced enough to give you a grade, but I doubt this would be an A/A*. Take on board some of my suggestions and you can definitely get your essays up to the highest grades. PSYA3 is a tough module - I'd say it was the hardest of any of my A-Levels, so don't feel bad if you're finding it tough, because it is!
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lovex
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(Original post by PythianLegume)
I took aggression as a PSYA3 module and got an A* in Psychology, so hopefully my advice will be useful, although your teacher is obviously the best source.

Firstly, you need more content. Ideally quote a few more studies or academics, but at the moment you simply lack the content to achieve the highest marks, in both AO1 and AO2 (especially the latter).

Your AO2 should start with the research that supports, and then the research that contradicts, the theory. The bulk of AO2 is evaluating the evidence for and against the theory you described for AO1. At the moment, the study you cited was only described, so would count at AO1. I suggest expanding your description of the theory and using that study, and others, as AO2 by explicitly stating how they relate to the validity of the theory.

Be careful with saying that evolutionary theories don't take account of biology - they almost certainly do. Evolutionary theories explain the overall trends and ultimate causes and explanations for behaviour, whereas biological theories explain the immediate causes. You also in the paragraph about biology stray too far from the question. The question is about evolutionary theories, don't get bound up describing biological theories in any great detail.

Expand upon your determinism point - what evidence is there to suggest that people can mediate their responses to infidelity or aggressive feelings?

Lastly, spice up your final point. Evolutionary theories are fairly unscientific; they lack falsifiability and proper empiricism - two of Popper's criteria for effective, valid science. You can't falsify evolutionary theories for the same reason you can't find proper empirical evidence for them - we can't observe evolution of the brain or behaviour.


I'm not experienced enough to give you a grade, but I doubt this would be an A/A*. Take on board some of my suggestions and you can definitely get your essays up to the highest grades. PSYA3 is a tough module - I'd say it was the hardest of any of my A-Levels, so don't feel bad if you're finding it tough, because it is!
Thank you for your response and congratulations on your A*. I'm really struggling with PSYA3 at the moment and it's really getting me down.

I thought by bringing in the biological approach I could use the mice castration study as my evidence against the theory? Or does it have to be more specific?

I was wondering what materials you used to help you obtain your A*? My teacher uses the AQA textbook which is very limited but she assures us that it's adequate.
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PythianLegume
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(Original post by lovex)
Thank you for your response and congratulations on your A*. I'm really struggling with PSYA3 at the moment and it's really getting me down.

I thought by bringing in the biological approach I could use the mice castration study as my evidence against the theory? Or does it have to be more specific?

I was wondering what materials you used to help you obtain your A*? My teacher uses the AQA textbook which is very limited but she assures us that it's adequate.
The mice castration study does not count as evidence against the theory - it doesn't disprove that evolutionary mechanisms lead to aggression. It could just be that testosterone is the chemical released to cause aggression, but that is coded into genes. They aren't mutually exclusive.

I mostly used my textbook, then google to find a bit more related to the course, but also to look up studies on google scholar if you find that you don't have enough studies or want to make a point but don't know what the evidence shows.
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lovex
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(Original post by PythianLegume)
The mice castration study does not count as evidence against the theory - it doesn't disprove that evolutionary mechanisms lead to aggression. It could just be that testosterone is the chemical released to cause aggression, but that is coded into genes. They aren't mutually exclusive.

I mostly used my textbook, then google to find a bit more related to the course, but also to look up studies on google scholar if you find that you don't have enough studies or want to make a point but don't know what the evidence shows.
Oh of course. So I should have used a social psychological theory instead?

I have had another attempt which I typed up instead so it's a lot longer (I'm such a slow writer). I'm still feeling pretty unconfident with these essays though.

