Free Essay Example on the Autism-Vaccine Controversy

Published: 2022-04-18 14:28:56
Free Essay Example on the Autism-Vaccine Controversy
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories: Autism
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1769 words
15 min read
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After reading the title of this article, I think it is going to talk about how reporting of Autism-Vaccine has not been done appropriately and the consequences this reporting. I have previously heard in the media the controversy that vaccines can cause Austin in certain conditions. The questions that I have about the text is whether the authors investigated if vaccines are related to autism in any way as the media suggest.

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The Effect of Falsely Balanced Reporting of the Autism-Vaccine Controversy on Vaccine Safety Perceptions and Behavioral Intentions

By Graham Dixon1* and Christopher Clarke2

1Department of Communication, Cornell University, 336 Kennedy Hall, Ithaca, NY 14850 and 2Department of Communication, George Mason University, MS 3D6 4400 University Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA.

*Correspondence to: G. Dixon. E-mail: [email protected]

Received on April 15, 2012; accepted on October 25, 2012

Abstract

Controversy surrounding an autism-vaccine link has elicited considerable news media attention. Despite being widely discredited, research suggests that journalists report this controversy by presenting claims both for and against a link in a relatively 'balanced' fashion. To investigate how this reporting style influences judgments of vaccine risk, we randomly assigned 320 under- graduate participants to read a news article presenting either claims both for/against an autism-vaccine link, link claims only, no-link claims only or non-health-related information. Participants who read the balanced article were less certain that vaccines are safe, more likely to believe experts were less certain that vaccines are safe and less likely to have their future children vaccinated. Results suggest that balancing conflicting views of the autism-vaccine controversy may lead readers to erroneously infer the state of expert knowledge regarding vaccine safety and negatively impact vaccine intentions. This section highlights what the article will be describing.

Introduction

Although vaccination is considered one of the greatest public health achievements of the last century [1, 2], controversy surrounding a link between vaccines and autism has elicited considerable media attention and public concern [3]. Despite a strong medical and scientific consensus backed by rigorous epidemiological studies indicating no link between autism and vaccines [4-7], research suggests that journalists in the United Kingdom and United States often report this controversy by presenting claims both for and against a link in a relatively 'balanced' fashion [3, 8, 9]. In some cases, so-called 'falsely balanced' reporting fails to mention which claim is supported by a scientific consensus [10]. The media present the controversy of autism and vaccine in a "balanced fashion" without looking at facts.

With news media as an important source of health-and vaccine-related information [11, 12], health officials have argued that coverage of the autism-vaccine controversy increased public uncertainty about vaccine safety and decreased vaccine uptake [13-15]. Studies partially support this argument, finding that following media reports of the autism-vaccine controversy, public confidence around vaccination declined [8], while selective non-receipt of vaccination increased in some localities [16, 17]. Focus group interviews also point out that news coverage of the controversy potentially increased audience un- certainty regarding vaccine safety [9, 18, 19]. Despite these findings, the aforementioned studies either do not measure participants' media exposure or use experimental methods to establish a causal association between media exposure and vaccine beliefs and decision making. Using experimental methods, we extend this research by examining how specific forms of news messages on the autism-vaccine controversy (i.e. balance) influence readers' judgments of vaccine safety and intentions to vaccinate-factors that are highly predictive of vaccination uptake [20-23]. This paragraph highlights the main purpose of the article which is to study how particular forms of news messages on autism-vaccine controversy can influence readers' judgments of vaccine safety and intentions to vaccinate.

Methods

An experiment was administered to undergraduate students (N 320; M 19.9 years; SD 1.56; 67% female) recruited from an online database at a mid-sized university in northeastern United States. Undergraduate students were chosen as a convenience sample. The study received ethical approval from the Institutional Review Board.

Procedure

Participants were randomly assigned to read one of four real news articles from prominent newspapers and television stations published online and in print no >1 year prior to data collection. The news articles were chosen through online searches using terms such as 'autism and vaccines' and 'autism vaccine controversy'. Aside from selecting articles based on their presentation style (i.e. balanced, link and no link), we preferred recently published articles (no later than 1 year prior to our experiment) from prominent news media with high readership. Articles were standardized using identical font/size and removing source identification. The four articles were coded as either 'no-link' (presenting only the perspective that vaccines do not cause autism), 'link' (presenting only the perspective that vaccines could cause autism), 'falsely balanced' (presenting both perspectives without mention that a scientific/ medical consensus rejects a link) or 'control' (non-health-related article).

