Rationally Irrational

Happy Belated Adoption Month! Yes, I know it was in November but I’m sure you understand that the reason I missed Adoption Month was because of, well, adoption. Thanks to the very reason I have all my kids, I can’t even reflect on how awesome it is to have my kids. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Perfectly logical, right? As opposed to the recent study on flu vaccine deniers that shows debunking myths about the flu vaccine makes people less likely to get one. What?! So in the spirit of National Influenza Vaccine Week, I’m just going to have to crawl out of the chaos and explain that one.

If you read the findings, basically it went like this: Group A and Group B believe the flu vaccine is dangerous, can give them the flu, and so on and so on. Group A is given lots of very factual information on the dangers of influenza (like death). Then Group A is also given piles of information on the safety of the vaccine as well as the reason why the vaccine can’t give them the flu (because it can’t). Meanwhile, Group B is served coffee and donuts. Afterwards, they ask each group whether they have changed their minds about getting the vaccine. Shockingly, Group A is now less likely to pop down to their local Walgreen’s and roll up a sleeve. Yep. That’s right. So much for information is power, eh? (It’s actually kind of depressing. I’m wondering why I bother saying anything ever now. Sigh.)

Anyway how did the researchers explain this phenomenon? By the way, these guys are famous for studying irrationality. They’ve basically made a career out of showing how facts that challenge one’s belief system don’t necessarily change that belief. What they have found is that dispelling one myth just dispels one myth. It doesn’t challenge all the other reasons a person believes a certain way. In fact, getting rid of that one myth, brings to mind every other concern, misbelief or outright fear that person may have.

It’s like this: Zoe: “Mommy, I don’t want to wear that shirt, it’s scratchy.” Me: “What are you talking about? I just cut the tag out and had the entire inside lined with soft fleece after washing it 50 times in fabric softener.” Zoe: “Oh. Well, the problem is that red is just not my color.”

Get it? The sad fact is that the more we talk about vaccines, the more people are reminded of all their fears about immunization. They search for other reasons not to vaccinate. But the answer is not to stop talking. Those of us who believe in the life-saving miracle of vaccines need to talk until we are blue in the face, stamping out myth after myth after myth until there is nothing left to be afraid of.

So there you have it. There are a lot of things to be scared about in this world. If I tell you I hate skiing because I’m afraid of the chair lift, you’re probably going to point me in the direction of the towrope. At which point I’ll tell you that I’m actually afraid of breaking my leg. Which isn’t entirely irrational. What is irrational is that we’re going skiing over Christmas. Skiing is dangerous. But so is influenza. As are the other vaccine preventable diseases. Not getting vaccinated is not a rational decision.

Go get your flu shot.