Has a Celebrity Ever Convinced You to Do Something?

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Has a Celebrity Ever Convinced You to Do Something?

Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

When someone famous makes a recommendation, do you listen?

Are you more inclined to read a book that has been recommended by Kaia Gerber, buy apparel from a brand that sponsors Simone Biles or support a political candidate endorsed by Cardi B?

How do you feel about celebrities, influencers and athletes promoting Covid-19 vaccination on social media? What does this trend have in common with celebrity endorsements you have seen in the past? How is it different?

Do you think that these images will convince more people to get vaccinated? Would they convince you?

In “Celebrities Are Endorsing Covid Vaccines. Does It Help?” Mike Ives writes about the trend:

Pelé, Dolly Parton and the Dalai Lama have little in common apart from this: Over a few days in March, they became the latest celebrity case studies for the health benefits of Covid-19 vaccines.

“I just want to say to all of you cowards out there: Don’t be such a chicken squat,” Ms. Parton, 75, said in a video that she posted on Twitter after receiving her vaccine in Tennessee. “Get out there and get your shot.”

This is hardly the first time public figures have thrown their popularity behind an effort to change the behavior of ordinary people. In medicine, celebrity endorsements tend to echo or reinforce messages that health authorities are trying to publicize, whether it’s getting a vaccine, or other medical treatment. In 18th-century Russia, Catherine the Great was inoculated against smallpox as part of her campaign to promote the nationwide rollout of the procedure. Almost 200 years later, backstage at “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Elvis Presley received the polio vaccine in an effort to help reach at-risk teenagers.

But do the star-studded endorsements really work? Not necessarily. Epidemiologists say there are plenty of caveats and potential pitfalls — and little scientific evidence to prove that the endorsements actually boost vaccine uptake.

The author details how some celebrities have promoted vaccination:

Such posts are notable because they instantly allow millions of people to see the raw mechanics of immunization — needles and all — at a time when skepticism toward Covid vaccines has been stubbornly persistent in the United States and beyond. The rapid-fire testimonials by Pelé, Ms. Parton and the Dalai Lama in March, for example, collectively reached more than 30 million followers and prompted hundreds of thousands of engagements across Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. In April, the singer Ciara hosted a star-studded NBC special meant to promote vaccinations, with appearances by former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, as well as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jennifer Hudson, Matthew McConaughey and others.

He also considers whether celebrity endorsements actually boost vaccine uptake:

For the most part, though, the science linking celebrity endorsements to behavioral change is tenuous.

One reason is that people generally consider those within their own personal networks, not celebrities, the best sources of advice about changing their own behavior, Dr. [René F.] Najera said.

He cited a 2018 study that found few gun owners in the United States rated celebrities as effective communicators about safe gun storage. The owners were far more likely to trust law enforcement officers, active-duty military personnel, hunting or outdoor groups, and family members.

Dr. Najera and other researchers have been convening focus groups of Americans to find out what has prompted them to agree — or not — to be vaccinated against Covid-19. He said the primary finding so far was that rates of uptake or hesitancy often corresponded to vaccine behavior among a given person’s racial, ethnic or socioeconomic peer group.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • Has a celebrity or influencer ever convinced you to do something? Who was the celebrity, and what did they suggest? Why did their message sway you?

  • Do you think that we should pay attention to celebrities’ public health recommendations? How about their political opinions or brand endorsements? Why or why not? Does it matter to you whether a celebrity endorser is being paid?

  • How do you feel about getting vaccinated? If you are eligible, have you gotten a vaccine? If you are not yet eligible, do you plan to? What factors, including celebrity endorsements, have influenced your opinion on vaccination?

  • Are you more likely to be swayed by a famous person or by one of your peers? What role do you think peer-to-peer recommendation should play in the vaccine rollout?

  • If you were famous, would you post a picture or video of yourself getting vaccinated? Why or why not?


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Students 13 and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.