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.


Sources of Information and the Creation of “Normal”

The Creation of Normal

“The concept of “mental health” in our society is defined largely by the extent to which an individual behaves in accord with the needs of the system and does so without showing signs of stress.”
– Ted Kaczyinski. Industrial Society and Its Future

Our subjective reality is shaped by the information we gather. If ones store of knowledge consists only of information that has been given to them by others then ones subjective reality has been shaped for them by someone else. It then follows that if ones only sources of information are authorized outlets then the authority giving the information has shaped ones subjective reality.

Where does your information come from?

Normal means conforming to the standard or common type. Whatever is most common is what is considered normal. It then follows that ones stored information determines what one believes is normal. Therefore, if ones information is passively received only from authorized outlets of information then ones conception of normal will be formed by the authority giving the information.

1. There are at least two types of reality.
1.1. Objective reality.
1.1A. Objective reality is concrete, a set of facts outside of any one persons perception, that encompasses all data.
1.1B. Objective reality is absolute truth.
1.2. Subjective reality.
1.2A. Subjective reality is an individuals interpretation, or perception, of this set of facts that exists outside the mind, and is filtered through the mind, senses and cultural           conditioning.
1.2B. Subjective reality is individual perception of the absolute truth.
1.3. It is impossible to have a complete knowledge of objective reality.
1.4. In order to do so one would have to know everything.
1.5. One can only have a subjective view of reality.
1.5A. This is shaped by the bits and pieces of objective reality one has gathered.

2. Culture is the behavior and beliefs characteristic of a certain group.
2.1. This is a common illusion of objective reality or a common set of myths (mythos).
2.2. It is a force that works to shape a common subjective interpretation of objective reality amongst its members.
2.3. This mythos determines what a group of people consider to be normal.
2.4. The mythos is constantly evolving.
2.5. The mythos is created by the most widely known information present within the culture.
2.5A. Those with the ability to disseminate information en masse determine the current mythos.
2.5B. Therefore, those who disseminate information en masse determine what is considered normal.

3. There exist at least two types of sources of information and two types of recipients of information.
3.1. Sources.
3.1A. Active sources of information include media that actively relay information, e.g. television, cinema, radio, etc, as well as schools and other organizations which actively relay information.
3.1B. Passive sources of information include media that passively relay information, e.g. books, magazines, artwork, etc.
3.1C. Both passive and active sources can fall into a sub-category.
3.1C.1. Authorized sources.
3.1C.1A. Authorized sources are sources with the ability to disseminate information en masse and official approval to do so.
3.1C.2. Unauthorized sources.
3.1C.1B. Unauthorized sources do not have the ability to disseminate information en masse, and if they somehow acquire that ability it is not with official approval
3.2. Recipients.
3.2A. Active recipients seek out information and filter information through critical thought processes and fact checking in an attempt to verify the accuracy of the information.
3.2B. Passive recipients are supplied with information and do not use a process to validate the accuracy of the information they receive.

3A. Information enters the mind in two fashions. (1)
3A.1. Actively.
3A.1A. This requires a passive source and active recipient, or an active source and active recipient.
3A.1B. This often involves critical thinking as a way to determine validity of information.
3A.2. Passively.
3A.2A. This requires an active source and a passive recipient or a passive source and passive recipient.
3A.2B. This often does little to determine the validity of the information.
3A.3. Both fashions are susceptible to invalid information.
3A.3A. An active recipient may be better able to determine the validity of the information than a passive recipient.

4. Passive recipients of information within a given culture have had their subjective reality determined for them.
4.1. This has been accepted as objective reality.
4.2. Although objective reality cannot be known, passive recipients of information can be led to believe that the subjective reality culture has created for them is actually
objective reality.
4.2A. This can be accomplished by regulating the information which is given to the passive recipients.
4.2B. The passive recipients do not understand this concept, it is not present among the information given to them.
4.2C. Their subjective reality matches that of most other passive recipients.
4.2D. This becomes normal, regardless of validity, because it is most common.
4.3. Passive recipients receive information almost exclusively from authorized sources.
4.3A. Those in charge of these sources may have a motive unknown to the passive recipient.
4.4. Subjective reality amongst passive recipients can easily be manipulated by those with the ability to disseminate and regulate information en masse.

5. Active recipients of information may be able to interpret a subjective reality of their own which may be closer to objective reality than the common subjective reality of passive recipients. 5.1. This can be accomplished in multiple fashions.
5.1A. Independent study of bits of objective reality (e.g. replicable scientific experiments).
5.1B. Independent study of a multitude of others’ subjective realities (e.g. investigative reports, book, etc.)
5.1C. Ones own observations.
5.1D. All of the above used in conjunction with critical thinking.
5.2. Active recipients often gather information from a variety of sources, sometimes excluding authorized sources.
5.3. Subjective reality amongst active recipients is much harder to manipulate.

Are you active or passive recipient of information?

(1) John Dewey.  How We Think. Chapter 1.