The COVID-19 pandemic, an objectively medical phenomenon, became heavily politicized as a result of a constant flow of misinformation sourced from a small collection of public figures and amplified by social media patterns. Perception of expert consensus has been shown to act as a key factor (“gateway”) that guides public opinion in times of confusion or crisis; this misinformation undermined the perception of an expert medical consensus regarding the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. The subversion of this consensus contributed to subsequent waves of infection and played a role in allowing the death toll to reach the millions by inciting confusion and counterproductive behavior among the general public. This study examines the potential for “inoculation” against misinformation on the COVID-19 vaccine as a means of more effectively communicating scientific consensus. 151 participants gathered via Amazon Mechanical Turk were administered a questionnaire both before and after exposure to an informative or misinformative stimulus that either reinforced the perception of a consensus (consensus message), subtracted from it (countermessage), or “inoculated” against misinformation messages. While the main effect of experimental condition on change in estimate of consensus was not significant, a number of adjacent relationships were explored between demographics and evaluation of the vaccine which carry implications for future misinformation events.


Clayton, Susan




Cognition and Perception | Health Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Psychology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis


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