Stanford University


Providing Normative Information Increases Intentions to Accept a COVID-19 Vaccine

M. Amin Rahimian
Sinan Aral
Avinash Collis
Dean Eckles
Kiran Garimella
Alex Moehring

Nature, January 9, 2023

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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 the actual descriptive norm, people’s baseline beliefs, and the relative importance of conformity, social learning, and free-riding. Here, using a pre-registered, randomized experiment (N = 484,239) embedded in an international survey (23 countries), we show that accurate information about descriptive norms can increase intentions to accept a vaccine for COVID-19. We find mixed evidence that information on descriptive norms impacts mask-wearing intentions and no statistically significant evidence that it impacts intentions to physically distance. The effects on vaccination intentions are largely consistent across the 23 included countries, but are concentrated among people who were otherwise uncertain about accepting a vaccine. Providing normative information in vaccine communications partially corrects individuals’ underestimation of how many other people will accept a vaccine. These results suggest that presenting people with information about the widespread and growing acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines helps to increase vaccination intentions.

Stanford University