We’re all influenced by our favorite shows in some way or another, or we wouldn’t allow them to be a part of our lives. Not surprisingly, characters we see on TV can have a real effect on our behavior that psychology backs up. Without every realizing it, we mimic people on television. It’s called the Social Learning Theory.

Albert Bandura, psychologist and originator of this theory states, “Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.”

The Social Learning Theory states that learning is a cognitive process through observation and/or direct interaction. The learning process includes watching modeled events and especially behavior that we deem admirable. While this theory also covers mimicry of physical people in our lives, the best examples of this mimicry comes from the television we watch, especially commercials.

Two of the principles of the theory include:

  1. Learning by observation starts with organizing and rehearsing the molded behavior then enacting it publically. Behavior that is symbolic is easier to remember then just behavior that is being observed.
  2. People will apply behavior if it results in a functional outcome that they value.

Take a look at number one. When we see an exciting event, or heroic actions on television, we replay the same situation in our heads and imagine ourselves preforming the same behavior. Special scenes in TV (specifically anime for me) become symbolic and applicable for certain situations we face in real life. Seeing a character handle a situation in an admirable way inspires us to take similar actions on our own lives. We remember scenes more easily if they’re meaningful to us, therefor we’re more likely to be influenced by television we have some sort of emotional attachment to.

If a character’s performance results in a specific outcome that the viewer finds valuable, that behavior is more likely to be reproduced by the viewer. Why would you preform the same actions if they resulted in a character’s failure? Just like the characters we watch, we learn from their mistakes. Mimicry like this also tends to only to apply to people who find characters realistic to themselves.

– Full Circle

That was just a fancy way to say that we imitate characters we admire because we tend to like characters we find similar to ourselves. As a writer, I find that all my character have at least some aspect of myself in them without my intending to. My stories are honestly just a representation of my life. The events I write about are symbolic to situations, places, and people that are very dear to me. I’m more likely to use emotional memories as inspiration as writing stirs up emotion within me thus jogging such memories. Just as Bandura claims “…most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling.” I model my character’s behavior on my own experiences. This is just to prove that the cycle of creating stories and viewing them is just a constant full circle.

– Personal Application

Naruto is a character who has had much of a say in my life. I find Naruto’s behavior attractive because he reminds me of myself in so many ways.

I have a very similar personality to Naruto, so he’s a character that right away has the potential to influence me. And, oh how he has. I am already a very outright, annoying and loud person. I’m extraordinarily extroverted when riled up about things I’m passionate about, but I use that energy to express and define my blunt moral code liie how Naruto expressed his ninja way.

Now, there is a difference between just havening similarities to a character and actually mimicking them. Here are two ways I think Naruto has crept into my life.

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I’ve noticed that I unconsciously mimic Naruto when it comes to me having to make social decision like when there is drama in class. I get angry when something isn’t right because my world is so black and white. I specifically tend to match Naruto’s body language when I’m strategizing my next move. I treat almost all situations like a high stakes battle with body language like sassy pose, or, when situations get really tight, a defensive martial arts stance.

2) After watching Naruto, I was presented with a specific formula for dealing with tricky people who seam to be lost. First, I always go back to my moral code when making decision. What does the Bible say? What would Jesus want me to do in this situation? Then I’ll form an opinion and present it with compassion and loud passion to the opposing side until they give in. If you can’t imagine how that works watch how Naruto solves battles with Hacu, Gaara, Isaribi, Tsunade… etc. Something I tend to tell people when I first meet them is, “I’m only nice because of Jesus.” He gives me patience and strength to deal with difficult people, but I use the 22 minute Naruto formula from solving most people problems. According to this theory, I observed behavior, made it symbolic to my own life, the enacted said behavior since I witnessed it having a positive outcome with a character I identify with.

– Biblical Application

I’m only nice because of Jesus because the Bible is the one work that has by far the most influence on me. I have learned how to be kind and loving towards others which couldn’t have been done in my own strength. Can this theory be applied to the Bible?

The parables, and history, and teachings in the Bible are there to teach us. Stories of great faith are lessons we can apply to our lives. History of figures whoes sin has caused their downfall serve as examples of what not to copy. I see the Bible as a book less to be mimicked, but applied.

The four Gospels of the New Testament talk of Jesus’s life, Death, and Resurrection. By reading these books, we better understand the personality of Jesus. He was a man who had the same struggles as us. He came to earth and choose to feel our pain becoming the perfect lamb to sacrifice. Jesus never sinned. There were no faults with him. He became a man to give us an example of how to live our lives. If there is anyone we should be out right mimicking, it’s him. Other figures like Paul, the disciples, Job, King David, Hannah, and Mary just to name a few, are only human. Their stories are more applicable to us because they’re sinners. We shouldn’t strive to be just exactly like them, like we mimic Jesus since they are human and sinners too. They’re lessons are meant to be applied to our lives, giving us an example of how to react when life challenges us in the same way as them. Remember, it’s the holy spirit who’ll give us strength in the tough life. We don’t need to rely on our own strength of analyzing other’s people’s behavior, we have something so much stronger.

Remember the saying “What would Jesus do?” I find that to be an example of this theory. Although we have a sin nature, I believe we’re wired to want to be perfect as Jesus is perfect. He gives us an example, and the strength to have his character. The more I read the Bible, the more it penetrates my life. The Bible is living, it’s how God communicates with me. When I see Naruto handle a problem in a way I admire, I’ll mimic him. However, through the Bible, God tells me how to solve the same problem. By “mimicking” Jesus and listening to God, I have a more accurate and promising answer. The influence the Bible has over me is similar, but still different from how an anime does. In only one of those works I can hear the voice of God, but through both of them I’m taught problem solving skills through mimicry.

I’ll admit, this is one of the strangest posts I’ve written. My mother laughed when I told her the post’s title. However, I found this theory very interesting as I could see a direct correlation to my life. What are some shows that you feel have influenced you in this way?

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