The social learning theory advocates that individuals, especially children, imitate or copy modeled behavior from personally observing others, the environment, and the mass media. Biological theorists argue that the social learning theory completely ignores individuals biological state. Also, they state that the social learning theory rejects the differences of individuals due to genetic, brain, and learning differences (Jeffery, 1985: p.238). For example, if a person witnessed a hanging or a violent murder, he or she might respond in many different ways. "Biological theorists believed that the responses would be normal and come from the autonomic nervous system. In the autonomic nervous system, the heart rate, increase blood pressure, nausea, and fainting would be normal symptoms of the responses that individuals might expressed in this particular situation. Therefore, the symptoms and behavior are not learned, but partially inherited. In addition, the social learning theory rejects the classical and operant conditioning processes. The biological preparedness of the individual to learn as well as the role of the brain in processing information from the social environment, are critical to learning theory, but they are ignored by the social learning theory. Social reinforcement is conditioned reinforcement based on the relationship of the conditioned stimulus to an unconditioned stimulus" (Jeffery, 1985: p.239).
In the Bobo doll experiment, critics have argued that the children were manipulated into responded to the aggressive movie. The children were teased and became frustrated because they could not touch the toys. Many critics believed the experiment conducted was unethical and morally wrong because the children were trained to be aggressive. "How many more of the experiments finding a link between violence on television and aggressive behavior have ethical problems? It is not surprising that the children had long-term implications because of the methods imposed in this experiment"(Worthman and Loftus, p.45)
There have been many debates over whether or not violence on television causes aggressive behavior in children. Many studies have indicated that television does not lead to aggressive behavior. For instances, psychologists have found that some cartoons are very violent and cause children to illustrate aggressive behavior. However, the general public believes that children view cartoons such as Elmer Fudd shooting the rabbit as funny and humorous. It is the parents’ responsibility to inform their children that the cartoons are not real.
Feshbach and R.D. Singer believed that television actually decreases the amount of aggression in children (Feshbach: 1971). They conducted a study within a six-week study on juvenile boys who regularly watched television violence compared to juvenile boys who were exposed to non-violent shows. After the six-week period, Feshback and R.D. Singer found out that the juvenile boys that viewed the non-violent shows were more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior than the juvenile boys that witnessed the violent shows. "The study show that the violence on television allows the viewer to relate with the characters involved in the violent act (Feshback & Singer, 1971: p.247). In doing so, the viewer is able to release all aggressive thoughts and feelings through relation, causing them to be less aggressive than they would have been without watching the violent television. This theory that viewing violence on television leads to a decrease in aggression is called the Catharsis effect (Gerbner,G., Gross,L., Melody,W.H., pg.40).
Cooke believed that individuals tend to support the theory that television violence causes aggression because the public needs to justify the aggression they see in others. He also believed television was a form of education and positive role models. "If violence in television causes people to be more aggressive, than shouldn’t the good-hearted qualities in television cause its audience to be kinder to others (Cooke,1993, p.L19)? Therefore, television can serve as deterrence if individuals focus on the positive qualities. Despite these criticisms, Albert Bandura’ s Social Learning Theory has maintained an important place in the study of aggression and criminal behavior. In order to control aggression, he believed family members and the mass media should provide positive role models for their children and the general public (Bandura, 1976).