Fighting Violent Extremism With Narrative Intervention: Evidence From a Field Experiment in West Africa

Psychol Sci. 2022 Feb;33(2):184-195. doi: 10.1177/09567976211031895. Epub 2022 Jan 6.


Violent extremism is one of the major challenges of our time. A cluster-randomized controlled trial with two arms (treatment vs. control) conducted in 132 villages in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso (N = 2,904 participants) examined whether a narrative intervention in the format of a radio drama can shift behavioral intentions, beliefs, and attitudes in contexts of violent extremism. Individuals in intervention villages participated in weekly listening sessions to the radio drama (6 months' content) over 12 weeks. Compared with the control condition, the narrative intervention reduced justification of violence, increased behavioral intentions to collaborate with the police, and increased prioritization of addressing violent extremism. The intervention did not influence beliefs about or attitudes toward the police (e.g., trust, fairness) or beliefs about police-community collaboration. Content analysis of the narrative intervention and participants' reception and discussion of the intervention provide insights on the processes driving the intervention's influence.

Keywords: edutainment; field experiment; media; narrative intervention; open materials; violent extremism.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Western
  • Attitude
  • Humans
  • Narration
  • Terrorism*
  • Trust