Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name





College of Science & Mathematics


Bethany Raiff, Ph.D.

Committee Member 1

Danielle Arigo, Ph.D.

Committee Member 2

Steven Brunwasser, Ph.D.

Committee Member 3

Justin Strickland, Ph.D.


COVID-19, vaccine risk perception


Health behavior--United States


Psychology | Public Health


The COVID-19 pandemic has been the most profound public health emergency of the past several decades and the United States has faced numerous challenges with the timely adoption of mitigating health behaviors. Sustained ambivalence surrounding perceptions of public health recommendations of social distancing, mask wearing, and timely vaccination remain a barrier to slowing the spread of the virus years after its initial onset. Behavior analysis and behavioral economics offer compelling theoretical and quantitative models for framing the relationship between behaviors that are aversive in the short term but beneficial for individual and public good in the long term. The present series of studies sought to construct and validate a measure that evaluates the interplay between risk assessment and social discounting inherent in the adoption of public health recommendations. In this document three studies are presented which explored the relationship between social distance and vaccine type, as well as psychological and clinical variables. Largely, individuals were less likely to endorse vaccine opt-in as risk perception and increasing social distance increased. COVID anxiety and to a lesser extent general anxiety and depression were predictive of opt in, as were dimensions of health literacy. These data provide a framework for assessing the process of vaccine risk perception in the context of social distance and may be useful in the construction of effective public policy.