Examining implicit neural bias against vaccine hesitancy

Annika Hautala, Annika Kluge, Boaz Hameiri, Niloufar Zebarjadi, Jonathan Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in many ways. At the societal level, disparities in attitudes toward the COVID-19 vaccines have led to polarization and intense animosity. In this study, we use a novel paradoxical thinking intervention that was found to be effective in difficult and violent intergroup contexts, and measure its effectiveness in a novel unobtrusive way in an important and timely context, namely prejudice against vaccine hesitancy. In the midst of a vaccination campaign, 36 young Finnish adults either went through the intervention or through a control condition. Magnetoencephalography then measured a neural response that is thought to reflect intergroup bias and possibly implicit prejudice. This neural response was reduced among the participants receiving the intervention, compared to the control group, thereby suggesting a potential mechanism of intergroup bias that is affected by a psychological intervention even during a campaign that castigates aggressively vaccine-hesitant individuals. The findings reported here contribute to the recent accumulating evidence of the potential of neuroimaging to reveal covert mental effects by psychological interventions. They may also have societal implications for moderating the polarized attitudes in a new era of pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)532-543
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


The work was supported by the Kulttuurin ja Yhteiskunnan Tutkimuksen Toimikunta [328674].

FundersFunder number
Kulttuurin ja Yhteiskunnan Tutkimuksen Toimikunta328674


    • Implicit association test (IAT)
    • Implicit neural prejudice
    • Vaccine hesitancy
    • alpha rhythm
    • intergroup bias


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