Relationships - Evaluate sociocultural explanations of the origins of violence Flashcards Preview

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Social Learning Theory

- people learn behaviours, attitudes, emotional reactions, etc not only from direct experience but also from observing models (other humans)

Conditions that must be met for social learning to occur:
- attention
- retention
- motor reproduction
- motivation

Study: Bandura (1965), Totten (2003)


Bandura (1965) - process

1. young children were showed a video of an adult behaving aggressively to a Bobo doll
2. 3 conditions:
- control: no reward or punishment shown
- model-rewarded: after the aggression, a second adult rewarded the model with sweets and a soft drink
- model-punished: after the aggression, a second adult scolded and spanked the model
3. after the video, children were taken for 10 mins into a playroom with the doll and observed


Bandura (1965) - findings and conclusion

- control and model-rewarded showed equal aggressiveness
- model-punished showed less aggressiveness
- but when children were asked to reproduce the video aggressor's behaviour (and informed that they would be rewarded) they all showed a higher levels of aggression
- boys imitated physical aggression more while girls imitated verbal aggression more
- thus showing that aggression can be learned from models
- and the gender of the role model has some significance


Bandura (1965) - evaluation

- supports SLT

- ethical issues: children are very young + exposure to aggressive behaviour
- low ecological validity: lab study + aggression is artificial


Totten (2003) - overview

- interviewed several adolescent males with abusive beliefs and masculine ideals who had admitted to using violence on their girlfriends
- all had similar backgrounds: during their childhood they were exposed to violent models (their father) who believed in strict gender roles
- father used violence to control family members
- thus they were conditioned to believe that violence was justified, and to some extent necessary
- some had even been instructed by their fathers to abuse ill-behaved girlfriends to control their behaviour


Totten (2003) - evaluation

- used a small, purposive sample: cannot generalize to population
- rich qualitative data gave in-depth insight into how the violent adolescents learned to use violence
- info can be used to design interventions to prevent violence (e.g. by providing positive role models)


what does SLT tell us about violence?

- shows that violence can be learnt through imitation
- Bandura (1965): in 2 of the 3 conditions, models were not punished and this may have encouraged the children to imitate the aggression


evaluation of SLT in explaining violence

- explains how watching movies, playing violent video games, or being in a home with a violent role model can lead to violent behaviour
- explains how social norms of violence are transferred from parents to children
- explains the social 'benefits' of using violence

- cannot explain how structural „factors (e.g. poverty) contribute to establishing social norms of„ male superiority
- does not consider biological factors (other than gender)
e.g. doesn't explain why boys are more likely to commit violent acts than girls when they are exposed to the same role model


subculture of violence

- violent behaviour occurs due to commitment to social norms/values
- violence is used to defend one's honor and maintain one's social status (mechanism of„ social control)
- essentially suggests that in this type of culture, when a man has been even slightly offended by another person, he must respond with physical violence to protect his honour

support: Cohen et al. (1996)
against: Nisbett and Cohen (1996)


Cohen et al. (1996)

- participants were either from Northern USA or Southern USA
- they were asked to fill out a questionnaire and take it to the end of a long, narrow corridor (individually)
- a confederate working in the corridor bumped into the participant
- 2 conditions: confederate called participant an ‘asshole’, or confederate remained silent
- range of emotions (amusement, anger) were observed
- generally Northerners were more likely than Southerners to be amused when insulted
- this difference is most likely cultural: Southern USA is known for social norms that approve of violence
- thus they are more likely to react negatively to insults and are more likely to consider violence an appropriate response


Nisbett and Cohen (1996)

- follow-up of Cohen et al. (1996)
- same pool of participants but different method: this time participants were publicly insulted
- cortisol and testosterone levels were taken before and after the study
- found that cortisol and testosterone levels were significantly higher in Southerners
- the results gives an alternative biological explanation for what is generally interpreted as sociocultural influences (culture of honor)


evaluation of subculture of violence theory

- can explain how violence may be used to establish and maintain power in a social group
- shows that behaviour can be learnt not only from direct observation of family violence, but also from norms about violence in the culture
- explains how someone who did not grow up in a violent family might become violent

- does not consider any sociocultural structural f„actors that could lead to violence
- does not focus on individual differences in aggression (not all people from the southern states are violent)
- many people who do not come from a culture of honour are violent; domestic violence occurs in most cultures around the world even if there is no culture of honour



- both theories are logically sound
- but only focus on either internal causes (i.e. from within) or external causes (i.e. in the social environment)
- other variables (e.g. biological „factors) are most likely present as well but are often not included in€ explanations

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