Applications & critical reflections on the VANMaN taxonomy

Soc Sci Med. 2020 Aug;259:112850. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.112850. Epub 2020 Feb 14.


The VANMaN model provides social scientists with a parsimonious framework for understanding and addressing a wide range of fraudulent health claims, and their behavioral consequences. In this commentary, I demonstrate VANMaN's ability to generate testable corrective health communication messages by applying it to an emerging conspiracy theory; the idea that tick-borne illnesses are the result of failed military bio-terrorism research. I then offer critical reflections on VANMaN that social scientists ought to keep in mind when consulting the model. First, I discuss the possibility that VANMaN may have difficulty taxonomizing certain fraudulent claims that originate from well-intentioned sources. Second, I consider the possibility that some actors might exploit this taxonomy to further advance fraudulent claims. I conclude by noting that, while VANMaN is both intuitive and generative, it should nevertheless be seen as a "living" taxonomy; subject to adaptation in response to new public health challenges.

Keywords: Alternative medicine; Health communication; Health psychology; Misinformation.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Public Health*