Here's why anti-vaxxers appear more likely to embrace unproven drugs: report

anti-mask protest
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Violence has now become a more common feature of anti-mask and anti-vaccine protests

Anti-vaxxers, often motivated by baseless conspiracy theories, have a long history of questioning the work of the scientific community while discrediting medical breakthroughs. However, there is also a bizarre phenomenon of these same people having no qualms about embracing unproven drugs.

In fact, reports began circulating in September when anti-vax residents in Mississippi began using the anti-parasital drug Ivermectin as an alternative treatment for COVID. Since the drug is typically used to treat animals, it is strongly opposed to human consumption. So why would people who are deeply critical of medicine and the scientific community be open to trying unproven drugs?

Vox reporter Dylan Scott explores the mind-boggling hypocrisy behind it. Speaking to the publication, a number of psychological experts offered their take on the situation. Jay Van Bavel, director of New York University's Social Identity and Morality Lab, explained the psychology behind how people convince themselves to believe things that are known to be false.

"When you really want to believe something — like 'you can't trust the vaccines' — you'll come up with any number of rationalizations," Van Bavel said. "It's like whack-a-mole. You falsify one premise and they just create a new one."

Van Bavel also highlighted the irony of anti-vaxxers' stance and how it doesn't add up.

"On the face of it, it doesn't make sense that you don't trust doctors and science, but then the next moment, you're sharing news about some other medical cure and taking that and putting it in your body," said Van Bavel. "These are not trivial beliefs. These are some of the most significant decisions you can make in a once-in-a-century pandemic."

Scott also explained how difficult it is for new information to be presented in areas where people are predominantly skeptical about vaccinations.

"New information isn't necessarily treated as an opportunity to reassess their beliefs," Scott wrote. "Instead, new facts are seen either as affirmation of what this community already believes or as a distraction that should be dismissed because it doesn't neatly sort into their anti-vaccine narrative."

David Dunning, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan also offered a similar opinion. "People listen to people 'from their group' and whom they think they can trust," Dunning said. "People really don't know what science is, and so do you feel you can trust the person giving you advice, rather than appraising their expertise, becomes the thing."

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