Aspects of human life that are surrounded by social reasons for why the aggression occurs as a part of an individual’s behaviour are the main argument for nurture. Certain aspects of person’s life have been singled out as factors that seem to add to the control and development of aggression, including family, neighbourhood and cognitive factors and peer influences. There are few theories in social aspect of aggression that demonstrate how social environment can add up to human’s actions. Social Learning Theory evolved from operant conditioning which is a learning procedure through which the strength of behaviour is altered by reward or punishment, denying that people are inherently aggressive and that frustration automatically leads to aggression.
According to this theory the aggressive behaviour can be learned by imitating and observing this behaviour of other individuals. This theory was proposed by Bandura et al. (1960), where they have used the term modelling, which is at times referred to as vicarious learning. The vicarious idiom basically means indirect; people learn aggression without being directly reinforced for aggressive performance of our own. This arises when we observe others being rewarded for aggressive behaviour. For example, if a child witnessed two other children arguing over a toy where one of the children gains the control of the toy by being aggressive, hitting the child, this will be perceived as a reward which then can lead to the observing child to imitate this behaviour.
There are four processes of social learning:
- Attention – an individual (in similar age or sex of observer or in a position of power such as teacher, parent) performing the behaviour
- Retention – observer remembering this behaviour
- Motivation – where observer gains a reason for copying such a behaviour
- Reproduction – copying the behaviour
Reproduction can be only conducted by an observer if they have the confidence of being capable of doing such an act. Bandura referred to this as a self-efficiency aspect of social learning. To demonstrate this theory, Bandura conducted a study with a doll, known as BoboDoll, which carried out many variations of using it. The conclusion of these researches was that the human behaviour is often formed by the socio-cultural processes of social learning. However, Bandura’s theory is deterministic as it is suggesting that all behaviour is caused by preceding factors and thus is predictable when innate feelings can counteract.
Another view on social aspect of aggression is deindividuation – the loss of one’s sense of individuality. Deindividuation is directly linked with experiencing anonymity, i.e. a state where a person is convinced, that as a part of grouping he would not be identifiable as an individual. From the perspective of social psychology it is not important what kind of grouping this involves. The most important part of deindividuation is being free from social control. For instance, a child with a spiderman mask on or an individual hockey supporter amidst a much outsized group of supporters is deindividuated.
There are two factors involved, both decreasing in deindividuation:
- Private self-awareness – individual sensing awareness of himself, actions, thoughts, beliefs
- Public self-awareness - individuals sensing that others are aware of them and that they are identifiable to others
Experiment conducted by Zimbardo (1969), where the women who were fully covered, deindividuated, delivered twice more electric shocks as the individuated ones, proved his theory that reduction of responsibility and reduced inhibitions could equally increase the possibility of antisocial behaviour. Similarly in Silke (2003) where he analysed 500 violent attacks where a total of 206 attacks were carried out by people who wore some form of camouflage so identity could not be acknowledged. An additional study by Zimbardo, known as Standford prison simulation (1973), is relating to institutional aggression. This is as aggression and violence occurs when the person suffers from loss of personal identity which is resulting from wearing a uniform either as a police officer or prison guard. In contradictory research done by Gergen et al. (1973) the deindividuation did not result in aggressive behaviour. Furthermore on conflicting research conducted by Postmes and Spears (1998) which held analysis of over 60 studies investigating deindividuation did not discover deindividuation acting as a psychological impact on the individual’s state and behaviour. They suggest that change in behaviour of people in group situations has more to do with group norms than anything else.
Aggressive behaviour is more dynamic than simply having social or institutional motives. Observation of aggression in individuals suggests the need to examine possible biological explanations.
Cite this Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below