Link and Comment: Profile of an Anti-Vaxxer

This one deserves a post of its own.

Today in Salon, a profile of a hypothetical anti-vaxxer couple, Jim and Jenny. Inside the mind of an anti-vax parent. Subtitle: A researcher who studies the anti-vaccination movement digs into the psychological profile of a typical anti-vaxxer.

Final paragraph:

Jim and Jenny’s anti-vaccine stance arose in concert with many of the human tendencies, biases, and shortcuts of thinking that we’ve discussed before. People we know are more trustworthy than people we don’t know. Statistics are less convincing than stories. Establishment authorities, such as physicians and federal agencies, engender distrust. Chemicals and substances with long and unpronounceable names can be frightening. We fear that putting things that are not natural into our bodies will make us impure. How we view ourselves and how we appear to our peers informs what we view as good parenting. Now that Jim and Jenny have been convinced they’ve done the right thing, can their minds be changed? Has someone who was anti-vaccine ever changed their mind?

This conclusion echoes themes I’ve discussed here on this blog:

  • It’s all about psychological biases, but especially about group-think, trusting your friends and community even if they’re as misinformed as you are
  • It’s about the sense of purity (cf. Jonathan Haidt)
  • People don’t change their minds from evidence (am I right?)

Also, there was something on Facebook a while ago (Anecdote! Not evidence! But telling!), which I neglected to capture the link for. The gist was, the writer told his friend about two studies that showed that evidence doesn’t change people’s minds. The friend said, I dunno, I don’t think that’s true.

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