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Research Assistants

Examining the Role of the Confirmation Bias in Information Processing and Decision Formation in the Context of Media Coverage of Covid-19 Vaccination Program in the U.S. During Period from December 2020 to October 2021

Broad COVID-19 vaccination programs are the main tool to allow people to begin the post COVID-19 pandemic recovery process and return to normalcy. Our data and prior studies have shown that individual trust in the vaccines’ safety is the strongest predictor of willingness to take the vaccine. The CDC plays a vital role in propagating vaccine safety information, while independent news outlets contribute to the discourse. To elucidate how these sources shaped individual perceptions of vaccine safety during the U.S. vaccination rollout, we surveyed 349 individuals in February, April, and October 2021. Participants' trust in vaccines and information sources were assessed and complemented by a behavioral task capturing information processing style and susceptibility to confirmation bias. Concurrently, we collected COVID-19 vaccine-related media publications used by study participants between December 2020 and October 2021 (N ~ 13,000). This comprehensive dataset offers insights into the interplay between cognitive styles, media coverage, and health decision-making during health crises.

The initial paper, produced from these data, suggests that understanding vaccine hesitancy as a by-product of complex interactions between individual cognitive styles and how individuals relate to public health institutions, rather than viewing it as a “new threat” linked to particular socio-demographic groups can help to clarify mechanisms that underlie the phenomenon. Given the complexity of modern medicine, with its increasingly opaque biomedical technologies, it is increasingly difficult to make informed medical decisions. Thus, health decisions may become primarily a decision of whom to trust. In that, the modern public health system becomes similar to the modern financial system, in which stability and performance critically depend on high levels of public confidence. More research is needed to better understand interactions between an individual and institutional authorities during a public health crisis and develop policy advice that will account for vaccine hesitant attitudes in the future.

Requisite Skills and Qualifications

Applicants should possess a foundational grasp of data analysis and coding. RAs will be responsible for data organization and preprocessing. One RA will support computational modeling of behavioral experiment data using Matlab and Python, while another will engage in thematic analysis of qualitative data from media sources through NVivo. Both RAs will be tasked with generating tables, graphs, and supplementary materials for the upcoming publications.