This month the topic is not about walking down a runway, but social modeling.  Social learning theory proposes that new behaviors can be acquired by observing and imitating others.  Both humans and animals learn by imitation.  One example is a parrot learning to speak a human language.  Think of a role model you had or have now.  The more time I spend on the planet I realize how important good role models are for us through our entire lives.  I made a vision board a few years ago.  Amongst the pictures of the vacation spots I wanted to frequent and the healthy lifestyle I wanted to live, I had a picture of Tina Turner.  She is my role model of a woman who had many obstacles to overcome and she successfully reinvented herself.  (I also saw her at First Avenue and she had more energy on stage than anyone I have ever seen.)

Albert Bandura conducted a fascinating but controversial experiment In 1961.  A teacher hit, threw, and punched a 5 foot inflatable doll, while a child watched. When the teacher was punished for her bad behavior, the children decreased their tendency to act as she had. When the teacher was praised or ignored, the children imitated what she did, and even what she said. They punched, kicked, and yelled at the doll.  So much of what we absorb as children is what we see around us.  Bandura also described specific steps in the process of modeling if learning is to be successful they are attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. First, you you have to pay attention to the model. Next retention, you must remember what you observed. You also must be able to perform the behavior that you observed and reproduce it.  Finally you must also be motivated by the model.

Three of the people closest to me, my mother, grandfather and father died of lifestyle preventable illness by the time I was 27.  Before Tina Turner, my grandmother was my role model.  She never drove a car she said she was too nervous to drive.  The benefit to her was she walked everywhere.  She also worked out to a TV exercise show five days a week.  She had a strong social network and loved to entertain.  She took community education classes to learn new things through her entire life.  She would never tell anyone her age as she said they treated her differently.  In fact her doctor said her brain scan at 89 looked like that of a 60 year old.  If someone called during her favorite TV show she never said I will call you back, she put people above all else.

If you are facing a difficult situation, want to make a change in your life or just need some inspiration consider finding a role model.  Call on someone you know from now or your past.  However, it does not have to be someone you know.  Watch a movie or read a book about someone who is facing what you face, doing what you want to do.  I recently heard many stories of the Olympic athletes inspired by their role models.

To use a role model we also need to believe we can change.  “Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s ability to influence events that effect one’s life and control over the way these events are experienced.” (Bandura, 1994).  For more on this topic of self-efficacy click here