The Psychologist vol 22 no 6 by linxiaoqin



                                                                                                               the benefits of family planning;

              Social cognitive theory                                                                          educational opportunities for daughters;
                                                                                                               the injustice of forced marriage; the risks
                                                                                                               of early childbearing; and HIV prevention.

              goes global                                                                                      A special theme centred on the
                                                                                                               devastating consequences of the
                                                                                                               widespread practice of genital mutilation.
                                                                                                               Most people in the country favoured this
              Albert Bandura spoke to a packed audience at Friends House on 22 April about
                                                                                                               brutal practice. We found that our
              how he is abating urgent global problems by psychosocial means                                   programme reversed this social norm.
                                                                                                                    This kind of pernicious gender
                                                                                                               inequality is a frequent target for our
                                                                                                               plots. In too many societies, women are
                                                                                                               marginalised, devalued, disallowed
                    oaring population growth tops the           With my lifetime of work in                    aspiration, denied their liberty and

              S     list of global problems. Even with
                    the present population of 6.7 billion
              we have outgrown the earth’s carrying
                                                            modelling and self-efficacy, we had a good
                                                            theory, and Miguel Sabido, at Televisia in
                                                            Mexico, provided a creative translational
                                                                                                               dignity. The fastest way for societies to
                                                                                                               enhance their human capital is to educate
                                                                                                               their women. A drama for India, with an
              capacity, but we are heading toward a         and implementation model. But we                   audience of about 125 million, illustrates
              population of 9 to 10 billion by mid-         lacked the expertise and resources to              some of the psychosocial principles
              century. We are destroying ecological         disseminate it widely. We needed a social          behind our attempts to do this. A mother
              systems that have evolved over aeons, and     diffusion model, of how to promote                 challenges restrictive cultural norms for
              that keep our planet cool and habitable.      adoption of psychosocial programmes                her daughter Taru, and promotes her
                  Burgeoning population growth also         in diverse cultural milieus. Enter Bill            education. Taru raised the academic
              fuels civil strife. Around 80 per cent of     Ryerson and David Poindexter at the                aspirations and pursuits of teenage
              the violent conflicts are in countries with   Population Media Center, who work                  listeners, who had little access to
              large youth populations that are              worldwide using entertainment-education            education. The episodes include
              uneducated, unemployed, living in             for social                                                                   positive models
              poverty and under autocratic, corrupt         change. They                                                                 (exhibiting
              rulers. Such youth are easily recruited for   recognised the                                    “Failure to                beneficial
              violent activities.                           effectiveness of                                  address the                lifestyles),
                  How are we responding to the crisis?      this approach,                                                               negative models
              With token gestures. We are like the guy      and became our                                                               (exhibiting
              who jumps off a tall building, and as he      worldwide                                         determinants of            detrimental ones),
              passes the 30th floor he thinks, ‘So far,     dissemination                                     human behaviour            and transitional
              so good!’                                     system. Many                                      is often the               models (changing
                  Diverse social forces stifle              applications of                                   weakest link in            from detrimental
              acknowledgement of this problem.              this creative                                     social policy              to beneficial styles
              Religious doctrines, contentious              format – in                                       initiatives”               of behaviour).
              immigration issues, draconian population      Africa, Asia and                                                             This contrast
              control measures that violate human           Latin America –                                                              modelling
              rights, powerful lobbyists… all have          have promoted          I Albert Bandura is Professor of Psychology           highlights the
              rendered population stabilisation a taboo     personal and             at Stanford University                              personal and
              subject. Population growth has been           society-wide                             social effects of
              lobotomised from the formula for              changes that are                                                             different lifestyles.
              ecological destruction. But our battered      bettering people’s lives.                          Viewers are enabled, and inspired, by
              planet is in deep trouble unless we break         The serial dramas we have produced             seeing others change their lives for the
              the stranglehold. Billions more consumers     with Population Media Center encourage             better.
              will overwhelm any benefits from green,       evidence-based, positive behaviour                      Of course, efforts at social change
              clean technologies. We have only 40–50        change among massive TV and radio                  challenge power relations and entrenched
              years to clean up our act, to prevent the     audiences. These dramatic productions              societal practices. Success does not come
              irreversible collapse of entire ecological    are not just fanciful stories. The plotlines       easily. Social change requires development
              systems.                                      portray people’s everyday lives, and the           of resilience to adversity. There are several
                  We need to fight not only time, but       impediments they face. They help people            ways in which modelling is used to build
              social practices that disengage moral         to see a better life, and provide the              resilience. The plotlines model
              sanctions from environmentally                strategies and incentives that enable              prototypical problems and effective ways
              destructive activities. How can we do         people to take the steps to realise their          of overcoming them. They also model
              this, at a truly global level? First, we need hopes. Hundreds of episodes, over several          how to manage setbacks and recover from
              a theoretical model: one that specifies the   years, allow viewers to form emotional             failed attempts. They show people how to
              determinants of psychosocial change,          bonds to the models, who evolve in their           enlist social support for personal change,
              and the mechanisms through which they         thinking and behaviour at a believable             and epilogues and other guides provide
              work. This knowledge provides the             pace. Multiple, intersecting plotlines can         the essential environmental support,
              guiding principles. Next, we need a           address different aspects of people’s lives,       linking to self-help groups and other
              translational model. This converts            at both the individual and social level.           community resources. Seeing similar
              theoretical principles into an innovative         Take the example of a serial we used           others succeed through perseverance
              operational practice.                         in the Sudan. Here, the plotlines included         strengthens staying power.

        504                                                                                                                       vol 22 no 6     june 2009

    We also use vicarious
motivators. Unless people see the
modelled lifestyles as improving
their welfare, they have little
                                              Cultural sensitivity
incentive to adopt them. The                  Our TV and radio serials are not foisted on nations by outsiders. They are created by invitation, from
benefits of the favourable practices          nations seeking help. The Population Media Center works in partnership with the media personnel
and the costs of the detrimental              in the host countries, to create a serial drama tailored to their culture.
ones are vividly portrayed.                       Extensive cultural and value analyses are conducted before programmes are developed and
    To change deeply held beliefs             implemented. This formative phase identifies problems of major concern. These interviews provide
and social practices also requires            the culturally relevant information for developing realistic characters and engrossing, functional
strong emotional bonding. We have             plot lines. This ‘value grid’ is vital, because if you

                                                                                                                                                         POPULATION MEDIA CENTER
found plenty of evidence of that. In          present in abstract, you are fuelling controversy.
India, 400,000 viewers sent letters           People will inevitably dump emotional baggage
supporting, advising, or criticising          into the abstraction.
the various models in the drama.                  I am occasionally asked ‘Who has the
One wrote:                                    authority to say what should be modelled as
   There are moments when I feel              “good”?’ But the dramatisations are grounded in
   that Taru is directly talking to           the internationally endorsed values, codified in
   me. Usually at night. She is               United Nations covenants and resolutions. The
   telling me, ‘Usha, you can                 values embody respect for human dignity; equity
   follow your dreams.’ I feel she            of opportunities; and support of human
   is like my elder sister… and               aspirations. These countries have signed up
   giving me encouragement.                   to these, but don’t follow the practices. Does
                                              laissez-faire morality have no limits? Is it alright
Our model of social change doesn’t            for despotic regimes to prohibit education for
just operate on this direct pathway,          women, and spray girls with acid on the way to
promoting changes by informing,               school? What is the moral dilemma in creating
enabling, motivating and guiding              a culturally sensitive model for improving
viewers to improve their lives. In            people’s lives?
addition, the socially mediated                   Also, we cannot afford to be casual or
pathway links people to social                cavalier about the demographics involved here.
networks and community settings.              Take the figures from Tanzania [see main
These places provide continued                article]. They need help.
personalised guidance, natural
incentives and social support for
personal change.
    Failure to address the psychosocial         they have the ability to succeed.                      The programme raised people’s belief
determinants of human behaviour is often        We modelled how to manage setbacks.               in their efficacy to control their family
the weakest link in social policy                    The day after one epilogue, by an            size. Before, many believed that their
initiatives. Simply providing ready access      admired movie star, 25,000 people                 deity ordained the number of children
to resources does not mean that people          showed up to enrol in the self-study              they will have, or their husbands decreed
will take advantage of them. One of our         programme. Viewers were more informed             it. The broadcast area had a substantial
dramas promoted a national literacy             than non-viewers about the literacy               increase in the number of new families
programme in Mexico. The government             programme, and had more positive                  adopting contraceptive methods,
had launched a national self-study              attitudes about helping each other to             compared with the control region.
programme. People who were skilled at           learn. Enrolment was 90,000 in the year           Adoption of contraceptive methods also
reading were urged to organise small self-      before the televised series, and about one        increased when the programme was later
study groups to teach others how to read.       million during the year of the series.            broadcast in the control region.
It was a good idea, but there were few          In the year following the series, another              There was also a graded exposure
takers. Our survey identified three             400,000 people enrolled, suggesting a             effect: the greater the exposure to the
impediments to participation: a critical        second-order influence: as people develop         dramatic series, the more the marital
period barrier (believing that reading is       competencies that improve their lives,            partners discussed the need to control
learnable only when one is young); a low        they serve as models, inspirations and            family size, and the higher the adoption
self-efficacy barrier (believing that they      even tutors for others.                           of family planning methods. A similar
lacked the ability to master such a complex          Tanzania provided a unique                   programme aired in Mexico, and
skill); and a self-unworthiness barrier         opportunity for an experimental                   contraceptive sales increased by 23 per
(feeling that an educated person wouldn’t       comparison of the effectiveness of                cent in that year (compared with between
be interested in devoting time to them).        dramas. In Tanzania the fertility rate            4 and 7 per cent in the two previous
    In our drama, a popular star played         is 5.6 children per woman. The current            years).
the role of the literate person. She            population of 36 million is projected to               Another major issue in Tanzania is
persuades characters representing               soar to 60 million in 25 years, and 88            the spread of the AIDS virus. We devote
different segments of the population to         million in 50 years. No economic                  an enormous amount of effort and money
join the self-study group (diversity builds     development can cope with this. Our               to treating the ravages of AIDS, but
perceived similarity). They voice their         radio drama was broadcast in one large            pitifully few resources to preventing the
self-doubts, and the instructor corrects        region of the country, with the remainder         disease. In Tanzania AIDS is transmitted
their misbeliefs and persuades them that        serving as a control.                             heterosexually, by long-distance truckers,

read discuss contribute at                                                                                                  505
                                                                                                       POPULATION MEDIA CENTER

