Changing preferences through experimental games: Evidence from sanitation and hygiene in Tamil Nadu | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
December 2016
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Much policy interest in sanitation and hygiene promotion focuses on changing behavior and increasing demand for these goods. Yet the effectiveness of large-scale interventions has been mixed, in large part because of the difficulty of changing attitudes on deeply rooted behaviors. This study tests whether an experiential learning exercise structured around an experimental game can be used to shift preferences around sanitation and hygiene. A minimum coordination game is adapted to the sanitation and hygiene setting by linking game choices to real-world investment decisions and payoffs in terms of health and status. Individuals from 20 villages in rural Tamil Nadu were randomly assigned to one of three groups: one that played a game in which communication between rounds was allowed, another that played a game in which communication was prohibited, and a control group that only completed a survey. Based on a comparison of survey responses across treatment arms, the game improved stated preferences in relation to sanitation and hygiene. This effect was larger when communication was allowed, and men responded on average more strongly than women across both versions of the game. These results suggest that experimental games can be a valuable tool not only for the study of decision making but for improving participants’ knowledge and pro-sanitation preferences.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Stopnitzky, Yaniv



The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) provides research-based policy solutions to sustainably reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. Established in 1975, IFPRI currently has more than 500 employees working in over 50 countries. It is a research center of theCGIAR Consortium, a worldwide partnership engaged in agricultural research for development.

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CGIAR is the only worldwide partnership addressing agricultural research for development, whose work contributes to the global effort to tackle poverty, hunger and major nutrition imbalances, and environmental degradation.

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