The social learning theory suggests that aggressive behaviour is learnt through observation and imitation of models. It is mostly the work of bandura which formed the basis of this theory. His ‘Bobo Doll’ study supported this idea as it found that children imitated the behaviour of the model they were exposed to.
The idea of ‘vicarious learning’ was later added to the theory. Children learn for themselves whether and when certain behaviours are worth repeating by witnessing the consequences of actions carried out by others. If aggressive behaviour produced rewards, the child will then associate that behaviour as acceptable in similar situations and repeat it. Similarly if a child has been successful in using aggression, this will also encourage the behaviour to be repeated.
Evidence of this can be seen in the Bandura and Walters experiment which found that children in Group 1 who saw aggressive behaviour rewarded, later imitated the same behaviour yet those in Group 2 who had seen it be punished did not. It would appear as if the children in group 2 had not learnt the aggressive behaviour as it was not imitated which would challenge the idea that we learn through observation. However a repeated study showed that learning had taken place regardless of the observed consequences. Although for a child to reproduce it they would have to be motivated by a reward. This supports the motivation aspect of social learning theory: if a child thinks it will be punished motivation is low. When they think a reward is available motivation to copy is high.
The validity of Bandura’s findings have been questioned as it has been claimed that the children aware of demand characteristics during the experiment. This would mean the results were not a true reflection of how they would have reacted and thus cannot be relied heavily upon as supporting evidence. Further criticism surround its mundane realism as the study focuses on aggression towards a doll as opposed to a real person....