Influencing the means but not the ends: The role of entertainment-education interventions in development

Christopher Grady, Alice Iannantuoni, Matthew S. Winters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As new information technologies facilitate the production and dissemination of broadcast media, entertainment-education interventions are increasingly used in attempts to influence audiences on issues such as political participation, support for democracy, violence against women, and tolerance of ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. What factors make these programs effective in catalyzing behavior change in their audiences? Insights from social learning theory and other theories that motivate entertainment-education media highlight that individuals (i) learn about behaviors by observing examples of behavior in their environment and (ii) adopt behaviors that they believe will help them achieve their goals. We review existing empirical literature on entertainment-education in light of this foundational theory and find that exposure to broadcast media can change behavior by linking desired behaviors to pre-existing goals. Conversely and as expected, the literature does not provide much evidence that media leads to behavior change by persuading individuals to adopt new goals. We conclude the review with a discussion of the prospects for successful broadcast media interventions in two domains: public health, a realm where most interventions focus on linking behavior with existing goals, and countering violent extremism (CVE), where most interventions focus on changing goals. We also provide a checklist of desirable components to assist designers of edutainment programming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105200
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Behavior change
  • Communication
  • Edutainment
  • Media
  • Social learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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