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

21 Scopus citations


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 (US)
Article number114195
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • Experiment
  • Health behavior
  • Social preferences
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccine hesitancy


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