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Discuss the role of neural and/or hormonal mechanisms in aggression. (9 marks + 16 marks)

One explanation of aggression is neural factors. It is suggested that the frontal cortex is responsible for social regulation and damage to the frontal lobe can result in aggression. In addition, leisoning the amygdala has been found to cause aggression. This is shown by a study of leisoning the amygdala in cats which increased the amount of attacks. Providing evidence that neural factors can contribute to aggressive behaviour and thus increasing the validity of the theory. However, as it only involves animals we can’t generalise to humans; we can’t be sure that human brain injury will result in the same results as it did in cats and thus can’t apply the theory to humans. As much of the neural theory of aggression is based on animal studies it lacks validity and can’t be applied to humans. Although a psychologist has suggested that the differences between animal and humans are qualitative and generalisations can be made, increasing the validity of the theory.
Evidence comes for the neural theory of aggression by a case study on Phineas Gage, a railway worker. During an accident at work, a tamping iron pierced through the left side of his face and left through his skull. After the accident, Phineas experienced persona changes and he became aggressive. The findings support the view that brain injury can result in aggression however due to its correlational nature, it’s difficult to predict the direction and establish a cause and effect relationship. It could be suggested that Phineas’ aggression was caused by pain or trauma rather than a physical defect to the structure of his brain. This decreases the validity of the theory that it is the physical structure of the brain which causes aggression and could instead be situational factors. A methodological flaw of this study is that it was a unique case study. Phineas’ accident was unique and therefore its findings can’t be generalised to the wider population. Therefore it lacks ecological validity, decreasing the validity of the theory as it is only limited to Phineas. Another flaw is that the specific location of injury is unknown, we are unsure of the extent of damage to Phineas’ brain nor the effect it had on other brain cells. Recent studies into brain injuries have found that sometimes other areas take over the function of the damaged areas. Therefore it is unsure the true implications Phineas’ injuries had. Therefore, the validity of the study is compromised as we can’t be sure of the specific area of the brain which contributed to the aggression.
After factor of aggression suggested by the biological approach is hormonal. Testosterone is suggested to cause aggression. Evidence for this comes from the fact that aggression increases during puberty when testosterone is at its peak. The reciperocol model of testosterone suggests that testosterone affects the amount of dominance an individual has. Whilst the recipercal model of testosterone suggests that the level of dominance of an individual affects their level of testosterone.
Evidence for the hormonal cause of testosterone comes from a study of 56 men. The men were given testosterone and a frustration-inducing game. The results showed that their aggression increased after having been given testosterone. This supports the view that testosterone causes aggressive behaviour and thereby increases the theory’s validity. However, only males took part and therefore we can only apply the results to men. We are unsure of the effect on aggression when females are given testosterone so we can therefore only apply the theory to men, limiting its ecological validity. The study also found that the effect of testosterone varied for men. This shows us that there are individual differences in the body’s response to hormones and the behaviour changes experienced. Therefore, we need to consider these individual differences when considering the theory of hormonal causes of aggression. Failing to consider these differences is irresponsible as it has implications; some people may be sensitive to the aggression-inducing effects of testosterone. Therefore prescribing testosterone tablets or steroids to people must be done under great guidance and observation as some men may experience a significant increase in aggression.
Evidence for the basal model of testosterone comes from a study of air veterans. The study took place over ten years and it was found that levels of testosterone varied, decreasing whilst married and increasing upon divorce. This supports the view that situational factors can change the hormonal levels. The results were concluded from 4 medical exams which had taken place throughout the ten years. The blood tests provide objective, empirical results of the blood levels of testosterone; there is no room for social desirability bias and so the results are reliable. Therefore, they increase the validity of the theory.
The theory that biological factors influence our aggression is one which has many real life implications. It is one our justice system must consider when presented with criminals with high testosterone levels or those who have experienced neural injuries. Should they experience empathy for being unable to help it. The biological approach to aggression raises the free-will/determinism debate. To suggest biological factors are responsible for aggression is deterministic as it suggests we have no free-will to not be aggressive when presented with high testosterone or damage to the frontal cortex. We must therefore consider if criminals with neural or hormonal contributions to aggression should experience lighter sentences as they’re unable to help it.
The biological approach of aggression also focuses heavily on nature and ignores nurture, for example social learning theory. SLT suggests aggression is due to imitation of a rolemodel. This is supported by Bandura’s study in which children showed aggressive behaviour when their rolemodel was aggressive. This suggest that the biological approach is too reductionistic as it focuses only on nature and ignores the role of situational influences in aggression.
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PythianLegume
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(Original post by lovex)
Oh of course. So I should have used a social psychological theory instead?

I have had another attempt which I typed up instead so it's a lot longer (I'm such a slow writer). I'm still feeling pretty unconfident with these essays though.

