Testing psychological inoculation to reduce reactance to vaccine-related communication

Linda C. Karlsson*, Karl O Maki, Dawn Holford, Angelo Fasce, Philipp Schmid , Stephan Lewandowsky, Anna Soveri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Research has found that vaccine-promoting messages can elicit state reactance (i.e., negative emotions in response to a perceived threat to behavioral freedom), especially among individuals with high trait reactance (i.e., proneness to experiencing reactance). This can result in a lower willingness to accept vaccines. We investigated whether inoculation against reactance—that is, forewarning individuals about potentially experiencing reactance—can reduce the effects of trait reactance on vaccination willingness. Participants (N = 710) recruited through Facebook were randomly allocated to be either inoculated or not. They were then shown a message promoting a fictitious vaccine, which included either a low, medium, or high threat to freedom. Contrary to research on other health topics, inoculation was ineffective at reducing state reactance towards the vaccination message. Inoculation also did not mitigate the effects of trait reactance on vaccination willingness, and was even counterproductive in some cases. High-reactant individuals were less willing to get vaccinated than low-reactant ones, especially at high freedom threat. Conversely, high freedom threat resulted in increased vaccination willingness among low-reactant individuals. Further research is needed to understand why inoculation against reactance produces different results with vaccination, and to develop communication strategies that mitigate reactance to vaccination campaigns without compromising the positive effects of vaccine recommendations for low-reactant individuals.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Communication
Early online date7 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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