Brendan Nyhan, a professor of political science at Dartmouth, is studying why people hold false beliefs and what is the best approach to correct them. He realized that some people seem to believe that vaccination are unnecessary / harmful, and wanted to know how to change their mindset. He considered the following 4 options:
A - A leaflet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that there had been no evidence linking the measles, mumps, and rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine and autism;
B - A leaflet from the Vaccine Information Statement on the dangers of the diseases that the M.M.R. vaccine prevents;
C - Photographs of children who had suffered from the diseases;
D - A dramatic story from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about an infant who almost died of measles.
Question: Which option would work?
Answer: None of them worked. In fact, some of them backfired, and resulted in decreased intent of vaccination! For more information, you can read the New Yorker Article.
On Brilliant, I’ve often seen solution discussions where people insist that their way of thinking is correct. To an outsider who is completely aware of the solution (or conversely, aware of the flaw), the mistake is obvious. However, the person involved is often oblivious of what is happening. This is not unique to budding amateur mathematicians. The Monty Hall problem is a classic example where even mathematicains like Paul Erdos refused to believe that switching is the best strategy
Food for thought:
1. What would convince you that you were wrong, AND make you change your mind?
2. How should we approach explaining misconceptions?
3. What do we do in the face of continued (irrational) opposition?
4. How would you convince someone else that they are wrong?
5. If someone believes that vaccinations are bad, how would you try to convince them otherwise?