Month: August 2013

The Sabido Method and Education Entertainment

The Sabido Method and Education Entertainment

or How To Manipulate Large Populations Using Media

Humans learn values and morals from their peer group. Although these are taught through religion and schooling as well, few people put abstract theory into action and mold their behavior according to prescribed concepts of which behaviors are proper. Much more influential is the behavior and actions of those around them. In the past this meant people would learn from family and friends the values, morals and beliefs which informed their opinions and shaped their behavior. With the advent of television and the subsequent degradation of community and family peer groups have shifted from  intimately known live individuals to actors portraying characters. This shift has had the effect of transferring values from scripted characters to the viewer in the same way that values were transferred from family and friends in the past. And that is precisely what the Sabido method is intended to do.

In the 1970’s Miguel Sabido, then vice president of Research at Televisa in Mexico, developed a method based on “character development and plot lines that provide the audience with a range of characters that they can engage with — some good, some not so good — and follow as they evolve and change.” [1] The intention of this method is to introduce characters in a serial drama that the viewer can identify with or relate to. Some of these characters will have positive traits, some negative. Over the course of the series situations and ideas are introduced which pose challenges to the characters and  cause them to change their behavior, which the viewer will relate to and mimic. The stated goal of the Sabido Method is to portray “pro-social” behavioral changes, pro-social being defined by people other than the target audience. In plain language it is intended to manipulate the target audience into changing a behavior deemed undesirable. The Sabido Method has been used most notably for population control and HIV prevention in the “third world”. [1,2,3,4].

A more modern terminology for the Sabido Method is “education-entertainment”.[5] Although the Wikipedia entry gives the perception that this is an innocuous, above board technique the application of it is not so innocous. Regardless of the intention behind its use, whether well or ill, the methodology is inherently deceptive and manipulative. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health offers a course titled Education Entertainment for Behavior change which “examines and teaches ways in which education can be subtly but effectively worked into both new and time-honored genres of entertainment to foster positive behavior change and life improvement in both developing countries and local environments. The course develops students’ ability to understand the ingredients of successful entertainment (emotions, empathy, efficacy and empowerment) and how these ingredients can be employed to enhance social and personal health and life skills.” [6]

Like all social engineers the Sabidists seem to believe they know best and that the target audience cannot be trusted with straight forward information and so must be manipulated. For instance, instead of laying out the pros and cons of using a bank the World Bank has developed a project using the Sabido method to impart what they consider to be sound financial knowledge, such as using a bank instead of keeping cash at home.[7]

This method is based on the work of psychologist Albert Bandura and his Social Learning Theory, which is a successor of behaviorism. [8]. Social Learning Theory states “People, especially children, learn from the environment and seek acceptance from society by learning through influential models. Social learning theory is a perspective that states that social behavior (any type of behavior that we display socially) is learned primarily by observing and imitating the actions of others. The social behavior is also influenced by being rewarded and/or punished for these actions.”[9].

The publicly stated goals of the Sabido Method are “pro-social” changes such as population reduction, HIV prevention, financial responsibility, etc. However, it seems obvious that this method is also being used for other messages such as environmentalism as in the notorious “behavior placement” concept. [10,11]. A cursory search of the internet for “Sabido Method” or “education entertainment” brings up a plethora of information not included here which suggests that almost all serial dramas on television are used for this type of purpose, ie. intending to influence behavior and beliefs through deceptive manipulation.

[1] Sabido Methodology – Background.
[2] Sex, Soap & Social Change – The Sabido Methodology.
[3] Sabido Methodology.
[4] The theory heard ’round the world.
[5] Educational Entertainment.
[6] Entertainment Education for Behavior Change.
[7] The World Bank Entertainment Education Project, June 2011.
[8] Albert Bandura.
[9] Social Learning Theory.
[10] What Your TV Is Telling You To Do.
[11] NBC’s ‘Behavior Placement’: NBC Pushes Eco-Friendly Messages Through Shows.

Further Reading/Viewing

Dr. Miguel Sabido – The Telenovela – A Motor For Social Change.

CDC – Entertainment Education.

JHSPH Entertainment Education for Behavior Change Courseware.

CDC – Entertainment Education in Hollywood.

CDC – Delivering Public Health Messages Through Popular Entertainment.  CDC Speaks Directly To Audiences Through Television.

Hollywood, Health and Society.

Norman Lear Center.


