Texas Tech University: Anti Vaxxers Have a Negative View of the World

According to an recent study, anti vaxxers don’t think like everyone else: they tend to be more negative in their outlook on life than average people.

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Anti vaxxers are often negative in their views

In January 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked anti vaxxers among the top 10 health threats worldwide. Refusal to vaccinate can interfere with the fight against some diseases and even cause some diseases to reappear. For example, the United States faced a return of measles in 2019 after it was declared eradicated in 2000, and according to WHO, vaccinations could prevent two to three million deaths worldwide each year. How do you convince people that oppose these vaccines? For the researchers at Texas Tech University, understanding them would be the first step. Their study points out that anti vaxxers tend to be more negative than average, overestimating the likelihood of some kind of dramatic event.

Differences in how information is processed

In the medical journal Vaccine, two researchers, Mark LaCour and Tyler Davis, explain that this tendency to imagine the worst does not necessarily have anything to do with vaccines. According to them, these people probably process information differently. “This assumes that there are cognitive or emotional variables affecting the anti vaxxers,” says Tyler Davis. To reach these conclusions, the researchers first surveyed 158 people. They were asked to estimate the mortality associated with certain events, such as animal bites, cancer and flooding. Those who were most opposed to the vaccine had worse results than those who favored vaccination. There was also a tendency to overestimate the frequency of very rare events.

My understanding of probability has changed.

The researchers then conducted a second survey, this time asking participants to estimate the frequency of events that could be considered positive or neutral, such as a star concert, the Pope’s visit to the United States, or the birth of triplets. Anti vaxxers always tended to overestimate the frequency of negative events, but estimates of the frequency of positive events were more or less accurate. ” anti vaxxers don’t fully understand the likelihood of a particular event occurring,” says Mark LaCour. They may be susceptible to anecdotal horror stories. For example, thinking that on a very rare occasion your own child might have a seizure because of a vaccine. However, this study found no association between education level and adherence to the anti-vaccine thesis.

“These people remember this information more, especially because their attention may be biased toward something negative or related to death,” Davis suggests.  Anti vaxxers tend to look for biased or unrepresentative information, especially to confirm their own ideas, he said.

References

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X20302644

https://wellcome.ac.uk/news/world-survey-reveals-people-trust-experts-want-know-more-about-science

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