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Faculty of Economics

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Bernard, T., Dercon, S., Orkin, K. and Taffesse, A.S.

Behavioral economics: will video kill the radio star? Assessing the potential of targeted exposure to role models through video

World Bank Economic Review

Vol. 29 pp. S226-S237 (2015)

Abstract: In this paper, we focus on the effectiveness of video-based interventions in inducing behavioural changes in poor countries. We first review relevant literature from different disciplines. This suggests both that information targeted to an individual's specific needs is more effective than broader messages and that videos featuring role models similar to viewers reinforce persuasiveness as the latter relate to the character. We then discuss some of the challenges in designing non-laboratory randomized controlled trials to evaluate video-based interventions. We draw on our design of a recently completed study in remote rural Ethiopia, which showed that simple documentaries of relatively successful individuals from the same region affected both viewers' investment in their children's education and other future-oriented behaviors (Bernard, T., S. Dercon, K. Orkin, and A. S. Taffesse. 2014. "The Future in Mind: Aspirations and Forward- Looking Behaviour in Rural Ethiopia." Paper presented at Centre for the Study of African Economies conference on economic development in Africa, Oxford, UK, March 25). We discuss the importance and challenges of placebo treatments to evaluate the effects of exposure to video and gatherings, explore the potential for controlling variation in the exposure of an individual's network of friends to the same treatment, and discuss external validity. Our experiment only partially addresses the issues we highlight, so we suggest directions for future research.

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