Violence is a pervasive issue in today’s society. It seems as though every day there is news of another violent incident occurring somewhere in the world.

But is violence contagious? In social learning theory, this idea is explored in depth. Let’s take a closer look at what social learning theory has to say about the contagious nature of violence.

What is Social Learning Theory?

Social learning theory, also known as observational learning or modeling, suggests that people learn by observing and imitating the behavior of others. The theory proposes that individuals are more likely to model behaviors that are rewarded and less likely to model behaviors that are punished. Modeling can occur through direct observation or through media such as television, movies, and video games.

Is Violence Contagious?

According to social learning theory, violence can be contagious. In other words, individuals who observe violent behavior may be more likely to imitate it themselves. This is because violent behavior may be seen as a way to achieve certain goals or gain status and respect.

Research has shown that exposure to violence can have a desensitizing effect on individuals. This means that they become less sensitive to violence over time and may even come to view it as acceptable behavior. Additionally, studies have found that individuals who witness violence are more likely to engage in aggressive behavior themselves.

The Role of Media

Media plays a significant role in shaping our attitudes towards violence and aggression. The portrayal of violence in movies, television shows, and video games can have a significant impact on our perceptions of what is acceptable behavior.

Studies have shown that exposure to violent media can increase aggression in children and adolescents. This is because they may begin to believe that violent behavior is an appropriate way to solve problems or gain status.


In conclusion, social learning theory suggests that violence can be contagious through observation and imitation. Exposure to violence, particularly through media, can desensitize individuals and increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior. It is important to be mindful of the media we consume and the behaviors we model for others in order to prevent the spread of violence.