Articulating lay theories through graphical models: A study of beliefs surrounding vaccination decisions

AbstractHow can we leverage the cognitive science of lay theories to inform interventions aimed at correcting misconceptions and changing behaviors? Focusing on the problem of vaccine skepticism, we identified a set of 14 beliefs we hypothesized would be relevant to vaccination decisions. We developed reliable scales to measure these beliefs across a large sample of participants (n = 1130) and employed state-of-the-art graphical structure learning algorithms to uncover the relationships among these beliefs. This resulted in a graphical model describing the system of beliefs relevant to childhood vaccinations, with beliefs represented as nodes and their interconnections as directed edges. This model sheds light on how these beliefs relate to one another and can be used to predict how interventions aimed at specific beliefs will play out across the larger system. Moving forward, we hope this model will help guide the development of effective, theory-based interventions promoting childhood vaccination.

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