The paper will focus on the application of the social learning theory through the use of video games that incorporate moral choices into their design. In this paper, I will first describe what the social learning theory is and its implications. I will discuss findings that pertain to the social learning theory and through violent television and operant conditioning from violent video games. I will also explore studies focusing on the impact of moral choices in video games on decision making and moral disengagement. From the data, I will determine my own hypothesis as well as a methodical experiment relevant to the focus of this paper.
The social learning theory, as proposed by Albert Bandura (1977), describes how new knowledge can be attained in a social environment through observation. It works in conjunction with operant conditioning, where behavior can be promoted through rewards or diminished through punishment (Holland & Skinner, 1961). As such, it is speculated that one may be prone to imitate behaviors that they observed being rewarded and avoid those they have seen being reprimanded.
The social learning theory can translate through to many mediums. Controversies and heated debates have centered on the concept of violent television being the source of increased violent behavior amongst children and teenagers. There has been support for both sides of the argument, but many sources, including most news publishers, lacked true empirical evidence to support their claims. With time, however, scientists began to find logical evidence to support that exposure to violent stimuli in television, as well as video games, increased violent tendencies amongst the recipients.
In one study, researchers observed the amount of hours children and adolescents spent watching television programs deemed violent and their resulting expressed behavior later in life (Robertson, McAnally & Hancox, 2013). This longitudinal study assessed their behavior from an age range of five to fifteen years old. It was found that those exposed to an excessive amount of violent programming were more likely to commit criminal activity and develop anti social personality disorder in their early adulthood. Several factors, including socioeconomic status and parental background, were controlled to ensure little other stimuli contributed to the findings.
These results correlate highly with the social learning theory on aggressive behavior. Those exposed to substantial violence and aggression were likely to imitate it later on in life. However, while an observational study can elicit enlightening results, they do not provide much on practical, empirical evidence. What the researchers did was observe behavior exhibited by the individuals they studied; they did not control the amount of violence the individuals were being exposed nor were they preventing others from being exposed to such programming. Thus, this study can not be deemed as an “experiment”. While they tried...