People not easily swayed by online talk about flu vaccination, study finds

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People tend to cling on to their beliefs about flu vaccination, even when confronted with contradictory information online, according to a study published in Vaccine.

Researchers from Germany selected 208 people with negative attitudes toward flu vaccines and 221 people with positive attitudes toward them to participate in the study. They simulated the online communication environment by creating a "diffusion chain" in which information was passed from one person to the next. They created diffusion chains that were both homogenous (composed of people with similar vaccine views) and heterogeneous (composed of people with differing vaccine views).

They found:

● Participants forwarded selective information about flu vaccination that was consistent with their pre-existing view, but they did not exhibit overall anti-vaccination bias.
● Participants were reluctant to change their beliefs related to flu vaccinations in response to messages.
● Participants were more convinced by incoming information that was consistent with their pre-existing vaccination beliefs.

Researchers concluded that their findings show anti-vaccine attitudes are not necessarily amplified by online communication.

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