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Psychology of Pandemics: Why some people are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine and how to talk about it

A recent poll found about, "one in three Americans say they definitely or probably won't get the COVID-19 vaccine."

As more COVID-19 vaccines become available, the big question is will people get them?

A recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found about, "one in three Americans say they definitely or probably won't get the COVID-19 vaccine."

So, why is that? 10TV talked with Dr. Dinah Meyer, a professor of psychology at Muskingum University. Right now, she is teaching a course on the "Psychology of Pandemics."

"The core of it really is that a lot of people just don't trust science because they don't understand it," she said. "There's a lot of big words thrown around, they don't really know what it all means, and so that just brings fear for them."

That fear then spreads on social media leading to misinformation.

"What happens is that people start to hear those things, they grab onto it, and we tend to remember negative things more than positive things," Meyer said.

It is called "negativity bias." There's also "confirmation bias."

"We like to have consistency in our thoughts. If you have a thought that vaccine would really be a good idea ... but then you're hearing things like, 'They're dangerous and they keep changing their minds,' those are two dissonant thoughts," she said. "That makes us uncomfortable. We are highly motivated to change one of those thoughts and oftentimes it's the scientific one because we don't understand the science very well."

While our inclination may be to avoid these conversations, Meyer said it's important to have them.

"You really can help people think a little more critically. You can encourage them to investigate the issue themselves and help point them to sources that are really impartial," she said.

Meyer said you should not shame or judge anyone but ask questions about their beliefs. It's important she said to do this in a private setting and not on social media. Meyer said the best thing you can do is point people to impartial resources.

"People tend to rely on their own personal experiences to inform them and that's not always accurate," she said. "I would really like to encourage people to reach for trusted scientific resources - patient advocate resources - rather than a personal experience or judgment because we all have biases ... but that doesn't equal fact or true experience.

A recent survey from the Pew Research Center shows just 42% of Black Americans are willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The Columbus Black Physicians Network is sharing an urgent message about the importance of getting the vaccine while recognizing the history of healthcare and why some may have reservations or questions.

To read more about the COVID-19 vaccine, click here.