Cognitive Biases in Vaccine Decision Making with Jonathan Howard, MD

Jonathan Howard, MD, is double boarded in Neurology and Psychiatry and as he puts it in his Twitter profile, the author of several non-bestselling neurology textbooks. That’s not why he’s being interviewed. He also co-authored a book chapter entitled “The Anti-Vaccine Movement: A Litany of Fallacy and Errors,” in the book Pseudoscience: A Conspiracy Against Science and wrote his own book on fallacy and errors in medicine entitled, Cognitive Errors and Diagnostic Mistakes: A Case-Based Guide to Critical Thinking in Medicine.

We discuss some of the cognitive biases that people use when they decline vaccines, like the nirvana fallacy, anecdotal fallacy, and conspiracy theories. In some ways, the decision to vaccinate or not can be inordinately complicated, almost as if every step of the scientific processes needs to be vetted by each individual getting the vaccine. Our goal as physicians should be to ease the cognitive load of the decision-making, so we talk about how we can accomplish this.

Dr. Howard did his residency and fellowship at NYU, where he is now an associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, specializing in Multiple Sclerosis. He is the neurology clerkship director and director of neurology at Bellevue. He can be found on Twitter at @JHowardBrainMD.

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