Abstract: Social scientists have long sought to explain why people donate resources for the good of a community. Less attention has been paid to the difficult task of motivating the first adopters of these important behaviors. In a field experiment in Nigeria, we tested two campaigns that encouraged people to try reporting corruption by text message. Psychological theories about how to shift perceived norms and how to reduce barriers to action drove the design of each campaign. The first, a film featuring actors reporting corruption and the second, a mass text message reducing the effort required to report, caused a total of 1,181 people in 106 communities to text, including 241 people who sent concrete corruption reports. Psychological theories of social norms and behavior change can illuminate the early stages of the evolution of cooperation and collective action, when adoption is still relatively rare.



The experimental design was pre-registered on the EGAP registry here.

Open materials, data, and code:

Materials, data, and code used in this study can be found on the Open Science Framework repository here.

Project Partners:

IROKOtv, Magic Movies, Integrity Nigeria, TNS RMS Nigeria, MK&I, Funmobile, Social Action


The Film

We developed a feature-length film for the study, which was produced in collaboration with iROKO Partners, a leading distributor of films from the Nigerian film industry (Nollywood). The film, Water of Gold, runs approximately two hours and stars well-known Nollywood actors. It tells the story of a poor fisherman named Natufe living in the Niger Delta, and of his rags-to-riches brother, Priye… learn more


The Text Blast

We sent a mass text message to all customers of Nigeria’s largest mobile phone provider in each study community, after the community received either the treatment or placebo film. The message alerted individuals to the corruption reporting platform and explained the ease of reporting… learn more


The Results

Over the course of our seven-month study in 106 communities across the Niger Delta region in southeastern Nigeria, the corruption-reporting platform received 3,316 messages from 1,685 unique senders. In total, 1,181 unique senders texted in messages discussing corruption or the study’s campaigns, including 241 unique individuals who sent a concrete corruption report that made explicit mention of a corrupt act, person, or institution… learn more