A Computational Approach to Characterizing the Impact of Social Influence on Individuals’ Vaccination Decision Making

Department of Computer Science, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong S.A.R.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 04/2013; 8(4):e60373. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060373
Source: PubMed


In modeling individuals vaccination decision making, existing studies have typically used the payoff-based (e.g., game-theoretical) approaches that evaluate the risks and benefits of vaccination. In reality, whether an individual takes vaccine or not is also influenced by the decisions of others, i.e., due to the impact of social influence. In this regard, we present a dual-perspective view on individuals decision making that incorporates both the cost analysis of vaccination and the impact of social influence. In doing so, we consider a group of individuals making their vaccination decisions by both minimizing the associated costs and evaluating the decisions of others. We apply social impact theory (SIT) to characterize the impact of social influence with respect to individuals interaction relationships. By doing so, we propose a novel modeling framework that integrates an extended SIT-based characterization of social influence with a game-theoretical analysis of cost minimization. We consider the scenario of voluntary vaccination against an influenza-like disease through a series of simulations. We investigate the steady state of individuals' decision making, and thus, assess the impact of social influence by evaluating the coverage of vaccination for infectious diseases control. Our simulation results suggest that individuals high conformity to social influence will increase the vaccination coverage if the cost of vaccination is low, and conversely, will decrease it if the cost is high. Interestingly, if individuals are social followers, the resulting vaccination coverage would converge to a certain level, depending on individuals' initial level of vaccination willingness rather than the associated costs. We conclude that social influence will have an impact on the control of an infectious disease as they can affect the vaccination coverage. In this respect, our work can provide a means for modeling the impact of social influence as well as for estimating the effectiveness of a voluntary vaccination program.

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