Entertainment education is defined as the “process of purposely designing and implementing a media message to both entertain and educate, in order to increase audience members’ knowledge about an educational issue, create favorable attitudes, shift social norms, and change over behavior” (Singhal & Rogers 2004, 5). Parables, fables, and morality plays have been used for centuries not only to entertain but also to transmit knowledge of history, culture, values, and life lessons. Modern entertainment education includes designing a campaign strategy that incorporates radio and television dramas, talk programs, comedies, music, animation, participatory theatre, interactive websites, and video games, largely to promote health and social issues (Singhal et al. 2004).
Most scholarly research has focused on the uses of dramatic serials. Dramas offer many advantages, including capturing the attention of specific audiences, altering viewers’ emotions, developing characters, viewing characters’ conversations with others, and decision-making, allowing for multiple examples of social modeling, focusing on issues from multiple perspectives, focusing on issues repeatedly over time, and showing characters overcoming resistance and adversity (Sabido 2004). They also provide a perfect vehicle in which to put communication theory into practice and test theories in both experimental and non-experimental contexts (Green et al. 2002; Slater & Rouner 2002).
Much of the work on entertainment education stems from Miguel Sabido’s methodology, which was utilized in Latin American telenovelas to promote adult literacy and family planning before being adopted globally. It is based on four key elements. Utilizing Albert Bandura’s social learning theory, the methodology relies on multiple examples of similarity modeling. Central characters are portrayed “suffering” and unhappy. Viewers watch as the characters discuss their plight with others, decide to take action, overcome difficulties, and eventually succeed in achieving intended goals. “Satellite characters” are minor characters who observe key characters successfully change their lives, and they too decide to take action. Modeling, reinforcements, and self-efficacy are pivotal. The entertainment education program needs to prompt characters to utilize an existing infrastructure, such as family planning or adult literacy offices.
The methodology also relies on Jungian “archetypes,” and characters in dramas represent archetypal characters well recognized in a particular culture. The methodology also relies on key aspects of drama theory, including suspense, cliffhangers, interpersonal conflict, and a final conflict between protagonist and antagonist. Viewers watch as multiple characters progress through “stages of change” toward fully adopting and maintaining a new behavior. Finally, characters in the particular program have to communicate with an appropriate “tone,” or physical tension, usually animalistic (terrifying, aggressive), intellectual, or emotional (love, dignified; Sabido 2002).
A number of theories are relevant to the effective use of entertainment education, including parasocial interactions and relationships, empathy theory, identification, transportation theory, suspense, social cognitive theory, and the stages of change model.
- Green, M. C., Strange, J. J., & Brock, T. C. (2002). Narrative impact: Social and cognitive foundations. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Sabido, M. (2002). The tone, theoretical occurrences, and potential adventures, and entertainment with social benefit. Mexico City: National Autonomous University of Mexico Press.
- Sabido, M. (2004). The origins of entertainment-education. In A. Singhal, M. J. Cody, E. M. Rogers, & M. Sabido (eds.), Entertainment-education and social change: History, research and practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 61–74.
- Singhal, A., & Rogers, E. M. (2004). The status of entertainment-education world wide. In A. Singhal, M. J. Cody, E. M. Rogers, & M. Sabido (eds.) Entertainment-education and social change: History, research and practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 3 –20.
- Singhal, A., Cody, M. J., Rogers, E. M., & Sabido, M. (eds.) (2004). Entertainment-education and social change: History, research and practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Slater, M. D., & Rouner, D. (2002). Entertainment-education and elaboration likelihood: Understanding the processing of narrative persuasion. Communication Theory, 12, 173 –191.
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