After completing a questionnaire requesting demographic data (age and sex) and their intention to have children, participants were given their assigned news article to read. After completing the reading, participants answered a questionnaire assessing their evaluation of how their respective article presented the autism-vaccine link (the manipulation check); how certain they are about vaccine safety and how certain they think scientists are about vaccine safety and intention to vaccinate oneself and their future children. This paragraph highlights the procedure of the study where the participants were given a news article relating to autism-vaccine controversy and told to give their perspective on how the article presented various evidence relating to the topic.

Participants were debriefed and provided with a vaccine information sheet upon conclusion of the experiment.

Dependent variables ("a variable whose value depends on that of another")

Certainty was measured using a six-point certainty scale (1 very uncertain; 6 very certain), adapted from Corbett and Durfee [24]. Participants' 'personal' certainty about vaccine safety consisted of the following single item:

Please indicate how certain 'you' are that vaccines are safe to receive.

Participants' perception of scientists' certainty about vaccine safety was measured using the following single item:

Please indicate how certain you believe 'scientists' are that vaccines are safe to receive.

Behavioral intention was measured using a six-point Likert agreement scale (1 strongly disagree; 6 strongly agree) adapted from Fishbein [23]. Self-intention to be vaccinated consisted of the following single item:

I intend to receive any vaccination that my health care provider recommends in the future.

Intention to vaccinate ones' future children consisted of the following single item:

If I were to have children in the future, I will make sure they receive any vaccination that my health care provider recommends.

We measured the dependent variables using a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), with group as the independent variable. Post hoc analyses were performed to measure differences between groups for each dependent variable.

Manipulation check

To establish measurement validity, the manipulation check assessed whether participants exposed to a particular article actually perceived the article as presenting link only claims, no-link only claims or balanced claims (there was no check for the control article). Using a six-point Likert agreement scale, participants responded to what extent they thought their article:

Presents only the perspective that vaccines do not cause autism.

Presents only the perspective that vaccines could cause autism.

Presents both perspectives stating (1) vaccines could cause autism and (2) vaccines do not cause autism.

Articles were not quantitatively coded in terms of the percentage of each one devoted to link and no-link perspectives. Instead, we relied on participant perceptions that our 'balanced' article did, in fact, appear to reflect both link and no-link positions more so compared with participants receiving link only and no-link only articles. Dependent variables and Manipulation check were used in this study.

Results

A series of ANOVAs found no differences among groups in terms of age (P 0.315) and gender (P 0.527). In addition, 94% of participants reported that they intend to have one or more children in the future.

Manipulation check

The manipulation check assessed whether participants who read a particular article actually perceived it as link, no-link or balanced. Participants across the three groups included in the manipulation check (the control group was not included) rated their respective article in agreement with our coding (Table I).

Personal certainty of vaccine safety

A significant effect was observed, F(3, 314) 5.536, P < 0.001, 12 0.05. Using a Bonferroni post hoc comparison test, participants who read the falsely balanced article reported lower certainty scores that vaccines are safe (M 4.08, SD 1.13) than participants in the no-link (M 4.67, SD 0.94), P < 0.01 and the control group (M 4.61, SD 1.07), P < 0.01, but not the link group (M 4.375, SD 0.93). In terms of percent, participants in the balanced group reported certainty scores that were on average 13% lower than those in the no-link group and 12% lower than those in the control group (Fig. 1).

Perception of scientists' certainty of vaccine safety

A significant effect was observed, F(3, 315) 5.452, P < 0.001, 12 0.049. A Games-Howell post hoc comparison test revealed that participants in the falsely balanced group reported that scientists were less certain of vaccine safety (M 4.59, SD 1.16) than those in the no-link group (M 5.19, SD 0.83), P < 0.01, but not the link or control group. In terms of percent, participants in the balanced group reported certainty scores that were on average 12% lower than those in the no-link group (Fig. 2).

Behavioral intentions

A significant effect was observed for intention to vaccinate future children, F(3, 315) 3.023, P < 0.05, 12 0.028. Using a Bonferroni post hoc comparison test, participants in the falsely balanced group reported...

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