A placebo design to detect spillovers from an education–entertainment experiment in Uganda

Anna M. Wilke, Donald P. Green, Jasper Cooper

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Education–entertainment refers to dramatizations designed to convey information and to change attitudes. Buoyed by observational studies suggesting that education–entertainment strongly influences beliefs, attitudes and behaviours, scholars have recently assessed education–entertainment by using rigorous experimental designs in field settings. Studies conducted in developing countries have repeatedly shown the effectiveness of radio and film dramatizations on outcomes ranging from health to group conflict. One important gap in the literature is estimation of social spillover effects from those exposed to the dramatizations to others in the audience members’ social network. In theory, the social diffusion of media effects could greatly amplify their policy impact. The current study uses a novel placebo-controlled design that gauges both the direct effects of the treatment on audience members as well as the indirect effects of the treatment on others in their family and in the community. We implement this design in two large cluster-randomized experiments set in rural Uganda using video dramatizations on the topics of violence against women, teacher absenteeism and abortion stigma. We find several instances of sizable and highly significant direct effects on the attitudes of audience members, but we find little evidence that these effects diffused to others in the villages where the videos were aired.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1075-1096
    Number of pages22
    JournalJournal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A: Statistics in Society
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


    • Education–entertainment
    • Experimental design
    • Media
    • Spillovers

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Statistics and Probability
    • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
    • Economics and Econometrics
    • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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