Aggression

Aggressive behaviors, when carried to extremes, can also be dysfunctional. Bandura (1986) contended that aggressive behavior is acquired through observation of others, direct experiences with positive and negative reinforcements, training, or instruction, and bizarre beliefs.

Once established people continue to aggress for at least five reasons: (1) They enjoy inflicting injury on the victim (positive reinforcement); (2) they avoid or counter the aversive consequences of aggression by others (negative reinforcement); (3) they receive injury or harm for not behaving aggressively (punishment); (4) they live up to their personal standards of conduct by their aggressive behavior (self-reinforcement); and (5) they observe others receivmg rewards for aggressive acts or punishment for nonaggressive behavior.

Bandura believes that aggressive actions ordinarily lead to further aggression. This belief is based on the now classic study of Bandura, Dorrie Ross, and Sheila Ross (1963), which found that children who observed others behaving aggressively displayed more aggression than a control group of children who did not view aggressive acts. In this study, the experimenters divided Stanford University nursery school boys and girls into three matched experimental groups and one control group.

Children in the first experimental group observed a live model behaving with both verbal and physical aggression toward a number of toys, including a large inflated Bobo doll; the second experimental group observed a film showing the same model behaving in an identical maimer; the third experimental group saw a fantasy film in which a model, dressed as a black cat, behaved equally aggressively agahist the Bobo doll. Children in the control group were matched with those hi the experimental groups on previous ratings of aggression, but they were not subjected to an aggressive model.

After children hi the three experimental groups observed a model scolding, kicking, punching, and hitting the Bobo doll with a mallet, they proceeded hito another room where they were mildly frustrated. Immediately following this frustration, each child went hito the experimental room, which contained some toys (such as a smaller version of the Bobo doll) that could be played with aggressively. In addition, some nonaggressive toys (such as a tea set and coloring materials) were present. Observers watched the children's aggressive or nonaggressive response to the toys through a one-way mirror.

As hypothesized children exposed to an aggressive model displayed more aggressive responses than those who had not been exposed. But contrary to expectations, the researchers found no differences in the amount of total aggression shown by children in the three experimental groups. Children who had observed the cartoon character were at least as aggressive as those exposed to a live model or to a filmed model. In general, children in each experimental group exhibited about twice as much aggressive behavior as did those hi the control group, hi addition, the particular khid of aggressive response was remarkably similar to that displayed by the adult models. Children scolded, kicked, punched, and hit the doll with a mallet in close imitation to the behavior that had been modeled.

This study, now more than 40 years old, was conducted at a time when people still debated the effects of television violence on children and adults. Some people argued that viewhig aggressive behaviors on television would have a cathartic effect on children: That is, children who experienced aggression vicariously would have little motivation to act hi an aggressive maimer. The study by Bandura, Ross, and Ross (1963) offered some of the earliest experimental evidence that TV violence does not curb aggression; rather it produces additional aggressive behaviors.

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