Altruism and vaccination intentions: Evidence from behavioral experiments

Maria Cucciniello, Paolo Pin, Blanka Imre, Gregory A. Porumbescu, Alessia Melegaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Vaccine hesitancy has been on the rise throughout the past two decades, especially in high income countries where existing pro-vaccination public health communication strategies have proven ineffective. We argue that appealing to other-regarding preferences is one way of improving the effectiveness of public health communication strategies. To test this argument, we assess how vaccination intentions are influenced by the presence of people who cannot vaccinate, such as the immunosuppressed, newborns or pregnant women, using a laboratory experiment where there is a passive player whose welfare depends on the decisions of other, active players. Results suggest that pro-vaccine messages targeting altruism can increase vaccination intentions by: (i) invoking past experiences of dependence and vulnerability; (ii) stressing cooperation as a social norm; and (iii) emphasizing the presence of vulnerable individuals in a given society.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114195
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jan

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
PP acknowledges funding from the Italian Ministry of Education Progetti di Rilevante Interesse Nazionale (PRIN) grant 2017ELHNNJ and from Regione Toscana grant Spin.Ge.Vac.S.

Funding Information:
MC acknowledges funding from Bocconi University . She was awarded the Young Researcher Grant to conduct this study.

Funding Information:
BI acknowledges financial support from the Fondazione Romeo ed Enrica Invernizzi and the Lendület program of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (grant number: LP2018-2/2018 ).

Funding Information:
GP acknowledges funding from a National Research Foundation of Korea Grant from the Korean Government ( NRF-2017S1A3a2065838 )AM acknowledges support from the European Research Council (Consolidator Grant no. 101003183 ) and the Fondazione Romeo and Enrica Invernizzi , Italy.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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