Current strategies for correcting misinformation about the dangers of vaccinations have the opposite effect and reinforce ill-founded beliefs, a study by experts at the University of Edinburgh suggests.
Presenting scientific facts to disprove misconceptions was found to strengthen unfounded opinions, such as that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism.
Similarly, showing images which suggest unvaccinated children can suffer from disease inspired the strongest belief that vaccines had harmful side effects.
A survey of people carried out in Scotland and Italy measured attitudes towards popular misconceptions about the MMR vaccine and asked them whether they would give the vaccine to their child.
The participants were then divided and presented with different approaches to combat misinformation about vaccines.
Welcoming the study, Professor Sergio Della Sala, from the University of Edinburgh’s department of psychology, said: “These findings offer a useful example of how factual information is misremembered over time.“