Vicarious Learning in the Hunger Games


In the movie The Hunger Games, vicarious learning is demonstrated as both beneficial and deadly to different contestants.  In this movie, 12 male and 12 female children known as tributes are put into a fabricated arena to fight to the death.  The arena consists of wilderness, plains, water, and wildlife.  They are given nothing upon entering the arena; however, they can choose to fight for a variety of supplies when first released.  The wisest choice for most is to run, rather than fight.  In fact, 11 die that first day in the struggle for possibly life-saving supplies.

Two specific characters use vicarious learning in this movie, to either their benefit and/or detriment.  Several of the strongest tributes initially band together once they successfully capture the majority of the supplies.  They bury land mines around the supplies to protect them while they are away hunting.  A girl known as Foxface is particularly clever.  She observes the placement of the mines and the path necessary to circumvent them to steal some of the supplies.  She successfully steals small amounts of supplies for a period of time.  This helps her to survive several days while others struggle to find food, shelter, and water.  Sadly, her reliance on observation eventually results in her death.  She observes others eating berries.  When she finds some berries gathered by others, she erroneously assumes they are the same and eats them.  It turns out that the person who gathered the berries she stole did not realize they were poisonous.

Katniss, another female tribute from District 12 also uses vicarious learning to determine that land mines have been buried around the supplies.  She went to the supply site with the intent of destroying the supplies to even the playing field, so to speak.  When she arrived, she noticed that the supplies were surrounded by piles of dirt.  While she watched, Foxface arrived, danced through the minefield, stole some supplies, and disappeared into the forest.  Katniss realized the other tributes must have buried landmines around the supplies.  Rather than risk going through the minefield, she shoots arrows into a bag of apples, toppling them into the mines to blow them all up.

According to Bandura, the cognitive components attention, retention, motor reproduction, and motivation (Friedman & Schustack, 2012) are vitally important in determining if an observed behavior will be reproduced.  In this movie, Foxface demonstrates all of these cognitive aspects.  First, she attends to the information she observes.  She witnesses the placement of the mines.  Second, she retains that information as she mentally rehearses how to physically circumvent the minefield (motor reproduction).  Lastly, she is highly motivated on two fronts.  She needs the supplies to survive.  She also knows that one misstep will result in her blowing herself up.



Friedman, H. S., & Schustack, M. W. (2012).  Personality: Classic theories and modern research (5th ed.).  Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.


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