Opinion: Psychological biases impact vaccination decisions

Tania Lombrozo

Tania Lombrozo

Since the recent outbreak of measles, there’s been a lot of anger at parents who won’t vaccinate their children — but little attention to subtle psychological factors that can make parents less willing to actively “intervene” through vaccination, says psychology professor Tania Lombrozo.

For one, there’s “omission bias,” meaning the “difference between bringing about some outcome by acting” (in this case, by vaccinating) versus by failing to act, she says.

In a blog post on NPR’s “13.7 cosmos & culture” website, Lombrozo discusses research findings on the psychology behind the anti-vaccination phenomenon.

“The bad news is that educating people about the relative risks of vaccination versus the diseases they prevent is almost certainly insufficient to change attitudes,” she writes. “There’s a lot more in play here, including a host of psychological biases that don’t always lead to optimal decision-making.”

There’s good news, too, however. Read her complete post here.