People who are in the online game on vaccination made the decision to be vaccinated was more generous and was warmer to those who have made the same decision, and shared less with the participants that refused vaccination virtual, regardless of their belonging to a particular social group. This difference was greater, the more people considered vaccination a moral obligation members of society. The authors of the work published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, believe that people perceive vaccination as a social contract and relate better to those who performs this contract.
Vaccination protects individuals and society as a whole — the greater the percentage of people vaccinated, the slower the infection will spread. Therefore, vaccination is sometimes considered as a moral obligation to the human society. For example, last year the world Health Organization has included vaccine refusal in the global top ten threats to humanity, and the German ethics Council called vaccinate themselves and their children a universal moral obligation. People who share this point of view, can demand from others to obey the ethical law and to apprehend those who refuse to be vaccinated, as violators of the social contract.
However, vaccinations are accompanied by some disadvantages and risks (for example, time spent and the likelihood of side effects), and the higher the level of vaccination in society, the probability of getting sick for the individual below. So the choice becomes a social dilemma in which everyone weighs the benefits and liabilities to society.
Scientists from Germany under the leadership of Lars Korn (Korn Lars) of the University of Erfurt suggested that people perceive vaccination as a social contract and more generous to those who follow this Treaty, than those who refuse vaccinations. In this case, according to the authors, attitudes to non-vaccinated people will not depend on social groups — to the unvaccinated “their” attitude to be as suspicious as to refuse vaccinations for individuals from other social groups.
To test their hypothesis, the researchers posed the following experiment. Volunteers (1,032 people from the US and the UK, who have been selected on the online platform Amazon Mechanical Turk) had 100 health points, which corresponded to 0.2 dollars. First, each of the volunteers had to allocate points between themselves and an anonymous participant in the game — thus the people demonstrated a basic level of generosity. Then the volunteers were told that in the experiment there are two groups and that they belong to one of these groups. Participants were either citizens or immigrants, and in the second case — a group A or B without social interpretations.
The next step was a game of vaccination: volunteers had to decide whether to make the vaccine. The decision could result in the loss of virtual health: 50 points taken away if the party would stick to, and the chance of getting sick depended on the number of vaccinated people. However, the vaccination led to the loss of 10 points, and with a probability of 45 percent it’s called “side effects” and were deducted a further 15 points. After the game, the study participants again took the test on the generosity — distributed points between themselves and another person — but this time they knew to which group he belongs and what decision made in the game in the vaccine. Prior to this, participants questioned how warmly they belong to someone give points.
In the second experiment (it was attended by 1212 people) of the participants passed the same procedures, and the nature of the consent to the vaccine had to choose between “option a” and rejection of it — the rules of the game remain the same, but contained no mention of vaccination and infection. After the game, in this version of the experiment, the volunteers filled out a questionnaire about whether they think that vaccination is a moral obligation.
At the end of the experiment, the volunteers received a reward — it was calculated from the remaining points of health and points received from other participants.
The results confirmed the assumption that people perceive vaccination as a social contract. Volunteers who are in the game decided to get vaccinated were more generous to other vaccinated regardless of their membership in a group, and have refused vaccination, participants were given fewer points. Those who chose not to vaccinate, distributed resources regardless of the decision of the second participant (compared to chose to be vaccinated volunteers, p < 0.001). Virtual vaccinated participants also felt more warmth towards those who have made the same decision, compared to volunteers who refused vaccination (p < 0.001).
In the second experiment, the results were similar: participants who decided in favor of vaccinations or “option A”, was more generous to those who are doing the same choice. This difference was amplified if the person believed vaccination is a moral obligation.
The authors conclude that people do tend to perceive vaccination as a social contract, to experience more warmth to those who share their position and be less generous to those who refuse vaccinations. Scientists suggest that the concept of the social contract can convince more people to vaccinate in the course of public discussions.
From the editor
It is worth noting that participants in the experiment were recruited on the online platform Amazon Mechanical Turk. It is a service where you can perform small tasks online and get a modest earnings. Therefore, the sample cannot be called representative — it is likely to have included people with low incomes who cannot find other work. In addition, we know nothing about the social situation of the parties (including whether they are immigrants) and the status of vaccination in real life — it is possible that these variables influenced the choice of the people in the experiment. Finally, the solution that comes to their own health and well-being of society may not coincide with the selection in online game, where at stake is only a couple of dollars