Vaccine refusal rates have increased in recent years, highlighting the need for effective risk communication, especially over social media. Fuzzy-trace theory predicts that individuals encode bottom-line meaning ("gist") and statistical information ("verbatim") in parallel and those articles expressing a clear gist will be most compelling. We coded news articles (n=4581) collected during the 2014-2015 Disneyland measles for content including statistics, stories, or bottom-line gists regarding vaccines and vaccine-preventable illnesses. We measured the extent to which articles were compelling by how frequently they were shared on Facebook. The most widely shared articles expressed bottom-line gists, although articles containing statistics were also more likely to be shared than articles lacking statistics. Stories had limited impact on Facebook shares. Results support Fuzzy Trace Theory's predictions regarding the distinct yet parallel impact of categorical gist and statistical verbatim information on public health communication.
Keywords: Facebook; Fuzzy-trace theory; MMR; Measles; Social media; Twitter.
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