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, 12 (7), e0181640

Misinformation Lingers in Memory: Failure of Three Pro-Vaccination Strategies


Misinformation Lingers in Memory: Failure of Three Pro-Vaccination Strategies

Sara Pluviano et al. PLoS One.


People's inability to update their memories in light of corrective information may have important public health consequences, as in the case of vaccination choice. In the present study, we compare three potentially effective strategies in vaccine promotion: one contrasting myths vs. facts, one employing fact and icon boxes, and one showing images of non-vaccinated sick children. Beliefs in the autism/vaccines link and in vaccines side effects, along with intention to vaccinate a future child, were evaluated both immediately after the correction intervention and after a 7-day delay to reveal possible backfire effects. Results show that existing strategies to correct vaccine misinformation are ineffective and often backfire, resulting in the unintended opposite effect, reinforcing ill-founded beliefs about vaccination and reducing intentions to vaccinate. The implications for research on vaccines misinformation and recommendations for progress are discussed.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Fig 1
Fig 1. Example of message for the Myths vs. Facts Correction.
Fig 2
Fig 2. Example of message for the Visual Correction.
This message compared the potential problems caused by measles with the potential problems caused by the MMR vaccine. Common and usually mild symptoms that can be treated at home are represented in green, moderate complications that need medical attention but may not include hospitalisation are portrayed in yellow, and serious complications that need urgent medical attention and could include hospitalisation are marked in red.
Fig 3
Fig 3. Example of message for the Fear Correction.
This message was accompanied by a picture of a child with swelling at the side of the face under the ears.
Fig 4
Fig 4. Overview of the different phases of the study.
Fig 5
Fig 5
Mean scores of the 3 key outcomes evaluated: Vaccines Cause Autism (A), Vaccines Side Effects (B), and Vaccine Hesitancy (C) by condition and time (after a week). Outcomes means at Time 1 are represented by blue bars, while outcome means at Time 2 by green bars. Error Bars: 95% CI.
Fig 6
Fig 6
Change scores for the 3 key outcomes evaluated: Vaccine Cause Autism Change Score (A), Vaccines Side Effects Change Score (B), and Vaccine Hesitancy Change Score (C) across conditions. Error Bars: 95% CI.

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