September 17, 2015
co-sponsored with the Department of Political Science
“Countering Myths About Vaccines: Are Facts the Answer?”
Department of Government
Why do people hold false or unsupported beliefs about vaccines and why are those beliefs so difficult to change? This lecture will describe how motivated reasoning can make people vulnerable to misinformation about controversial topics in medicine like vaccines. For instance, the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine has attracted extensive attention in recent years owing in large part to discredited claims about its safety that circulate widely among anti-vaccination activists and Web sites, including the false claim that it causes autism. This sort of misinformation may contribute to hesitancy about immunization in the U.S. and other countries. For these vulnerable populations, providing facts is frequently an ineffective approach to countering misperceptions about vaccines and in some cases can make the problem worse. Evidence will be presented from nationally representative survey experiments testing corrective information about the MMR and flu vaccines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Brendan Nyhan is an assistant professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. He received my Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science at Duke University in 2009 and served as a RWJ Scholar in Health Policy Researchat the University of Michigan from 2009-2011. Dr. Nyhan is an active contributor to The Upshot at The New York Times, and had previously served as a media critic for Columbia Journalism Review (November 2011-February 2014). He had been called “one of the most thought-provoking writers about politics on the web”, part of “a new breed of conscientious political science bloggers” who are “creating reputational hazards to seat-of-the-pants punditry,” and a “political science shaolin warrior”. In 2004, he, along with co-authors Ben Fritz and Bryan Keefer, published All the President’s Spin, a New York Times bestseller that Amazon.com named one of the ten best political books of the year.