Supplementary influence strategies

Most studies that have analyzed the use of persuasion methods to shape vaccine opinions report mixed results across a variety of strategies, with a scattering of techniques proving more effective than others. What is notable about the tactics that have garnered relatively better results is how they map onto the persuasive cues identified within this book.41 For instance, with reference to the aforementioned results of one-on-one advice from doctors, it would follow that this form of intervention is at least partly successful because of the expertise clinicians exhibit in medical practice settings, which coincides with Source Cues influences. Regarding such parallels, investigations of vaccine choices have also identified the force of bandwagoning, which indicates that many individuals elect to get vaccinated because they believe that the majority of people are doing so.42 In several ways these findings dovetail with Social Consensus cues, for as researchers of vaccine acceptance have noted, there exists “considerable evidence that letting people know what other people do is one of the most effective ways of increasing that behavior.”43 Correspondingly, it has been found that individuals tend be more amenable to immunizations when getting vaccinated is described as a prosocial norm, complied with by a preponderance of citizens.44 The social norm element can also include appealing to ethical mores in a strategy described elsewhere as moral framing, which distinguishes vaccination as the moral standard adhered to by an overwhelming majority of the population.4' Astride recommendations for vaccine stakeholders to mention social and moral norms are acknowledgments that people often socialize in geographically clustered networks with other likeminded individuals, and that health messaging is improved by affirming the shared sociopolitical values maintained within these groups.

Social clustering effects have been linked to homophily; the tendency for individuals to be socially attracted to, and to also associate with people bearing similar characteristics or cultural attitudes.46 On account of such homophilic clustering, vaccine hesitancy tends to be a highly networked phenomenon, in which social connections can be markedly predictive of trends in vaccine reception. For this reason, it has been suggested that positive health promotions should employ social marketing that connects with people’s networked values.47 To effectively reach vaccine-hesitant individuals enjoins influencing the social networks in which these people abide, while being cognizant of the commonly held worldviews and value concerns maintained within those networks.48 With regard to this, it has been recognized that people endorse positions on science that support rather than threaten theircultural values, and are more likely to trust experts who expressly share their own worldviews.49 Experts should, therefore, affirm cultural values instead of attacking them, while emphasizing culturally validating explanations of science.50 Also, when a general practitioner is sensitive to, and affirmative of a patient’s value-associations, vaccine promotion is aided through cultural cognitive salience. Additionally, to best avoid values-related polarization it has been suggested that science communicators use “pluralistic advocacy,” which involves featuring representatives from numerous worldview positions.51 When science advocacy is delivered by experts from a range of sociopolitical backgrounds, culturally cognitive polarization tends to diminish because the publicly contested science is no longer associated with any one messenger’s group affinities.

There are several implications of homophilic clustering, social networks, and the import of cultural cognition for the Evolution Wars. To start, science advocacy and advocates bearing connections to cultural meanings will be responded to according to those cultural attributes rather than merely the scientific facts being communicated. Consequently, proevolutionist communications must affirm the networked values maintained within specific socioreligious grids. Also, pluralistic advocacy from experts across a diverse range of cultural worldviews should be employed when possible. Hence, in appreciating cultural cognition it would be rather inane to assume that religious antievolutionists might be persuaded to accept evolutionary theory if the biological premise is represented as being fundamentally atheist in nature, with the advocates themselves being vehemently opposed to any and all religion. In such circumstances the acceptance of evolution’s empirical facts would hinge upon the cultural values thought to be linked with atheism, such that acceptance and rejection polarization would likely splinter between atheists and non-atheists accordingly, regardless of the scientific facts. If we are not earnestly affirming and connecting with people’s core values, or delivering pluralistic advocacy, there will invariably be culturally antagonistic responses, the rejection of a messenger’s expertise, and communication failure. Unless proevolutionists engage with publics in ways that avoid threatening people’s identities and social values, no amount of fact dissemination will increase science acceptance without also sparking culturally linked opposition. Consequently, it seems unlikely that New Atheist media supporting evolutionary theory, which is abounding in condemnations against religion and is dismissive of religious values (Chapter 5), will do much else except cause increased polarization away from evolutionary theory among religious populations.52

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