Persuasion and the COVID-19 vaccine

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With COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out, discussion is now happening about how to convince the general public to get the vaccine once it’s available. As of mid-November, 2020, a Gallup poll found that “58% of Americans say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine,” a notable increase from 34% in July (Reinhart, 2020). What can we do to help convince the hold-outs to get the vaccine?

Just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Volpp et al., 2020), three medical professionals—in 2-page opinion piece—suggest five “behaviorally informed strategies” that may increase willingness to be vaccinated. This assignment asks students to connect those strategies to Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion.


Read “Behaviorally informed strategies for a national COVID-19 vaccine promotion program.” Identify the five suggested strategies and briefly summarize each.

Next, read “Principles of persuasion.” For each principle of persuasion, identify—if any—the suggested strategy that best matches it. For example, for the persuasion principle of “authority,” which of the five suggested vaccine promotion strategies seems to be appealing to this strategy? Explain. If there is not a suggested strategy for a particular principle of persuasion, propose a strategy.

You may want to extend this assignment into a discussion.

Discussion initial post

As you learned through the persuasion/vaccine assignment, not all of the principles of persuasion are addressed in the suggested vaccine promotion strategies. Choose one of the persuasion principles not addressed, and propose a vaccine promotion strategy based on that principle.

Discussion replies

Reply to two initial posts. In each reply, include at least two of the following types of comments.

  1. A compliment, e.g., "I like how... because...," I like that... because..."
  2. A comment, e.g., "I agree that... because...," "I disagree that... because..."
  3. A connection, e.g., "I have also read that...," "I have also thought that...," "That reminds me of..."
  4. A question, e.g., "I wonder why...," "I wonder how..." 



Reinhart, R. J. (2020, November 17). More Americans now willing to get COVID-19 vaccine.

Volpp, K. G., Loewenstein, G., & Buttenheim, A. M. (2020). Behaviorally informed strategies for a national COVID-19 vaccine promotion program. Journal of the American Medical Association. Advance online publication.


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About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.