Role models, as explained on “dictionary.com” is “a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people,” and its synonyms range from “example, exemplar,” to “hero/heroine, good example, idols etc”. As mentioned in an article by Michael T. Kaufman included in the 24th of February, 2003 issue in The New York Times, the term “Role Model” was created by a sociologist named Robert K. Merton.
Now that we have defined the term “role model”, what does being a role model mean in a psychological perspective . The psychologist Albert Bandura was the first to use a similar term to “role model” in a theory of social learning theories and this term is “modeling”, but in order to explain how this term works we should first explain briefly Bandura’s theory of learning. Bandura’s social learning theory contains two main ideas: firstly, there is mediating process that occurs when a subject is shown a stimuli and their subsequent response; and secondly, that behavior is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning.
That is to say that Bandura views humans as active information processors and are able to think about the relationship between their behavior and consequences. He proposed four mediational processes, and they are: (1) attention, because in order to imitate behavior we must observe it with intent and focus; (2) retention, as we must be able to memorize the behavior that we have just observed and paid attention to; (3) reproduction, now this involves the ability to perform the behavior, and this stage will be limited by our individual levels of physical ability, which means that even if we retain a memory of a behavior, if we don’t have the ability to perform it we will not be able to imitate it; and lastly (4) motivation, which involves responses from others in the environment following the performance of your newly learnt behavior, and the feedback that we obtained from others (either in the form of a punishment or a reward) dictate our future likeliness to repeat this behavior.
Now, my ideas or point of view about “role model” will be based on this theory.
First of all , role models for me is basically the sum of multiple characters, and those characters are like tools that we use in our daily/social life, in our social interaction. For example “how to say hi” is a tool or character that can be changed from a person to another , or “how to address someone that you don’t know” this tool can be either by saying “hey” or “bro” or “dude” or even “sir”.
Secondly, role models for me is a temporary thing; it’s changing from one person to another, yet it also changes in the same person from a period of time to another period and from a situation to another one or from a topic to another. For example when we were kids we were fascinated by superheroes and wanted to act like them and fight evil as they did, and as we became teenagers we began to imitate players in sport. Let’s use the life of a person named T as an example: in the year 2017 he wanted to have the same body as Christiano Ronaldo, and he wanted to have good grades in Maths as that model student in class, and he wanted to have a Youtube channel with 5 million subscribers as Lele. So T has at least three role models and from each one he’s aiming to adapt a tool or character trait to add into his system with other characters he already has.
Thirdly, when we learn or imitate that character or tool that we are aiming to it we will not be seeing the person we got this tool from as a role model anymore because we learn the thing that made him or her a role model for us so you can say that we become our own previous role model after adapting such a character or tool.
Lastly, when we see that finally we imitated/learned all the characters and tools that we wanted, we achieve the time or level when we say that “I don’t have a role model”, but as soon as we ended up in a situation in which we don’t have the right tool or the right character to use in it, we again start the search for a role model who got that character and again we will try to imitate it until we add it to our system of tools.
In conclusion, role models are changeable things and if you are in a period where you don’t have a role model then congratulations and be aware, and if you are in the situation in which you have multiple role models then good luck with that sir.
*Those are just ideas of mine, they don’t have any scientific prove.
1-Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Prentice-Hall, Inc.
2-Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.