What is it about?

In this research done during the COVID-19 pandemic in Serbia, we found that people who endorsed conspiracy theories and showed a preference for natural immunity (i.e. they believed that COVID-19 can be beaten with natural remedies and nutrition or that it is harmless for those with a strong immunity) were less likely to get vaccinated and more likely to resort to using pseudoscientific health practices to protect themselves from the virus (e.g. they drank healing concoctions). Moreover, we find that trust in science was relatively high during the pandemic, while around a third of the population believed in the wisdom of the common man to deal with the pandemic. Those who had more trust in science were also more likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19, while those who put their trust in the wisdom of the common man were less likely to do so, and also more likely to use pseudoscientific practices to protect themselves.

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Why is it important?

Our research shows how conspiracy theories and believing that just because something is natural, it’s also good can shape public health during a pandemic. It also showcases the need for long-term efforts in building scientific literacy. Moreover, our findings could be applied to more direct interventions, by relying on people’s belief in the wisdom of the common man, or by directly targeting the beliefs surrounding natural immunity through media reports.

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This page is a summary of: I trust my immunity more than your vaccines: “Appeal to nature” bias strongly predicts questionable health behaviors in the COVID-19 pandemic, PLoS ONE, February 2023, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0279122.
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