Faculty Advisor

Lewin, Benjamin

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2018


The array of reasons for drifting from mainstream medical guidance surpasses a lack of comprehension, but rather stems from the propagation of alternative ideologies and the rationalization of these perspectives through different modes of thought. The people who make up the anti-vaccination movement range in socio-economic status, gender, age, race, and religion, however, they are unified by their ideals and means of justification. I was curious as to what mechanisms allow these individuals to continually rationalize their medical decisions and what contributes to making people so immovable in their beliefs, even in the face of empirical scientific data. Multiple themes for the validation of anti-mainstream beliefs in relation to vaccines arose throughout the 15 interviews and the in-depth analysis of online parenting forums I conducted. These themes consist of: reference to vaccine injury- autism, paralysis, fever, and death; the belief that we have genetic immunity to the diseases we are vaccinating for; too much risk and not enough benefit to vaccines; skepticism or criticism of pro-vaccine theories (such as herd immunity); the use and strong value of anecdotal evidence; and the construction of credibility (around anecdotal evidence and parent intuition). This research aims to aid in the understanding between patients and medical institutions, in order to improve public health efforts and increase trust in biomedical practices.


University of Puget Sound

POSTER.pptx (1757 kB)