Neth, Hansjörg

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Neth
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Hansjörg
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Determinants of information diffusion in online communication on vaccination : The benefits of visual displays

2021, Giese, Helge, Neth, Hansjörg, Gaissmaier, Wolfgang

Objective
Social media are an increasingly important source of information on the benefits and risks of vaccinations, but the high prevalence of misinformation provides challenges for informed vaccination decisions. It is therefore important to understand which messages are likely to diffuse online and why, and how relevant aspects—such as scientific facts on vaccination effectiveness—can be made more comprehensible and more likely to be shared. In two studies, we (i) explore which characteristics of messages on flu vaccination facilitate their diffusion in online communication, and (ii) whether visual displays (i.e., icon arrays) facilitate the comprehension and diffusion of scientific effectiveness information.

Methods
In Study 1, 208 participants each rated a random sample of 15 out of 63 messages on comprehensibility, trustworthiness, persuasiveness, familiarity, informativeness, valence, and arousal, and then reported which information they would share with subsequent study participants. In Study 2 (N = 758), we employed the same rating procedure for a selected set of 9 messages and experimentally manipulated how scientific effectiveness information was displayed.

Results
Study 1 illustrated that scientific effectiveness information was difficult to understand and thus did not diffuse well. Study 2 demonstrated that visual displays improved the understanding of this information, which could, in turn, increase its social impact.

Conclusions
The comprehensibility of scientific information is an important prerequisite for its diffusion. Visual displays can facilitate informed vaccination decisions by rendering important information on vaccination effectiveness more transparent and increasing the willingness to share this information.

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The echo in flu-vaccination echo chambers : Selective attention trumps social influence

2020-02, Giese, Helge, Neth, Hansjörg, Moussaïd, Mehdi, Betsch, Cornelia, Gaissmaier, Wolfgang

Background
Online discussions may impact the willingness to get vaccinated. This experiment tests how groups of individuals with consistent and inconsistent attitudes towards flu vaccination attend to and convey information online, and how they alter their corresponding risk perceptions.

Methods
Out of 1859 MTurkers, we pre-selected 208 people with negative and 221 people with positive attitudes towards flu vaccinations into homogeneous or heterogeneous 3-link experimental diffusion chains. We assessed (i) which information about flu vaccinations participants conveyed to the subsequent link, (ii) how flu-vaccination related perceptions were altered by incoming messages, and (iii) how participants perceived incoming information.

Results
Participants (i) selectively conveyed attitude-consistent information, but exhibited no overall anti-vaccination bias, (ii) were reluctant to alter their flu-vaccination related perceptions in response to messages, and (iii) evaluated incoming information consistent with their prior attitudes as more convincing.

Discussion
Flu-vaccination related perceptions are resilient against contradictions and bias online communication. Contrary to expectations, there was no sign of amplification of anti-vaccine attitudes by online communication.