Lorella Lotto 

I would get vaccinated right now, but tomorrow? The effect of risk perception and time discount on vaccine acceptance.

Required budget: 19.000 euro

Scientists and experts are looking for a vaccine that can end the pandemic. Although it is the only weapon capable of defeating this terrible virus, many people seem reluctant to get vaccinated. Our project considers the hypothesis that this hesitation may be due to an underestimation of the perceived risk associated with the disease caused by the Coronavirus. The project tenet on the risk-as-feelings model: people’s reactions to danger are instinctive and intuitive1 and they vary depending on the specific characteristics of a hazard. Risk perception increases when a risk is uncommon, unknown to science, or with catastrophic nature. An important role in risk perception is played by emotional impact (or affect), which defines a stimulus as positive or negative2. Finally, our decisions are influenced by the time an outcome will be experienced: people tend to overvalue outcomes that are close in time than outcomes that are delayed in time (time discounting) 3.  This project aims investigating whether the perception of risk associated with COVID-19 and time discounting impacts vaccine acceptance against SARS-CoV-2 It is plausible that the perception of risk associated with the disease makes the view on the vaccine more positive, increasing the intention to vaccinate in the short term. But what could happen in the long run or when the vaccine will be available? It is possible that, given the fluctuating trend of the crisis, during periods of greater containment of the virus people underestimate the importance of the vaccine. In addition, the habituation to the virus could also inhibit the perception of risk and the intention to get vaccinate against SARS-CoV-2. Understanding the role of emotions and risk perception in the acceptance of this vaccine is essential at the socio-political level to ensure successful communication campaigns, especially considering the pressure on health systems and the impact on the world economy caused by the pandemic.


Estimate of the funds needed to implement the project: 1 annual research grant (about 19,000 euros)


References  1. Slovic P, Peters E. Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2006;15(6):322–325.  2. Slovic P et al. Risk Anal. 2004;24(2):311-322.

3. O’Donoghue T, Rabin M. Am Econ Rev. 2015;105(5):273-79.