This Psychological Effect Explains Why Anti-Vaxxers Believe What They Believe

Vaccines save lives on a daily basis, and science doesn't care if you think otherwise. panpilai paipa/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 02 Jul 2018, 15:34

They tested their autism awareness by asking them questions – developed by the National Alliance for Autism Research – about the condition, while also asking: “Can vaccines administered to children at young ages cause them to become autistic?” The subjects were also queried as to whether they knew more of less than medical doctors, and scientists, about autism.

Anti-vaxxer policy attitudes were also assessed based on the response to the following statement: “Parents should be able to decide NOT to vaccinate their children against measles, mumps, and rubella.”

Remarkably, a large proportion of respondents thought they knew more than doctors (36 percent) and scientists (34 percent) about autism causes. Unsurprisingly, those with the highest level of overconfidence both endorsed vaccine misinformation the most and knew the least about autism.

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Interestingly, overconfidence was associated with increased support for the role that non-experts, such as celebrities (including the President) play when it comes to making policy on vaccines. It's also linked to opposition to mandatory vaccination policies.

So it's safe to assume then that your estranged family member spouting such nonsense on Facebook is probably suffering from an acute case of DKE. How, then, can we vaccinate society against this insidious representation of it?

“We recognize that more knowledge about autism and less misinformation about vaccines may not completely ‘eradicate’ the existence of anti-vaccine sentiment,” lead author Motta told IFLScience. Although important, this study clearly found that we need to tackle the overconfidence of anti-vaxxers too.

“What those efforts might look like, however, is an open empirical question – and one my research team and I are actively investigating.”

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