Spoiler:
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Discuss the role of neural and/or hormonal mechanisms in aggression. (9 marks + 16 marks)

One explanation of aggression is neural factors. It is suggested that the frontal cortex is responsible for social regulation and damage to the frontal lobe can result in aggression. In addition, leisoning the amygdala has been found to cause aggression. This is shown by a study of leisoning the amygdala in cats which increased the amount of attacks. Providing evidence that neural factors can contribute to aggressive behaviour and thus increasing the validity of the theory. However, as it only involves animals we can’t generalise to humans; we can’t be sure that human brain injury will result in the same results as it did in cats and thus can’t apply the theory to humans. As much of the neural theory of aggression is based on animal studies it lacks validity and can’t be applied to humans. Although a psychologist has suggested that the differences between animal and humans are qualitative and generalisations can be made, increasing the validity of the theory.
Evidence comes for the neural theory of aggression by a case study on Phineas Gage, a railway worker. During an accident at work, a tamping iron pierced through the left side of his face and left through his skull. After the accident, Phineas experienced persona changes and he became aggressive. The findings support the view that brain injury can result in aggression however due to its correlational nature, it’s difficult to predict the direction and establish a cause and effect relationship. It could be suggested that Phineas’ aggression was caused by pain or trauma rather than a physical defect to the structure of his brain. This decreases the validity of the theory that it is the physical structure of the brain which causes aggression and could instead be situational factors. A methodological flaw of this study is that it was a unique case study. Phineas’ accident was unique and therefore its findings can’t be generalised to the wider population. Therefore it lacks ecological validity, decreasing the validity of the theory as it is only limited to Phineas. Another flaw is that the specific location of injury is unknown, we are unsure of the extent of damage to Phineas’ brain nor the effect it had on other brain cells. Recent studies into brain injuries have found that sometimes other areas take over the function of the damaged areas. Therefore it is unsure the true implications Phineas’ injuries had. Therefore, the validity of the study is compromised as we can’t be sure of the specific area of the brain which contributed to the aggression.
After factor of aggression suggested by the biological approach is hormonal. Testosterone is suggested to cause aggression. Evidence for this comes from the fact that aggression increases during puberty when testosterone is at its peak. The reciperocol model of testosterone suggests that testosterone affects the amount of dominance an individual has. Whilst the recipercal model of testosterone suggests that the level of dominance of an individual affects their level of testosterone.
Evidence for the hormonal cause of testosterone comes from a study of 56 men. The men were given testosterone and a frustration-inducing game. The results showed that their aggression increased after having been given testosterone. This supports the view that testosterone causes aggressive behaviour and thereby increases the theory’s validity. However, only males took part and therefore we can only apply the results to men. We are unsure of the effect on aggression when females are given testosterone so we can therefore only apply the theory to men, limiting its ecological validity. The study also found that the effect of testosterone varied for men. This shows us that there are individual differences in the body’s response to hormones and the behaviour changes experienced. Therefore, we need to consider these individual differences when considering the theory of hormonal causes of aggression. Failing to consider these differences is irresponsible as it has implications; some people may be sensitive to the aggression-inducing effects of testosterone. Therefore prescribing testosterone tablets or steroids to people must be done under great guidance and observation as some men may experience a significant increase in aggression.
Evidence for the basal model of testosterone comes from a study of air veterans. The study took place over ten years and it was found that levels of testosterone varied, decreasing whilst married and increasing upon divorce. This supports the view that situational factors can change the hormonal levels. The results were concluded from 4 medical exams which had taken place throughout the ten years. The blood tests provide objective, empirical results of the blood levels of testosterone; there is no room for social desirability bias and so the results are reliable. Therefore, they increase the validity of the theory.
The theory that biological factors influence our aggression is one which has many real life implications. It is one our justice system must consider when presented with criminals with high testosterone levels or those who have experienced neural injuries. Should they experience empathy for being unable to help it. The biological approach to aggression raises the free-will/determinism debate. To suggest biological factors are responsible for aggression is deterministic as it suggests we have no free-will to not be aggressive when presented with high testosterone or damage to the frontal cortex. We must therefore consider if criminals with neural or hormonal contributions to aggression should experience lighter sentences as they’re unable to help it.
The biological approach of aggression also focuses heavily on nature and ignores nurture, for example social learning theory. SLT suggests aggression is due to imitation of a rolemodel. This is supported by Bandura’s study in which children showed aggressive behaviour when their rolemodel was aggressive. This suggest that the biological approach is too reductionistic as it focuses only on nature and ignores the role of situational influences in aggression.
Again, I'll provide some advice on how to improve this essay. Hopefully some of it will apply more generally. I'm sorry if I come across as overly negative or critical.

