Providing normative information increases intentions to accept a COVID-19 vaccine

Nature Communications volume 14, Article number: 126 (2023)

51 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2021 Last revised: 18 Jan 2023

See all articles by Alex Moehring

Alex Moehring

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Avinash Collis

Carnegie Mellon University

Kiran Garimella

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

M. Amin Rahimian

University of Pitttsburgh; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Sinan Aral

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Dean Eckles

MIT Sloan School of Management

Date Written: January 9, 2023

Abstract

Despite the availability of multiple safe vaccines, vaccine hesitancy may present a challenge to successful control of the COVID-19 pandemic. As with many human behaviors, people’s vaccine acceptance may be affected by their beliefs about whether others will accept a vaccine(i.e., descriptive norms). However, information about these descriptive norms may have different effects depending on people’s baseline beliefs and the relative importance of conformity, social learning, and free-riding. Here, using a large, pre-registered, randomized experiment(N=484,239) embedded in an international survey, we show that accurate information about descriptive norms can substantially increase intentions to accept a vaccine for COVID-19. These positive effects (e.g., reducing by 4.9% the fraction of people who are “unsure” or more negative about accepting a vaccine) are largely consistent across the 23 included countries, but are concentrated among people who were otherwise uncertain about accepting a vaccine. Providing this normative information in vaccine communications partially corrects individuals’ apparent underestimation of how many other people will accept a vaccine. These results suggest that public health communications should present information about the widespread and growing intentions to accept COVID-19 vaccines.

Keywords: COVID-19, descriptive norms, social influence, vaccine hesitancy

Suggested Citation

Moehring, Alex and Collis, Avinash and Garimella, Kiran and Rahimian, M. Amin and Aral, Sinan and Eckles, Dean, Providing normative information increases intentions to accept a COVID-19 vaccine (January 9, 2023). Nature Communications volume 14, Article number: 126 (2023), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3782082 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3782082

Alex Moehring

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Avinash Collis

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA
United States

Kiran Garimella

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

M. Amin Rahimian

University of Pitttsburgh ( email )

135 N Bellefield Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Sinan Aral

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Dean Eckles (Contact Author)

MIT Sloan School of Management ( email )

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