In Psychology, we had just learned about Social Cognitive Theory, a theory brought forward by Stanford psychology professor, Albert Bandura, in the late 1960s, explaining how and why we, as human beings, tend to learn and often imitate behavior we observe around us. Simply put, the theory argues that humans are very likely to learn and replicate a “model’s” behavior (another person’s way of behaving), if they can be paid attention to, if the behavior can be remembered, and if there is a motivating factor behind it which include; identification with the model, a desire to replicate, if the model is liked and consistent.
In the 1970s and the 1980s, Mexican Television producer and writer Miguel Sabido adopted this theory into his own writing of soap operas, hoping to inspire pro-social behavior and change in the community. Now coined as the ‘sabido method’ across the world, it worked, and his soap opera in the 80s, which allowed audiences to create a bond with the characters (remember their actions, motivate to replicate, consistent, well-liked, attention), and learn their behaviour which in this case was promoting safe sex and family planning. Throughout his time in the industry, Mexico saw a 34% drop in population increase, contraceptive sales increased, and national surveys found more women applying to learn more about family planning services.
This is one of the reasons I chose to study psychology because I am quite in awe at the way a psychological theory can be applied in the real world, and actually change people’s behavior in a good way. Imagine the possibilities here. In this age, entertainment is one of the most powerful ways of getting information across to audiences and can be extremely persuasive and popular, influencing how we think, what we say, what we wear. Now, if writers in the industry made films, tv-shows which could, for example, have characters interacting with other ethnicities, promoting cultural ties, promoting sustainability, environmental awareness e.t.c, important issues can be broadcasted through television and film, a media so many people are attracted t0. The possibilities to make a difference in behavior and attitude through a subtle way are endless using psychology. The great this is, it has already been done before. In 2009, Betsy Levy Paluck tested out this method on a study in Rwanda, using people of both ethnicities (Tutsis and Hutus), her study had a sample of 480 people, 99% of them had been there during the genocide. She had one group listen to a generic radio soap opera, and another listen to a soap opera with Tutsi and Hutu characters reconciling and positively engaging with each other, for a year. After the year, through interviews and surveys, she found the experimental group who listens to the soap opera with both Tutsi and Hutu characters displayed more reconciliatory feelings and were more willing to cooperate with the ‘out-group’ than the other group of people who had heard the generic soap opera. She found that without even having real-life interaction, and even though the opinions of the people had not changed about what had occurred in the genocide, feelings of empathy and sincerity became present after utilizing the sabido method.
The sabido method is able to take two things I am really passionate about, the study of human behavior, screenwriting, and movies, and combine them together to make positive change. How amazing! The next generation could utlise these tools write now in their own writing, to make impactful series of tv shows, music, movies, e.t.c to encourage good behavior between humanity. It is something, using what I learn in psychology, I would want to do myself, to make a difference in the world. Humans love absorbing information around them, and in our age, there is information everywhere, 24/7, being displayed right in people’s faces. Now, who said we can’t use it to spread good information for a change?