On the Manipulation of Subjective Reality

Preface: I realize that the concepts of objective and subjective reality have been discussed to death, but here I am presenting these concepts in a different light. I am concerned with how subjective reality can be, and is, manipulated by those that control the dissemination of information for their own benefit, and for the guidance of culture, or cultures, towards a definite end. When the word reality is used in this essay it is not meant to refer to some abstract conception of the universe or different dimensions, or whether or not what one sees through ones eyes actually exists or is simply their minds interpretation of light particles. Here reality means the truth and totality of world events, history, motives, etc. Objective reality means all data, subjective reality means the data contained in ones mind and ones interpretation of said data. 

On the Manipulation of Subjective Reality

     It’s ones perception of the world that shapes ones reality, and the absence of certain facts from ones consciousness can only result in an incomplete perception of reality. There are at least two types of reality, objective and subjective. Objective reality is concrete, a set of facts outside of any one person’s perception, that encompasses all data. Theoretically, objective reality is the absolute truth. Subjective reality is an individuals interpretation, or perception, of a small cross section of the data that constitute objective reality. It is impossible to have a complete knowledge of objective reality. In order to do so one would have to know everything. This means one can only have a subjective view of reality, shaped by the bits and pieces of objective reality that one has gathered.

Culture is “the behavior and beliefs characteristic of a certain group”. Culture can be said to be a common illusion of objective reality, a common set of myths or mythos, or a common subjective reality. It is a force that works to shape a common subjective interpretation of a selection of the data that make up objective reality. Individuals within the group each have a more refined subjective reality, generally held within the boundaries of their culture. This may be why each culture is different from the others. Having developed isolated from other cultures, they have each developed a different interpretation of the data. And having at their disposal different pieces of objective reality, they have had different data to interpret.

The mythos, defined as “the complex of beliefs, values, attitudes, etc., characteristic of a specific group or society”, determines what a group of people within a given culture consider to be normal, which means “conforming to the standard or common type”. Ones subjective reality, usually similar to the mythos of ones culture, then defines normal for this person. The mythos is constantly evolving and is guided by the most widely known data present within the culture.

Those within, outside or above the culture who have the ability to disseminate information en masse have a major influence in determining the current mythos. Therefore, those with the ability to disseminate information en masse can determine what individuals within the culture consider to be normal by regulating which bits of information make their way into our perception. In this way the subjective reality of large groups of people, (culture or mythos), can be manipulated quite easily given modern technology’s amazing capacity for reaching billions of people, and given the fact that a large percentage of the tools for disseminating information en masse are in the hands of a rather small group of people. The Department of Defense and many public relations firms call this technique perception management. [1]

We’ve all been given this common subjective reality (if you are reading this you are most likely a member of the same culture as the author) by our culture and by those who can influence culture. We share a common set of ideas, concepts, language, etc., that allows our society to function. This we generally accept as objective reality. But if ones sources of information are strictly authorized outlets, i.e. those capable of disseminating information en masse, then one can be led to believe that their subjective reality is indeed objective reality. Especially if one does not understand this concept. In fact, in that case the thought may never even occur and most within the culture might believe that it is objective reality, simply because most people agree that it is.

By independent study of pieces of objective reality (replicable scientific experiments for example) or by independent study of a multitude of other people’s subjective reality (investigative reports, books, etc), and ones own observations, one can piece together a picture of what may be a small portion of objective reality. But one is always left with their unique perception of data, subjective reality.

How does one know what’s real and what’s fake or misrepresented? There isn’t a satisfactory answer to that question, ultimately it’s up to each individual to decide. However the popular version of reality that has been created for us by our culture is not objective reality. It’s simply our perception, our interpretation, of the information that has been selectively presented to us. A good deal of data have intentionally been left out, leaving us with a provably false perception of reality.

To date, observation and compilation of gathered data have led some to the understanding that there exists a concerted effort to manipulate exactly which bits and pieces we all get. In this way the regulators of information are free to create whatever pseudo-objective reality they choose, which will most likely benefit its creators. By design it keeps some of us prisoners, physically and mentally.

Since there are, at least, trillions of bits of data and we are given only a small percentage of them, what reason do we have to believe that the mythos is indeed objective reality? So much is left out. The more facts one can gather, the easier it becomes to see that the common illusion is simply a mass, meshed, consensual subjective reality. A real life cave, a la Plato’s Republic.