Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Robert L. Whittenbarger


A field experiment is designed and conducted to examine what effects the presence of a model who jaywalks (i.e., crosses a street against a "Don't Walk" light) has on inducing jaywalking by unknowing pedestrians who are on the street corner with the model. Two models are used, one male and one female, and their perceived social status is varied by changing their attire from one day to the next to determine what effects sex and social status of models have on initiating jaywalking in other pedestrians.

The review of related literature discusses the findings of a number of studies which indicate that a model can induce significantly more of a particular behavior than would otherwise occur. Other studies reveal that models of high perceived social status typically induce more imitation than models of lower status, while research pertaining to sex of model shows varied findings. Studies pertaining to whether or not sex should be regarded as a status characteristic also produce inconsistent findings, with some authors contending that sex is no longer a salient aspect of determining one's social status, while others assert that sex is still a relevant characteristic to be considered in defining status.

Adaptation-Level Theory and behavioral contagion, which are used as theoretical perspectives in previous jaywalking studies, are critiqued on the basis that they do not adequately take into account social factors beyond those found in the immediate environment which influence an individual's behavior. The Social Behaviorism of George H. Mead, which contends that impulsive behavior is mediated by internalized definitions of sets of symbols which the individual determines to be relevant to the situation, is presented as being a more suitable perspective for predicting and explaining the behavior observed in field experiments such as this. These internalized definitions are generally shared with the other members of the group(s) to which the individual belongs. On the basis of Mead's theory and the preceding review of literature, it is hypothesized that the presence of a model will induce significantly more jaywalking than would be expected with no model present; that high status models will induce more jaywalking than lower status models; and that males and females will induce similar amounts of imitation (i.e., the effects of social status of the models will generalize across sex). Sex and estimated age of subjects are also recorded to see what differences there are between jaywalking in males and females, and between older and younger subjects.

A research design is presented, which includes the operational definitions for jaywalking, imitation, and status of models. The research setting is also discussed, along with environmental factors which must be controlled for, such as weather and time of day.

Data are gathered and presented for both a no-model, or baseline, condition, and for the four experimental conditions (high and low status male and female models). Variable support is found for the first two hypotheses, so that it cannot be firmly concluded that either the presence of a model induced significantly more jaywalking or that the high status model induced more than the lower status model. Stronger support is found for the contention that males and females induce similar amounts of jaywalking. It is also noted that males tend to jaywalk more than females regardless of whether or not the model is present, and that age of subject did not significantly influence the rate of jaywalking. Suggestions are made for what directions future research in this field of study should take.