deceptive

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. http://www.populationmedia.org/what/sabido-method/
[2] Sex, Soap & Social Change – The Sabido Methodology. http://www.populationmedia.org/2007/08/09/sex-soap-social-change-the-sabido-methodology/
[3] Sabido Methodology. http://www.comminit.com/content/sabido-methodology
[4] The theory heard ’round the world. http://www.apa.org/monitor/oct02/theory.aspx
[5] Educational Entertainment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entertainment-Education
[6] Entertainment Education for Behavior Change. http://ocw.jhsph.edu/index.cfm/go/viewCourse/course/EntertainmentEducation/coursePage/index/
[7] The World Bank Entertainment Education Project, June 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M6y06gjdQ8
[8] Albert Bandura. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Bandura
[9] Social Learning Theory. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_learning_theory
[10] What Your TV Is Telling You To Do. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304364904575166581279549318.html
[11] NBC’s ‘Behavior Placement’: NBC Pushes Eco-Friendly Messages Through Shows. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/07/nbcs-behavior-placement-n_n_528701.html

Further Reading/Viewing

Dr. Miguel Sabido – The Telenovela – A Motor For Social Change. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZ_0w2LzNCc

CDC – Entertainment Education. http://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/2000survey.html

JHSPH Entertainment Education for Behavior Change Courseware.  http://ocw.jhsph.edu/courses/entertainmenteducation/lectureNotes.cfm

CDC – Entertainment Education in Hollywood. http://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/index.html

CDC – Delivering Public Health Messages Through Popular Entertainment.  CDC Speaks Directly To Audiences Through Television. http://www.cdc.gov/news/2007/07/pubhealth_tv.html

Hollywood, Health and Society. http://hollywoodhealthandsociety.org/

Norman Lear Center. http://blog.learcenter.org/