Provide a reference, e.g. (Smith et al., 1992), for studies you cite. Remembering all the names can be difficult, but it will improve your answer and make it seem like you know the studies and aren't just making them up.

Don't say that because the research is on animals it cannot be applied to humans - look up brain imaging studies on humans ( http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?...1%2C5&as_sdtp= ). In general, your neural mechanisms section could be improved by bringing in newer studies. At the moment, you seem to be writing off the theory based upon old, invalid studies, but there are decent studies out there, especially newer ones that might not be in your textbook. Don't be afraid to go above and beyond the textbook to google scholar - it will impress the examiner if you can cite studies that aren't in most textbooks.

The Phineas Gage case study is not 'correlational' - anything with one piece of data cannot be correlational. A correlation plots two variables against each other. You're correct that we cannot isolate which factor caused his aggression, however; it's just a case of semantics.

Reciprocal* ; there are other SPAG errors in there I haven't corrected, but getting the name of the theory correct is important.

If the study only shows evidence for men, then it has poor population validity, not ecological validity. Poor ecological validity is when a scenario is too artificial and doesn't accurately represent real life. Also, don't just leave it at 'this study is on men, so we can't generalise' - not all studies will have been on men, and there will be tens if not hundreds of studies on testosterone that include or exclusively examine women as well. You're still not putting enough evaluation of the evidence/research into your answers. In general, the bulk of AO1 should be description of the theory and the bulk of AO2 should be on whether the evidence supports the theory or not. Once you've looked at the evidence, then you can go on and do some IDA.

What is the basal model? Explain it before you present evidence for it - you need the AO1 marks as well.

I'll give you the same advice my teacher gave me - avoid talking about reductionism. All theories and studies in psychology are somewhat reductionist - they have to be in order to say anything valid beyond 'there are a lot of factors that influence this behaviour'. Your last point could just be about nature and nurture and the relative effects of each. Bring in some more studies that specifically look at the interplay of nature and nurture - there are probably twin studies that looked at aggression and home life.

But I'd also be careful around nature-nurture with hormonal/neural explanations rather than genetic/evolutionary. Hormonal and neural mechanisms are the proximate cause - they are what physically trigger aggression. Clearly something biological must trigger aggression, given we're essentially a complex set of chemicals. But explanations like SLT and genetics are 'ultimate' causes - they explain the over-arching reasons for a tendency towards aggression. So if you're using nature-nurture in this case, I would put something in about ultimate and proximate causes, and how perhaps nurture is a better explanation for ultimate causes.

Overall, I still think you lack enough content for the highest mark bands. Put in a few more studies, explain the theories in a bit more detail (you may have to look at papers online to get a bit more than the textbook tells you - they are often very brief with biological explanations) and you should get yourself into the higher mark bands. Bringing in higher level stuff can also be good - don't be afraid to go beyond the textbook in search of more evidence. Ask yourself whether you feel a theory has validity - if you're writing it off just based on a couple of old studies from your textbook, chances are you might be oversimplifying it (although saying this, there are some old and discredited theories).

Again, I don't want to appear overly negative. Your essays aren't bad, but they definitely have a lot of room for improvement.
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lovex
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x
Thank you so much again, I really appreciate the time you've taken to read through my essays and respond with lengthy and detailed advice.

I now see that my description of the theory/approach asked in the question needs to be a lot more detailed for my AO1. However, my teacher has mentioned that you can describe studies for AO1, how would I go about this without it just being marked as AO2? Also if I am simply evaluating is a simple outline of the findings of a study enough for AO2?

Furthermore, what kind of evaluation of studies should I be doing? I have heard that research methods are only 4 marks in total so where would be other evaluative marks be coming from?

