Angry at the unvaccinated? Here's a better way

There’s a well-documented phenomenon in psychology called the “backfire effect.” Giving people facts disproving their incorrect beliefs can actually reinforce those beliefs. Researchers have observed this phenomenon in the context of political misconceptions, voting preferences, the decision to vaccinate one’s children and whether to get a flu vaccine oneself. The more people are confronted with facts at odds with their opinions, the stronger they cling to those opinions.

And if arguing with facts backfires, you know what backfires even more? Criticizing, blaming and shaming them for being thoughtless, selfish, stupid, ignorant or psychopathic. You can check this yourself: When was the last time you changed your behavior in response to someone blaming or shaming you?

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One approach to coax the hesitant:

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Would it be helpful to tell folks that humans have been acquiring immunity from exogenous RNA for the entire history of humanity?

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Sounds like a fact. And apparently facts don’t help.

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Yep, was just in a couple Facebook discussions about vaccines this week. Fortunately they did not get heated, but it was clear that both sides simply dug their heals into what they already believed, not actually listening to each other. I think the empathy approach would be hard to implement in a group online chat, better to bring an individual into a 1:1 dialogue

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Nah, I’m gonna keep being angry. But having the argument is a waste of time. There are two debates I won’t engage in: Antivax, and Israel/Palestine. Zero value. On the vaccine side, empathy tank is empty at this point. Once the kids are vaccinated, pandemic’s over for us. You want to keep getting sick and dying? Knock yourselves out. Won’t be my problem soon enough.

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I’m not a scientist, let alone a specialist in this area, but my impression based upon media reports is that the larger the unvaccinated population the larger the frequency with which the virus produces variants, including ones against which the vaccine is less effective. This means that some sort of arms race between new vaccines and new variants is likely to continue until the unvaccinated population is small enough that the virus cannot continue to spread and mutate.

This would seem to mean that even those of us that are vaccinated (I had my first jab last week) cannot completely ignore the virus in the longer term.

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Dying from COVID seems to be effective at changing someone’s mind. For the person dying, anyway.

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I just spent the weekend with my 87 year old mother who tested positive. She is very very very lucky that her symptoms were mild - fatigue and nausea. Now I’m home quarantining (even though I’'m fully vaxed, distanced, wore a mask) and wondering if my scratchy throat is due to seasonal allergies or the first signs of infection. While I was with mom, the county health department called. They asked if she knew who she got it from - she does- but she didn’t want to name names. The person is unvaxed and very ill, but has not been tested or even called his doctor. I am tempted to call the county health department myself. Yeah, I’m angry.

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@stlyankeefan You should call the health department and report it. This person may need help.

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As may other people that this person has been in contact with, who have likewise become infected – particularly those (e.g. for lack of health insurance) who are unable or unwilling to call a doctor.

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