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Reducing intergroup prejudice and conflict with the media: A field experiment in Rwanda

  • Elizabeth Levy Paluck


    (Harvard University)

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    Can the media reduce intergroup prejudice and conflict? Despite the high stakes of this question, understanding of the mass media’s role in shaping prejudiced beliefs, norms, and behaviors is very limited. A yearlong field experiment in Rwanda tested the impact of a radio soap opera about two Rwandan communities in conflict, which featured messages about reducing intergroup prejudice, violence, and trauma. Compared to communities who listened to a control radio soap opera, listeners’ perceptions of social norms and their behaviors changed concerning some of the most critical issues for Rwanda’s post conflict society, namely intermarriage, open dissent, trust, empathy, cooperation and discussion of personal trauma. However, the radio program did little to influence listeners’ personal beliefs. Group discussion was a notable feature of the listening experience. Taken together, the results suggest that radio can communicate social norms and influence behaviors that contribute to intergroup tolerance and reconciliation.

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    Paper provided by Households in Conflict Network in its series HiCN Working Papers with number 34.

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    Length: 71 pages
    Date of creation: Oct 2007
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:hic:wpaper:34
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    1. Alan Gerber & Daniel Bergan & Dean Karlan, 2006. "Does the media matter? A field experiment measuring the effect of newspapers on voting behavior and political opinions," Natural Field Experiments 00252, The Field Experiments Website.
    2. DellaVigna, Stefano & Kaplan, Ethan, 2006. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," Seminar Papers 748, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
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