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College of Business Research Paper on Omission Bias Wins JCA Best Paper Award

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Vaccine imageStony Brook University College of Business researchers Gary Sherman, Stacey Finkelstein and Paul Connell, along with coauthors at American University, Villanova University, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, won the Best Paper Award for 2021 from the Journal of Consumer Affairs.

The paper, “When taking action means accepting responsibility: Omission bias predicts parents’ reluctance to vaccinate due to greater anticipated culpability for negative side effects,” explored how individual differences in omission bias — or the tendency to consider harm from inaction preferable to equivalent harm from action — shapes parental vaccination decisions for their children.

When parents vaccinate their children, they often consider the tradeoffs between vaccinating their children (taking action and having their children potentially experience mild or moderate vaccine side effects) and not vaccinating (being inactive and potentially having their child experience the consequences of getting a vaccine-preventable disease).

The research found that those high in omission bias showed greater emotional responses to vaccinating, placed lower trust in medical providers, and assigned a lower priority to vaccination. This paper is part of a series of collaborations between business faculty and providers and policymakers in public health.

Connell and Finkelstein are associate professors of marketing, and Sherman is an associate professor of management.

In honor of their work, the team received a nominal cash prize, which it is donating to an aid organization in the Global South — regions in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania — which aims to improve vaccine access in places where access is often limited.

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