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Connecticut Study Reveals Techniques To Help Change Minds About Vaccination

Image by Katja Fuhlert from Pixabay

Researchers at Eastern Connecticut State University are looking at why people are hesitant to get vaccinated — and how public health messages can convince them to change their mind.

Professor James Diller said the idea came from an undergraduate in his Behavioral Analysis class.

“So this was well before the pandemic, this was an analysis of why people choose to not have their children vaccinated,” Diller said.

Diller said those anti-vaxxers tended toward conspiratorial thinking and individualistic worldviews. He and his team looked at a wide variety of existing research about why — and how to convince them. They finished the paper just as the pandemic emerged.

“So if we take a group of these folks and they’re talking to each other and providing social reinforcement and rules about what it would mean if somebody gets vaccinated for their community status, that could lead to some problems,” Diller said.

Diller said a compassionate sell tends to convince people to change their ways more than a judgmental approach.

“So going about it with threats and statements of anger is not a great way to make this change happen,” Diller said.

Diller points to seatbelt safety campaigns that used phrases like “we care” instead of more glib slogans like “click it or ticket.” Also effective are visibility campaigns, so people can see their friends are participating.

“Giving the sticker after you vote increases voting, or providing social media stickers for profiles can also increase voting. That has been rolled out with the COVID vaccine with some success,” Diller said.

And even though their research predates the pandemic, Diller said he hopes public health officials can try these strategies to make people less hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.