Special effects: How a movie could reduce corruption

ScienceDaily | 3/13/2019 | Staff
shuadah (Posted by) Level 3
That's the main outcome of an innovative experiment designed to investigate whether media, such as films, can shift social norms and combat corruption. In the case of "Water of Gold," in Nigeria, the film clearly can change behavior. Or at least one version of the film.

As it happens, "Water of Gold" is a "Nollywood" film (a loose term referring to the Nigerian film industry, the world's third-largest), commissioned for the purposes of this experiment. The movie, set in the Niger Delta, is a sibling story about two brothers. One brother, Natufe, is a poor fisherman. But Natufe's brother, Priye, leaves the Niger Delta, gets rich in business, returns home, and becomes a corrupt politician -- to the dismay of Natufe, who becomes outspoken about endemic local corruption.

Version - Water - Gold - Natufe - Activist

In one version of "Water of Gold," Natufe and another local activist set up a number for corruption reporting via text message and report instances of it, in scenes lasting five minutes. The other version does not contain those scenes. As the researchers discovered, "Water of Gold" does boost corruption reporting among viewers -- but only when it contains the extra 17 minutes showing the movie characters reporting corruption themselves.

"When we added the extra scenes in the film, we found we did get more people reporting," says Rebecca Littman, now a postdoc at MIT and co-author of a new paper detailing the study's findings.

Movie - Mass - Text - Message - People

Indeed, the movie, and an accompanying mass text message, spurred 240 people in 106 small communities to send in concrete, specific reports of corruption over a seven-month period, a marked improvement compared to two national campaigns that generated 140 reports per year, in a country of 174 million people.

By combining texting with the film, it becomes "less costly, and psychologically easier, to try this new thing," Littman says about corruption reporting.

(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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