Altruism and vaccination intentions: Evidence from behavioral experiments

Maria Cucciniello, Paolo Pin, Blanka Imre, Gregory A. Porumbescu, Alessia Melegaro*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Vaccine hesitancy has been on the rise throughout the past two decades, especially in high income countries where existing pro-vaccination public health communication strategies have proven ineffective. We argue that appealing to other-regarding preferences is one way of improving the effectiveness of public health communication strategies. To test this argument, we assess how vaccination intentions are influenced by the presence of people who cannot vaccinate, such as the immunosuppressed, newborns or pregnant women, using a laboratory experiment where there is a passive player whose welfare depends on the decisions of other, active players. Results suggest that pro-vaccine messages targeting altruism can increase vaccination intentions by: (i) invoking past experiences of dependence and vulnerability; (ii) stressing cooperation as a social norm; and (iii) emphasizing the presence of vulnerable individuals in a given society.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114195
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Early online date13 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jul 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • experiment
  • health behavior
  • social preferences
  • vaccination
  • vaccine hesitancy


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