The study found that the effects of ridiculous memes about antivaxes increase the desire to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to new findings published in the journal, pro-vaccination messages can be surprisingly effective when delivered through humorous online memes. Computers in human behavior. A number of studies have shown that exposure to antivax drugs has increased the desire of the British population to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Researchers say that humorous memes have been able to bypass the typical immune processes of people who have been vaccinated.

Following the advent of the vaccine to fight the coronavirus novel, public health workers in Western countries have struggled with a population that has been persuaded to get vaccinated. Because of the widespread misinformation about the vaccine, officials have turned to educational campaigns backed by expert sources to convince the public that the vaccine is safe and effective.

Unfortunately, such educational campaigns can be counterproductive, as people who shy away from the vaccine are more prone to conspiracy and do not trust authoritative sources. Information campaigns are not designed to become viral on social media and can easily be left behind by anti-vaccine messages. Sean N. A group of psychologists led by Geniol suggested the need for new interventions that use messages that are highly fragmented, large-scale, and unlikely to be perceived as corrupt – like the Internet meme.

“I find memes interesting because they spread quickly and are processed by the audience; Therefore, different messages / texts within memes can be effective in persuading / informing others, ”said Geniol, an assistant at Fraser Valley University.

“In addition, the fact that they are being processed and rapidly spreading also means that they can reach and influence people who will not come across such information or try to avoid it. For example, the kind of humor in memes that insults or ridicules certain groups of people or their beliefs may cause some to reconsider their views or to distance themselves from others who hold those views. Can exposure to these types of memes change a person’s beliefs or the extent to which they resemble certain groups? When I started this project, there were all kinds of ideas / questions that interested me. ”

Researchers have developed six studies involving 1,584 people in the United Kingdom. In each of these studies, participants were randomly assigned to an experimental or control position. The experimental team looked at a series of eight vaccine-related Internet memes collected by Google Image Search, and the control team looked at control images. Although the memes differed slightly from the study, most of them were sarcastic about anti-waxers.

After seeing the photos, participants were asked if they intended to be vaccinated against COVID-19. A joint analysis of all six studies showed that the effects of vaccine memes increased participants’ willingness to be vaccinated even after taking into account their gender, age, and political orientation.

“Little is known about the extent to which memes can change beliefs or intentions,” Geniol told PsyPost. “Our research has shown that vaccination memes, in particular memes that support vaccination or do not support antivaxes, can increase spectator motivation. In other words, our research shows that the influence of memes can change beliefs or intentions under certain conditions.

In their study, Geniole and her team also provided some explanations that could be particularly convincing for participants in internet memes. Unlike the traditional public health statement, memes were not considered to have originated from expert or scientific sources and did not openly oppose misinformation. They were ridiculed and ridiculed and could be perceived as entertaining rather than persuasive. This reduces the psychological response and the immune response to the risks to the confidence of the vaccinated participants.

Another possibility is that satirical memes can legalize anti-waxers and alienate participants from the anti-wax movement and related beliefs. Similarly, memes may have the effect that anti-vaccines are abnormal and disliked by others, leading participants to want to adhere to alternative immunization norms. “Unlike statements that support other vaccinations or interventions that focus on misinformation and beliefs about vaccines, memes may be partially effective because they target social groups that support such beliefs instead,” the study authors explained.

Interestingly, the effect was strong, but when the vaccine began to appear, it seemed to weaken. The first three studies were conducted between August and October 2020 before the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine was announced, and the next three studies were in November 2020 after the announcement. Compared with the last three studies, the results of the first three studies showed that the effect of memes on vaccine intent was less pronounced after the vaccine was announced.

“After the announcement of the first safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, and discussions / opinions about vaccination became widespread (and divisive), memes no longer affected vaccination intentions,” Geniol said. “Therefore, it seems that this type of humor found in memes and memes can only change beliefs or views on topics or decisions that have not been carefully considered or intended.”

According to the authors of the study, future research will be needed to study the psychological processes by which Internet memes may affect vaccination attitudes and behavior. It is also important to examine how this effect may change depending on contextual factors, such as the stages of vaccine development.

Sean N. Geniol, Brian M. Byrd, Alaina Witzel, Jordan T. Written by McEvoy and Valentina Proietti, “Preliminary Evidence that Brief Impact of Internet Vaccine-Related Memoirs may Influence Intention to Vaccinate against COVID-19.”

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