Negative modeling: what is it and how does it work?

Observing others is a fundamental thing during development because it is how we learn to guide our own behavior.

This idea is what lies in the concept of modeling, explained in more depth by Albert Bandura. People do actions and anyone who observes them introduces them into their behavioral repertoire. Observing others is a fundamental thing during development because it is how we learn to guide our own behavior.

This idea is the one that lies in the concept of modeling, explained in more depth by Albert Bandura. People do actions and whoever observes them introduces them to their behavioral repertoire..

However, not all behaviors are good. Sometimes unwanted actions are imitated, and this is the idea that would be related to the concept of negative modeling, Explained in more detail in this article.

What is negative modeling?

As part of Albert Bandura’s social learning proposal, Negative modeling is the act of imitating the behaviors of others that are not considered appropriate to be a socially capable individual.

These are usually behaviors that involve some sort of harm to others or to oneself, but with enough social pressure to mimic him into thinking that it may involve some sort of benefit.

Theoretical framework on which it is based

The term modeling, in a more general and neutral vision, refers to the process of learning by observation where the behavior of an individual or a set of them serves as a stimulus for thought, Attitudes and behavior of others.

In psychology, the study of imitation was virtually ignored until 1941, when Miller and Dollard attempted to approach it from a behaviorist perspective. Later, in 1963, Albert Bandura proposed a theory of behavioral imitation to attempt to explain personality development through social learning. Over time, the term “imitation” was gradually replaced by “modeling” in academia.

According to Bandura himself, most human behavior is the result of observing it in others and learning it through modeling. Thus, a person, seeing how others behave, gets an idea of ​​the repertoires of behaviors to be performed and uses them as a guide. The influence of the behavior of others on oneself can depend on several factors, such as the status attributed to the referent subject or the degree of kinship.

Generally speaking, the process of imitation begins with the observation of a behavior. Thereafter, the observer feels identified with the interpreter and proceeds to imitate him. If the action involves some sort of short-term benefit or reward, you are more likely to assimilate it into your behavioral repertoire.

Examples of negative modeling

As already indicated, negative modeling is understood as the imitation of behaviors deemed undesirable or inappropriate because they involve a certain prejudice both for those who perform them and for third parties.

The ability to imitate others is very adaptive to the human species, Since it offers us a great diversity of behaviors which we can know in advance that they will have some kind of benefit, because it is logical to think that if others realize it it is because it allowed them to earn quite a bit by doing it.

However, not all that glitters is gold. Often, without realizing it, actions and ways of doing things that are not adaptable in the long term are imitated. Young people, especially children, are more susceptible to learning bad habits, not least because they do not yet have the ability to discern between good and bad. To better understand this, let’s take a look at some detailed examples of negative modeling put into practice..

1. Violent entertainment

The media have a great influence on our actions, our thinking and our skills.

Mass media are constantly bombarded with films and series in which scenes of murders, assaults and thefts occur.

It is also possible to see in more than one film that addictions are implicitly promoted, such as alcohol consumption. and, although it’s more regulated today, the scenes in which someone appears to be smoking aren’t at all surprising.

All of this can have a great influence on the mind of the child or teenager who has witnessed scenes in which this violent content appears, and may believe that imitating their favorite actors makes them “cool”.

In the most extreme cases, enjoying this type of content can lead to fights at school, assault on parents or misconduct, clearly undesirable behavior.

However, it is important to qualify what has just been said at this stage. Not all entertainment should be demonized, whether in the form of movies, series or video games. It is the responsibility of parents to control what their children are exposed to.

2. Domestic violence

Domestic violence is unfortunately a social scourge. Whether it is the husband who assaults his wife or the parents who abuse their children, this type of violence contributes to the person being modeled in a very negative way.

Perhaps as an adult they commit these same assaults on their partner and children, or it could also be that they imitate their abusive mother and become a submissive person unable to break free from their chains.

3. Racism and xenophobia

Although there is currently a very critical view of racism, especially its biological side, there is still a lot of work to be done and discriminatory comments based on race are not uncommon.

A child who is raised in an environment where misconceptions about people of a particular ethnicity or nationality abound is very likely to end up doing the same and being believed.

Not only will the child’s racist comments lead to unwanted behavior, but he will also inherit, behind it, all the discriminatory thinking his parents taught him.

4. Culture of plagiarism

This example in question may seem a bit far-fetched, but it is certainly a type of behavior widely prevalent in our society to plagiarize the work of others, clearly unwanted and harmful behavior to be discovered.

If the child who goes to class learns to copy and paste what is written in his textbook because his teacher has told him, even if it may seem a little harmless, it helps to assimilate the culture of plagiarism and not to generate new ideas.

Surprisingly, today, we are surprised, worth the redundancy, that a politician or a social reference has copied a work during his bachelor’s or master’s studies. In turn, these same celebrities do not receive the proper legal consequences.

All this, promoted by the educational field itself and, more generally, by the media and the judiciary, they encourage people to believe that copying what has cost others so much to create is something legitimate.

Bibliographical references:

  • Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: a social cognitive theory. Prentice-Hall, Inc.
  • Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Bandura, A. Ross, D. and Ross, SA (1961). Transmission of aggression by imitating aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 575-582.

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