Psychological Theories on Aggression - Dictionary of Arguments
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Aggression/imitation/psychological theories: the idea that children learn through imitation is taken for granted and regarded as obvious today. [Anyway] this was by no means the case when the Bobo
doll study was published in Bandura (1961)(1). >Bobo doll study/Bandura, >Aggression/Bandura.
Notably, even today, several domains have generated fierce debate about whether children learn aggressive behavior through imitative processes. For example, in the case of children viewing violent television programs or playing violent video games, the entertainment industry has tried to argue that there is no evidence that exposure to violent media causes increases in children’s aggressive behavior (see Bushman & Anderson, 2001)(2).
Slater I 179
While Bandura et al. did not yet have an adequate theory to describe the mechanisms underlying imitative learning, Anderson and Bushman (2001)(2) developed a General Aggression Model describes how individuals’ cognition, affect, and arousal are altered through repeated exposure to violent media, thereby contributing to aggressive behavior. According to the model, each exposure to violent media teaches individuals ways to aggress, influences beliefs and attitudes about aggression, primes aggressive perceptions and expectations, desensitizes individuals to aggression, and leads to higher levels of physiological arousal. These mediating variables then lead to more aggressive behavior. Although more aggressive children tend to seek out violent media, there is also convincing empirical evidence that even controlling for initial levels of aggression, exposure to violent media contributes to increases in aggressive behavior (Huesmann, Eron, Berkowitz, & Chafee, 1991)(3).
>Aggression/Developmental psychology, >Aggression/Moffitt.
Slater I 184
Some critics have questioned whether the Bobo doll study constitutes evidence regarding children’s imitation of aggression or merely behaviors the children regarded as play. This argument hinges on how aggression is defined. Contemporary researchers generally define aggression as an act perpetrated by one individual that is intended to cause physical, psychological, or social harm to another (Anderson & Bushman, 2002)(4). It is plausible that the intention to harm was missing from children’s imitative behaviors toward the Bobo doll, even if by their nature (e.g., kicking, hitting), they seem aggressive.
Slater I 185
Forms of aggression: Some (…) advances in understanding aggression since the time of the Bobo doll studies have been in understanding different forms of aggression. Bandura et al. distinguished between physical and verbal aggression. Researchers today still make that distinction but have also added a distinction between direct aggression and indirect aggression (sometimes called social or relational aggression).
Relational aggression: has been defined as harming others through purposeful manipulation and damage of their social relationships (Crick & Grotpeter, 1995)(5). Relational aggression can take many forms, such as spreading rumors about someone, saying mean things behind someone’s back, and excluding someone from a peer group. For differences between the sexes see >Aggression/Gender Studies.
Forms of aggression: Researchers today also distinguish between proactive aggression and reactive aggression (Dodge & Coie, 1987)(6).
Proactive aggression: is described as being unprovoked and goal-directed (Crick & Dodge, 1996)(7), and is predicted by having aggressive role models (Bandura, 1983)(8), friendships with other proactively aggressive children (Poulin & Boivin, 2000)(9), and physiological under arousal (Scarpa & Raine, 1997)(10).
Reactive aggression: is described as being an angry retaliatory response to perceived provocation (Dodge & Coie, 1987)(6). Precursors of reactive aggression include a developmental history of physical abuse (Dodge, Lochman, Harnish, Bates, & Pettit, 1997)(11), peer rejection (Dodge et al., 1997)(11), more reactive temperament (Vitaro, Brendgen, & Tremblay, 2002)(12), and physiologic overarousal (Scarpa & Raine, 1997)(9).
Proactive aggression is associated with evaluating aggression positively (Smithmyer et al., 2000)(13) and holding instrumental (e.g., obtaining a toy) rather than relational (e.g., becoming friends) goals in social interactions (Crick & Dodge, 1996)(7), whereas reactive aggression is associated with making inappropriate hostile attributions in the face of ambiguous or benign social stimuli (Dodge & Coie, 1987)(6).
1. Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 575—582.
2. Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2001). Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature. Psychological Science, 12, 353—359.
3. Huesmann, L. R., Eron, L. D., Berkowitz, L., & Chafee, S. (1991). The effects of television violence on aggression: A reply to a skeptic. In P. Suedfeld & P. Tetlock (Eds), Psychology and social policy (pp.
19 2—200). New York: Hemisphere.
4. Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2002). Human aggression. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 27—
5. Crick, N. R., & Grotpeter, J. K. (1995). Relational aggression, gender, and social-psychological adjustment. Child Development, 66, 710—722.
6. Dodge, K. A., & Coie, J. D. (1987). Social information processing factors in reactive and proactive aggression in children’s peer groups .Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 1146—1158.
7. Crick, N. R., & Dodge, K. A. (1996). Social information-processing mechanisms in reactive and proactive aggression. Chi id Development, 67, 993—1002.
8. Bandura, A. (1983). Psychological mechanisms of aggression. In R. Geen & E. Donnerstein(Eds),
Aggression: Theoretical and empirical reviews, Vol. 1. Theoretical and methodological issues (pp. 1—40). New York: Academic Press.
9. Poulin, F., & Boivin, M. (2000). The role of proactive and reactive aggression in the formation and development of boys’ friendships. Developmental Psychology, 36, 233—240.
10. Scarpa, A., & Raine, A. (1997). Psychophysiology of anger and violent behavior. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 20, 3 75—394.
11. Dodge, K. A., Lochman, J. E., Harnish, J. D., Bates, J. E., & Pettit, G. S. (1997). Reactive and proactive aggression in school children and psychiatrically impaired chronically assaultive youth. Journal of
Abnormal Psychology, 106,37—51.
12. Vitaro, F., Brendgen, M., & Tremblay, R. E. (2002). Reactively and proactively aggressive children:
Antecedent and subsequent characteristics. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43,495—505.
13. Smithmyer, C. M., Hubbard, J. A., & Simons, R. F. (2000). Proactive and reactive aggression in delinquent adolescents: Relations to aggression outcome expectancies. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 29, 86—93.
Jenifer E. Lansford, “Aggression. Beyond Bandura’s Bobo Doll Studies“, in: Alan M. Slater and Paul C. Quinn (eds.) 2012. Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012