Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Role Playing in Smoking Prevention: Use Caution

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Role Playing in Smoking Prevention: Use Caution

Article excerpt

Health educators must be cautious when applying the principles of social psychology. This is particularly true in the use of role playing, which is often used in smoking prevention. Used properly, role playing is a good method for skill training. Students can learn and rehearse ways to resist pressure to smoke. But the technique is only appropriate if the students do not take the role of the smoker. If students "play smoker" it may increase or reinforce their tendency to smoke.

The attitude change effects of role playing are proven and well-known to social psychologists.[1,2] When people are induced to play a role, if the incentive is not too great,[3] their attitudes tend to change to fit the role they have played. Thus, if a student is asked to play the role of a smoker who is pressuring another student to smoke, it may lead to more favorable attitudes toward smoking. The likelihood is increased if the student is asked to create original arguments in favor of smoking.

The negative effects of role playing may be even greater if students are asked to choose the roles they would like to play. Students who smoke or who might plan to smoke will be likely to want to play the role of the smoker. By making this choice, they reinforce their decision. When they then play the role in front of an audience, it can strengthen their commitment -- especially if they are asked to give arguments in favor of smoking. We believe that the use of "props" makes matters worse, as students handling a toy cigarette may become curious about the real thing. …

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