A role model is a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people. The term "role model" is credited to sociologist Robert K. Merton, who coined the phrase during his career.  Merton hypothesized that individuals compare themselves with reference groups of people who occupy the social role to which the individual aspires. An example being the way fans (oftentimes youth) will idolize and imitate professional athletes or entertainment artists. Although the term "role model" has been criticized as "outdated", the term and its associated responsibility remains prominent in the public consciousness as a commonly used phrase, and a "powerful presence" in the entertainment industry and media. 
Effect on career choice
A person's chosen role models may have a considerable impact on their 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
The ever-widening reach of the media in popular culture has elevated certain celebrities to worldwide acclaim. This boom of media coverage and constant exposure to these individuals resulted in a change of mindset toward celebrities in both adults and youth alike. 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.
- "Role model". Dictionary.com. Random House, Inc. 2013. Retrieved 25 January, 2014.
- Kaufman, Michael T. "Robert K. Merton, Versatile Sociologist and Father of the Focus Group, Dies at 92". New York Times. New York Times, 2003. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
- Calhoun, Craig J., (ed.) (2010). Robert K. Merton: Sociology of Science and Sociology as Science. New York: Columbia UP. ISBN 978-0-231-15112-2.
- 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."
- Whannel, Garry (2013). Media Sport Stars: Masculinities and Moralities. London: Routledge. ISBN 9781134698714.
- Tomlinson, Alan (2010). A Dictionary of Sports Studies. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199213818.
- 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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