      in truck stop hubs, with hundreds                                                                       summit in Hollywood for writers
      of prostitutes. About 60 per cent of                                                                    and producers in the entertainment
      them are infected, along with a third                                                                   industry. We explain how social
      of the truck drivers. Our programme                                                                     cognitive theory uses the power of
      quickly debunked false beliefs: that                                                                    enabling storytelling for human
      mosquitoes transmit the virus, that                                                                     betterment. We also present awards
      sex with young girls is safe, and that                                                                  for dramas that include plotlines
      having sexual intercourse with a                                                                        which help viewers to manage difficult
      virgin cures AIDS. Again, contrast                                                                      problems. Recent awardees include
      modelling was used. There was a                                                                         Boston Legal, for dramatising a lawsuit
      large increase in condom use in the                                                                     against the government for neglecting
      broadcast area after the programme,                                                                     medical care of veterans injured in the
      and viewers also reported reductions                                                                    Iraq war; the leading Hispanic
      in the number of sexual partners and                                                                    network, TV Mundo, for dramatising
      the sharing of razors and needles. In                                                                   the causes and prevention of diabetes;
      Ethiopia, our serial drama was                                                                          and Sesame Street, for having Waldo
      distributed as an audio cassette to                                                                     model physical activity, and healthy
      truckers and sex-workers, who lined                                                                     eating. We also give awards to political
      up eagerly each week for the new                                                                        cartoonists who have managed to distil
      episode.                                                                                                complex issues into memorable images
          A storyline in the Kenyan drama                                                                     that can have a powerful impact on
      illustrates how we tailor to particular                                                                 public opinion.
      cultural values. It revolved around                                                                      Finally, we have addressed the
      the inheritance of land – in Kenya,               became adored nationally. Her death in            environmental costs of unbridled
      only sons can inherit property – and the          childbirth produced an outpouring of              consumption. Most people don’t have the
      impoverishing effect of large families.           170,000 letters, concerning the tragedy           foggiest idea of how their consumption
      Following the drama, contraceptive use            of forced child marriages. The programme          practices affect the environment. If they
      increased by 58 per cent, as did                  sparked serious public discussions about          are to adopt environmentally sustainable
      preference for smaller families. The more         the broadcast themes. But it went beyond          practices, they need to understand the
      people watched the programme, the more            talk, to collective community action. One         ecological costs of their consumption
      they talked to their spouse about family          village sent a letter to the broadcast            practices. They need to be enabled, and
      planning and the higher the rate of               centre, signed by its inhabitants, stating        motivated, to turn enlightened concern
      adoption of contraceptive methods.                that they will work to eradicate the              into constructive behaviour. With this in
          Could such large effects really be            practice of dowry and child marriages,            mind, a creative team including
