Misinformation lingers in memory: Failure of three pro-vaccination strategies

PLoS One. 2017 Jul 27;12(7):e0181640. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181640. eCollection 2017.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / etiology
  • Communication
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Long-Term
  • Parents
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Vaccines / adverse effects
  • Young Adult


  • Vaccines