It is proposed that many of the releasing or disinhibiting effects caused by models can be accounted for by information-processing mechanisms, without recourse to the concept of reinforcement. More specifically, it is suggested that the process of viewing a model's behavior involves the activation of an interpretive schema. This renders the information the schema incorporates more accessible for subsequent use. If the schema incorporates (or is closely related to) behavior-specifying information, that information becomes more accessible as well, thus making it more likely to influence overt behavior. Two studies are reported that assessed the plausibility of this reasoning. In Experiment 1 subjects who had viewed an aggressive model perceived greater hostility in the behavior of an ambiguous stimulus person that they subsequently encountered than did control subjects. This finding is consistent with the assumption that the model's behavior activated a conceptual schema for use in interpretation. In Experiment 2 subjects in whom an aggressive schema had been activated under a guise displayed greater aggression in their subsequent behavior in a different context than did control subjects. This finding is consistent with the assumption that activating the conceptual schema also activated behavioral information. The discussion centers on the implications of the findings.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science