For vaccination promotion, positive messaging is not always better

Tricky stuff. But some psychological ploys are in play here.
Antivaccination views more contagious on Twitter than positive views | Toronto Star.

On Twitter, negative views about vaccination not only spread more easily than positive ones, but people exposed to too many positive messages reacted against them.

That’s according to Penn State University researchers who tracked about 350,000 tweets from more than 100,000 people during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Their study was published Thursday in the journal EPJ Data Science.
The findings have implications that extend beyond the issue of vaccinations.

“People are getting information about how to deal with their health from a variety of sources and increasingly from social media,” said the study’s lead author Marcel Salathé, assistant professor of biology and computer science at Penn State. “It’s a brave new world and we need to get in and understand it.”

People are more affected by negative anything. Negative feedback, negative ads, etc. They stick more. An alternative tactic would be to reframe the discussion about vaccines so that rejecting vaccines is a socially unacceptable view. Not getting vaccinated is bad. As a parent, it means you’ve been less than diligent. Mean? Yes. Unfair. Maybe not. The consensus is clear about vaccines. Parents should feel guilty about blatantly rejecting reasonable health care. Maybe that should be the message.

I’m sure many will disagree.

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  2 comments for “For vaccination promotion, positive messaging is not always better

  1. Chris Howard
    April 4, 2013 at 10:47 PM

    Isn’t this similar to parents who reject medicine in leu of prayer, or magic?

    Some courts have considered it child abuse, even circumventing religious objections.

  2. Am_Sci
    April 5, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    I am not at all surprised by these findings and I strongly agree with using negative messages. We should work hard to spread the message that a not getting the recommended vaccines makes you a bad citizen and neglecting your children’s vaccination schedule is child abuse.

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