      down to our drama? Charles Westoff,               and support education of daughters.               Alexandra Paul and Michael Tobias
      a demographer at Princeton, conducted             School enrolment of girls rose from 10            produced a video, ‘The Cost of Cool’, for
      the assessment. He applied multiple               per cent to 38 per cent.                          distribution to schools. It focuses on the
      controls for ethnicity, religion, education,           We are using a variety of other means,       buying habits of teenagers, tracking the
      rural-urban residence, life-cycle status          for bettering people’s lives and promoting        ecological costs of the manufacture,
      and number of wives. The serial drama             environmentally sustainable lifestyles.           distribution, sale and disposal of everyday
      remained as a major contributor to                The popular, prime-time telenovelas on            items. It has sobering impact on
      Kenya’s declining birthrate, and reduction        TV Globo, in Rio de Janeiro, dubbed into          teenagers. As one of them put it, ‘I’ll
      in the rate of population growth.                 different languages, reach about 900              never look at a T-shirt, in the same way’.
          And so the impacts mount up. In               million people worldwide. Our Media                    Global problems instil a sense of
      India, we addressed equal educational             Center helps in creating social themes,           paralysis in people. They feel that there
      opportunities and career options for              that can be easily incorporated into the          is little they can do to reduce such
      women; gender bias in child rearing; the          telenovelas.                                      problems. The mantra ‘Think globally, act
      detrimental effect of the dowry system;                To reach teenagers, the Media Center         locally’ is an effort to localise the global.
      community development; and much                   created radio mini-dramas written,                Our global applications increase the scale
      more. The young woman in our drama                produced, and hosted by youth. They               and scope of social cognitive theory in
                                                                   enjoy high popularity. Each            promoting personal and social changes.
                                                                   programme begins with a street         They illustrate how a collective effort,
                                                                   poll of adolescents for the            combining the expertise of different
  Resources                                                        relevant topic. It is then
                                                                   explored in a brief mini-drama
                                                                                                          players, can have a worldwide impact
                                                                                                          on seemingly insurmountable problems.
  This is an edited version of Professor Albert Bandura’s          that helps teenagers to make                As a society, we enjoy the benefits left
  talk for the British Psychological Society’s London and          informed choices for healthier,        by those before us who collectively
  Home Counties Branch at Friends House, London, on                and safer lives. The episodes,         worked for social changes that improved
  22 April 2009. A DVD of the event, plus an extended              on issues such as drug abuse,          our lives. Our own collective efficacy will
  interview with Professor Bandura, is available:                  teenage sexuality and                  determine whether we pass on a habitable
  enquiries to                           pregnancy, are followed by             planet to our grandchildren and future
      For Professor Bandura’s publications and much                listener call-ins. Invited guests      generations.
  more information, see:                                           provide further guidance, and               So, as you bring our knowledge, and                             referrals on where to go for           your personal influence to bear, on saving                                      information and help.                  our battered planet: May the efficacy force
                                                                       Each year, we also hold a          be with you!

506                                                                                                                              vol 22 no 6   june 2009

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