Friday, December 3, 2010

Edutainment: Using media as a social tool for change

In this entertainment world, it seems obvious that entertainment media would be used to educate. However this is a relatively new phenomenon that stemmed from several communication theories.

Albert Bandura's social learning theory came from studying violence in children. This was the first theory to measure "self efficacy", or the extent that an individual feels they have the power to perform a specific behavior. This study on violence was groundbreaking because it was the first time people considered how media can affect behavior, and often for the worse. Later, social learning theory became social cognitive theory which suggests that attitudes and norms can affect behavioral intentions. Social cognitive theory is one of the main theories considered when using entertainment media to educate, as in the field of health communication.

The study of Jasoos Vijay was intended to educate Indians on HIV/AIDS. India has 2.4 million people living with AIDS, and many social norms dictate that HIV/AIDS should not be mentioned in public or spoken about at all.

Jasoos Vijay, a drama series about a detective with HIV, proved effective. This was for a number of reasons, one being that the entertainment aspect attracted viewers and then provided them with simple information. An engaging storyline allowed the viewers to get emotionally involved with the characters who they then began to identify with. Many of the respondents to the study's focus groups said they identified with either the main character or the character of his wife. This show allowed couples to feel like they could openly talk about prevention and protection from HIV/AIDS, which displays a clear change in behavior.

The study shows that not only was behavior affected by watching Jasoos Vijay, attitudes were as well. The majority of the participants in the study said that they believed people affected with HIV/AIDS should be treated as a normal person. This could be groundbreaking in changing the social stigma of HIV/AIDS in India.

The study was a case where "edutainment" was proven effective. However, a knowledge of the culture and cultural norms are essential for making a health communication campaign effective. These communication theories need to make sure to consider the social aspect of a culture and individual, as this heavily weighs a person's perceptions, attitudes and behaviors, especially in more high context cultures.


  1. I think it is a good point that you mentioned Albert Bandura's theory here. According to him, observation is the basis of learning, that is to say people learn to behave in a certain way based on what we see every day.

    Talking about EE, it is making influence on every aspect of our life consciously or subconsciously. What i am concerned is how EE influence on the kids' perception. Almost every TV program, commercial and even toy is delivering a certain concept and idea. Kids are learning everything about the world by observing the environment. How EE shaping their behavior and how to select positive influence for them matters a lot.

  2. I remember how the idea of media having a negative affect on its consumers was the hot topic after the shooting at Columbine. Parents were pointing the finger at 'The Matrix' claiming that it portrayed violence that children wanted to emulate. In connection with social cognitive theory, I wonder if there is a way to do a comparative study on how a positive/educational form of media affects a child, versus the way a violent form of media affects the child. When exposed to both, which concepts will the child grab onto most, and what personal aspects of the child's life reflect why one may have been more affective than the other? At the end of the day, the media reflects norms. So what a child sees, the child will believe is normal. This definitely supports the idea that edutainment and positive media can be used as learning tools for instilling particular attitudes.

  3. This is a very interesting topic. I spent the past 6 years living and studying in Japan. The point made about India trying to keep the knowledge of the number of people with HIV/Aids out of the media is very interesting because this is the same thing I saw in Japan. From what I've seen, this topic is almost never mentioned in the media (or just in general), and when it is, it is usually blamed as a disease from foreigners, not something that Japan has anything to do with. I find this attitude very wrong because the media could actually be educating Japanese citizens and helping to prevent it in the future.

  4. There are lots of interesting aspects brought up here of the way humans interact with their societies. You make a very needed distinction between intent, belief, behavior and norms. I wanted to point out that even if couples said the felt like they COULD openly talk about HIV/AIDS doesn’t mean their behaviors had necessarily changed. At the end of the day, you want to change behaviors, especially as health communication experts. But people will do very funny things when put in social contexts. They might say in a focus group something they might not actually do, or they might act according to their social norms even if it is something they don’t necessarily believe. It is still not clear in my head which I would prefer, because sometime I feel that the relationship between beliefs, behaviors, and norms is kind of like the relationship between the chicken and the egg.