Sunday, 18 May 2014

Let us start with a merry bit of aggression! (Social Learning Theory and Deindividuation)

Okay, so I'll go through the actual content first.

Social Learning Theory

The first theory you're going to want to cover is the Social Learning Theory (or SLT because it takes too long to write) because it's so simple and if you did psychology at GCSE you'll already have kinda covered it.

SLT basically offers an explanation as to how children can learn even in the absence of direct reinforcement- so by watching other people. If Jimmy sees Sara kick over a child and get a round of applause from the rest of the kids (bullying is a serious thing dudes) he's more likely to copy her behavior in the future, should he be put in a similar situation.

 This theory covers how children learn from this as well- first they observe the behavior and learn when it is appropriate, then they create a "mental representation" (that's an important word, remember it) in their mind from which they derive what the consequences would be if they acted out that behavior. That bit is difficult to word. Basically a child will see a behavior and be like "oh, would that work for me? Would I get rewarded for that too?" And they imagine acting like that, and how they imagine their parents and the people around them would react. If they expect some kind of reward from the behavior, they're more likely to try it- because c'mon, kids do anything to get rewarded.

All good psychological theories have bullshit studies to back them up, so lets delve. Bandura, the guy who made up this entire study (probably should have said that earlier) conducted a study that ended up supporting his ideas on how children learn aggressive behavior. First he got some nursery children (from the store) and separated them into two groups. One group then observed adult models acting all aggressive and shiz towards Bobo dolls and one group, well didn't, they saw the models acting non aggressively. Now I don't know if you've ever seen a Bobo doll but they're utterly terrifying:
If I was in this experiment I'd be in the "models running away terrified" group. 
Anyway, the children were then taken away and kinda aggravated, which admittedly was not very nice. They were shown attractive toys, but denied the opportunity to play with them. Poor things. They were then taken to a room containing many toys including, dun dun duuuun, Bobo dolls. 

What happened then you can kinda guess. The children in the "aggressive model" group went all ape on this poor Bobo doll,

 whereas those in the "non aggressive model" group didn't, or if they did, not as much. This supported Bandura's idea that children learn aggressive behavior and when it is appropriate through observation, and then copy this behaviour. This study doesn't however explain the motivation behind the children's behavior and so a variation was carried out which I'll explain later. Other faults with this study:
  • Carried out in a laboratory setting, and as anyone who's ever worked in a lab will know, labs are nottttt like real life. At all. Therefore it lacks ecological validity, innit. Findings therefore can't be generalized and the findings lose some of their usefulness. (In posh fancy terms, it lacks external validity and therefore the findings cannot be generalized which is a limitation of the study and means conclusions drawn are only applicable to one specific group of people). 

  • Bobo dolls kinda are not people. So this again may not apply to the way children learn actual aggression towards other humans. This study therefore lacks internalll validityyyy! D:

  • Ethical issues! Dudes you can't just teach a kid aggressive behavior. It'll affect his mental state and future and shit!
The variation of the study was children were again subjected to lovely views of the models acting aggressively, except this time the children saw either a positive, negative or no consequence. They then again were led to the Bobo dolls, and it was found children who saw the reward consequence acted most aggressively. This makes sense, and explains how children learn vicariously. This whole "Vicarious learning" thing is a major strength to the SLT, and also has important applications- like making sure kids tv isn't violent, because hell we don't want little Timmy to learn from that do we?

It also explains cultural differences in aggression, and explains why the biological model isn't sufficient- as biology is universal, and aggressive responses are not. In country's where aggression is low, this can be attributed to there being no models for the kids to copy off, so they never really learn where aggression is appropriate and don't rely on it as a coping strategy.


Deindividuation is the second theory that's useful for exams. It was proposed by Zimbardo, the lovely fella, and his main point is that when you're walking on your merry way and then join a large crowd, you essentially become anonymous and one of many. This means that you're less likely to fear judgement and consequences- you're just a face in a crowd- and so you're more likely to act in a way that goes against moral, social and personal norms. So you might shout "penis" really loudly, and then run away and snigger because no one will know it was you. But if you were in a quiet room full of people you knew, you wouldn't dare shout out the male sexual organ, because the people know you and the consequences are greater. 

...Creepy. Yeah, deindividuation can also be aroused by wearing a uniform, by consuming drugs and alcohol or just by partying in a group. Doesn't always lead to bad things, I mean in concerts everyone is just a blur and jumping and happy- no one kills one another. Deindividuation can also be aroused by the internet. You're anonymous, right? I'm anonymous. Maybe that's why I'm writing about penises, and why keyboard warriors exist. 
The state of deindividuation is supported by a study conducted by Zimbardo, a study that was quite reminiscent of Milgram's learning study. Participants were shoved in one of two conditions: Individuated and Deindividuated. They were told to shock another participant when they got an answer wrong to assist learning, and surprise surprise, it was the deindividuated rotten lot that shocked the most, suggesting that their deindividuated state increased levels of aggression and caused them to want to kill things :D 

HOWEVER motherfuckers another study was conducted to see if it was deindividuation causing the increased aggression or simply conforming to local group norms. The study divided participants into three groups, nurse uniforms, normal clothes and clothes reminiscent of the klu klux uniforms. The guys in the klu klux uniforms shocked most, followed by the guys in normal clothes. The nurses, although deindividuated shocked least, suggesting that deindividuation does not cause aggression, local group norm conformity does!
Anywaaaay onto APPLICATIONS 
  • Reducing cyber bullying. Make websites force you to put in names, photos, something to identify yourself with. Compare it to your passport. Just stop people being anoymous, it's causing them to be nasty. Like on 

People only rage because their summoner name typically has no resemblance at all to their real name, enhancing the deindividuated state.

  • In suicide jump cases, don't let a crowd form. A met analysis found that quite a lot of cases of groups being present near a suicide jumped urged them to fall :(

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