COVID-19 vaccine intention tied to trust in health expert opinion, media literacy

An early pandemic survey found that respondents’ intentions to receive COVID-19 vaccines were more related to their media literacy and the opinion of health experts than to their knowledge of the virus or their behavior to previous vaccination.

In the study published in the American Journal of Health PromotionWashington State University researchers also found that for respondents who had recently declined a flu shot, higher knowledge of COVID-19 actually correlated with lower future vaccination intentions.

We’ve known for some time that prior knowledge and behavior can provide useful clues about what people will do, but it’s often insufficient to reliably predict behavior. What we found was that measures of trust in experts, the ability to identify reliable media sources, and the ability to critically evaluate those media sources were stronger predictors than previous vaccination behavior or prior knowledge.

Erica Austin, director of the WSU Murrow Center for Media and Health Promotion

For this study, researchers conducted an online survey of 1,264 American adults. The results indicate that people were engaging in what is called reasoned reasoning: the psychological process by which people consciously and selectively use facts to reach a conclusion that reinforces their desired beliefs rather than rationally analyzing the evidence. .

According to the authors, these processes are strongly influenced by the constantly changing media environment. It’s a maze of information, misinformation, which is intentionally incorrect, and misinformation, which is intentionally false.

“There are people who are motivated to take that little bit of misinformation and create a whole bunch of misinformation or even misinformation to try to sell you an idea or a product based on it,” Austin said. “Most often they’re selling you both out, but they’re probably not there to do something good for you; they’re usually there to do something that’s good for them.”

The findings have important implications for health promotion practice and research, Austin added. It highlights the importance of individuals’ attempts to independently verify information and the need to cultivate their trust in health experts. The researchers also recommend that public health campaigns be careful to respect individuals’ freedom to make decisions for themselves while helping them make those decisions based on accurate information from credible sources.

In addition to Austin, study co-authors include Bruce Austin of WSU’s College of Education, Porismita Borah and Shawn Domgaard of WSU’s Murrow College of Communication, and Sterling McPherson of Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. WSU.


Washington State University

Journal reference:

Austin, EW, et al. (2022) How media literacy, expert trust, and influenza vaccination behaviors are associated with COVID-19 vaccination intentions. American Journal of Health Promotion.


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