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Immune to influence

A University of Konstanz study examining vaccine-related attitudes reveals that our beliefs are so resilient that we effectively immunize ourselves to the opinions of others.

A study published in the journal Vaccine provides the first rigorous look at how our attitudes towards vaccines (here: the flu vaccine) are shaped by online forces. University of Konstanz psychologists from both DFG Clusters of Excellence—“Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour” and “The Politics of Inequality”—led the research, which also included scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the University of Erfurt.

In a departure from similar studies that rely on observational data, the current study used experimental manipulation to directly measure polarization in the transmission of vaccination risk information in online communication chains. Their findings show that, contrary to expectations, existing vaccination beliefs are very resilient to radicalization, even to the point of being immune to any influence at all. The results have important implications for public health, suggesting that successful health communication should particularly target those who have not yet made up their mind.

Read the full story in the University of Konstanz’s online magazine:


  • University of Konstanz researchers publish experimental study scrutinizing how vaccination arguments propagate in chains of people.
  • Study finds no evidence of “echo chambers”: attitudes to flu vaccines did not become more extreme in groups of people who shared the same opinion.
  • Instead, people communicate only information that conforms to their prior attitudes.
  • Original publication: Helge Giese, Hansjörg Neth, Mehdi Moussaïd, Cornelia Betsch, Wolfgang Gaissmaier. The echo in flu-vaccination echo chambers: Selective attention trumps social influence. Vaccine (DOI:, this link will go live after the embargo ends).
  • About Vaccine: Vaccine is the pre-eminent journal for those interested in vaccines and vaccination. It is the official journal of The Edward Jenner Society and The Japanese Society for Vaccinology and is published by Elsevier (
  • Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request; please contact Elsevier's Newsroom at: or +31 20 485 2719.
  • Authors Helge Giese, Hansjörg Neth, and Wolfgang Gaissmaier are all from the Department of Psychology and DFG Clusters of Excellence—“Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour” and “The Politics of Inequality” – at the University of Konstanz.
  • is the University of Konstanz’s online magazine. We use multimedia approaches to provide insights into our research and science, study and teaching as well as life on campus.