A role model is a person who serves as an example, or whose behavior is emulated by others. The term first appeared in Robert K. Merton's socialization research of medical students. Merton hypothesized that individuals compare themselves with reference groups of people who occupy the social role to which the individual aspires.
Effect on Career Choice
Role models may significantly impact a person's future choice of career. Role models show significant effects on female students' self-confidence in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) fields. The gender difference between role models and female students has shown to have no significant effect on student attitudes, whereas perceived dissimilarity with stereotypical role models showed a negative effect on self-confidence in pursuing STEM careers. Perceived similarity with non-stereotypical role models (of either gender) shows a positive effect on self-confidence to succeed in STEM occupations.
Parent role models also significantly influence a person's "education and training aspirations, task self-efficacy, and expectancy for an entrepreneurial career".
Celebrity Role Models
According to a survey of teachers in the United Kingdom conducted in 2008 by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, young people most frequently chose sports stars as role models, followed by pop stars. Many, however, simply aspired to be "famous for being famous", believing that fame and fortune could be easily accessed through reality television.
- Gerald Holton (4 December 2004). "Robert K. Merton - Biographical Memoirs" (PDF). Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 148 (4): 506–517. Archived from the original on 2007-08-11. Retrieved 2007-08-07. "He developed a theory of the reference group (i.e., the group to which individuals compare themselves, which is not necessarily a group to which those individuals belong), and elaborated on the concepts of in-group and out-group."
- Published online before print April 15, 2011, doi: 10.1177/1948550611405218 Social Psychological and Personality Science November 2011 vol. 2 no. 6 656-664
- Robert F. Scherer, et al. "Role Model Performance Effects on Development of Entrepreneurial Career Preference." Entrepreneurship: Theory & Practice 13.3 (1989): 53-71.
- "The Beckhams are the celebrities most children aspire to be, as celebrity culture increases its influence, says ATL". Association of Teachers and Lecturers. 14 March 2008. Retrieved February 21, 2011.
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