I have read some sample essays of A/A* material, all of which used the following essay plan:
Detailed description of theory/approach
Brief outline of 2 or 3 supportive studies with a brief evaluation.
One IDA of the theory/approach which is quite elaborate?

Is this sufficient? I find myself trying to squeeze every evaluative point in my notes into my essays and then neglect to elaborate enough. How many evaluative points should I be making?

Thanks again for your help and sorry for all the questions lol.
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PythianLegume
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(Original post by lovex)
Thank you so much again, I really appreciate the time you've taken to read through my essays and respond with lengthy and detailed advice.

I now see that my description of the theory/approach asked in the question needs to be a lot more detailed for my AO1. However, my teacher has mentioned that you can describe studies for AO1, how would I go about this without it just being marked as AO2? Also if I am simply evaluating is a simple outline of the findings of a study enough for AO2?

Furthermore, what kind of evaluation of studies should I be doing? I have heard that research methods are only 4 marks in total so where would be other evaluative marks be coming from?

I have read some sample essays of A/A* material, all of which used the following essay plan:
Detailed description of theory/approach
Brief outline of 2 or 3 supportive studies with a brief evaluation.
One IDA of the theory/approach which is quite elaborate?

Is this sufficient? I find myself trying to squeeze every evaluative point in my notes into my essays and then neglect to elaborate enough. How many evaluative points should I be making?

Thanks again for your help and sorry for all the questions lol.
That A/A* response structure seems about right - it's what I mostly did.

With regards to making studies AO1 or AO2, it depends on where your focus is. If you describe the study's procedures in detail but just leave it at that, it's AO1. If you mostly look at the study's findings and their implications for the theory, then you're using it as AO2.
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I'm really not sure how to further improve. This is the best that I could do with 25 minutes and hand cramps lol. I really don't understand how I'm ever going to get a good grade in this exam.
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Outline and evaluate one or more social psychological theories of aggression.
Tarde outlined social learning theory (SLT) as a way of imitating. He states that the key characteristics of imitation are the behaviour displayed by the role model, the degree of contact of said behaviours before copying it as well as an understanding of the role model’s behaviour.

Bandura held a social cognitive approach to aggression. He said that the social environment and the individual’s cognitive processing are linked – reciprocal determinism. According to Bandura, the copying of behaviour is achieved by paying attention to it, retaining it in memory, and reproducing the behaviour by having motivation to do so.

Bandura conducted a study of SLT. Using 72 child participants split into three equal groups: one with an aggressive role model, one with a non-aggressive role model and one with no role model. Bandura found that those who witnessed aggressive behaviour to a bobo doll were more likely to show aggression themselves, particularly if the role model was the same sex. This supports SLT that aggression is due to imitating a role model. Therefore, it increases the theory’s validity.

However, the study was conducted in a laboratory. Therefore, the findings can’t be generalised to apply to the outside World were a variety of extraneous variables may interplay to avoid aggression. The children were left alone, observed secretly through a two-way mirror when the aggression was displayed. It could be argued that in the real World, the presence of those in a position of power (such as a parent) would defer any aggression. This decreases the study’s validity and so limits the support it provides for SLT.

The bobo doll study is also criticised as having a biased sample as only children were involved. Children have a natural tendency to desire to please adults. They may have displayed demand characteristics they guessed the experimenter wanted to see. The ability to generalise the findings to adults is problematic. Adults have more maturity in being responsible for their actions due to morality. Therefore, it is unlikely that adults wouldn’t as freely adopt the behaviour of a role model. Therefore, the findings lack population validity and can only support SLT in reference to children.

SLT is a reductionist theory as it fails to consider biological factors, for example testosterone. A study involving mice castration found that aggression decreased. This suggest that testosterone is a cause of aggression which SLT fails to mention. It is likely that aggression is due to a myriad of factors in addition to imitating observed behaviour. Therefore, SLT has low validity.

SLT is criticised for being deterministic. It suggest that our behaviour is due to passive absorption of behaviour and then imitating it with no free will not to. This has real life implications. For example, the media’s influence on children leading to repetition. It could be applied to video game discretionary and the decrease of violence seen in films. A study in America found that the week following a televised boxing match saw increased crime levels suggesting that aggression can be caused by imitation of role models, increasing the theory’s validity.
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