Paper: The echo in flu-vaccination echo chambers

Helge Giese, Hansjörg Neth, Mehdi Moussaïd, Cornelia Betsch, Wolfgang Gaissmaier

The echo in flu-vaccination echo chambers: Selective attention trumps social influence

Immune to influence

Abstract

Background
Online discussions may impact the willingness to get vaccinated. This experiment tests how groups of individuals with consistent and inconsistent attitudes towards flu vaccination attend to and convey information online, and how they alter their corresponding risk perceptions.

Methods
Out of 1859 MTurkers, we pre-selected 208 people with negative and 221 people with positive attitudes towards flu vaccinations into homogeneous or heterogeneous 3-link experimental diffusion chains. We assessed (i) which information about flu vaccinations participants conveyed to the subsequent link, (ii) how flu-vaccination related perceptions were altered by incoming messages, and (iii) how participants perceived incoming information.

Results
Participants (i) selectively conveyed attitude-consistent information, but exhibited no overall anti-vaccination bias, (ii) were reluctant to alter their flu-vaccination related perceptions in response to messages, and (iii) evaluated incoming information consistent with their prior attitudes as more convincing.

Discussion
Flu-vaccination related perceptions are resilient against contradictions and bias online communication. Contrary to expectations, there was no sign of amplification of anti-vaccine attitudes by online communication.

Keywords: Amplification of risk; Diffusion chain; Opinion dynamics; Vaccine hesitancy; Social media; Polarization

Press release

Reference:  Giese, H., Neth, H., Moussaïd, M., Betsch, C., & Gaissmaier, W. (2019).  The echo in flu-vaccination echo chambers: Selective attention trumps social influence.  Vaccine.  [Available online 18 December 2019]  doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2019.11.03

Related:  Social influence and collective opinion formation

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