"In October 2019, a month or so before Covid-19 began to spread from the
industrial Chinese city of Wuhan, Steven Taylor, an Australian psychologist at
the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, published what would turn out
to be a remarkably prophetic book, The Psychology of Pandemics
Even his publishers had doubts about its relevance and market potential. But in
the 22 months since, the book has become like a Lonely Planet guide to the
pandemic, passed around and marked up like waypoints along a new and dreadful
global health journey.
Taylor’s book, as its foreword points out, is a picture of “how human factors
impact the spreading of disease and emotional disturbance”. The stops along the
way include prejudices, the role of the media, attitudes to vaccinations, how
society manages rumors, and the psychology of conspiracy theories.
The western world, with its enviable access to healthcare compared with much of
the planet, is approximately at Chapter 10 in this journey: improving vaccine
adherence. “Vaccine hesitancy doesn’t really get at the motivational roots for
why people don’t want to get vaccinated,” Taylor told the Guardian.
CDC data showing that urban and rural rates of Covid-19 transmission closely
shadow each other, and broad availability of vaccines across much of the
western world, suggests denser psychological complexities around “hesitancy”
than described by political or economic orthodoxies to explain why 90 million
adult Americans remain unprotected by any vaccine.
A preferable term, Taylor writes, and one that has been used by psychologists
for close to 60 years, is psychological reactance – a motivational response to
“rules, regulation, or attempts at persuasion that are perceived as threatening
to one’s autonomy and freedom of choice”.
Despite this, Taylor says that what people say about vaccination is often
different from what they do, and studies before vaccines were released
predicted a lower take-up than what has actually taken place when faced with a
lethal pandemic. That, in many ways, is an optimistic sign, as are signs that
vaccination take-up is again rising as the Delta variant surges, especially
among unvaccinated populations."
Via Doug Senko.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics