Do you want to get a flu shot? Write down a plan

A new PNAS paper “Using Implementation Intentions Prompts to Enhance Influenza Vaccination Rates” provides evidence of the power of plan-making in getting a flu vaccine shot (Full copy here. Hat tip: Prashant Srivastava). In an experiment, random sets of employees received a mailing that asked them to write down the date they planned to be vaccinated or the date and time they planned to be vaccinated. The first plan-making prompt didn’t work. The second did.

Vaccination rates increased when these implementation intentions prompts were included in the mailing. The vaccination rate among control condition employees was 33.1%. Employees who received the prompt to write down just a date had a vaccination rate 1.5 percentage points higher than the control group, a difference that is not statistically significant. Employees who received the more specific prompt to write down both a date and a time had a 4.2 percentage point higher vaccination rate, a difference that is both statistically significant and of meaningful magnitude.

Public health officials may be the ones most likely to read this study, but marketers at pharmacies should see a possible business opportunity here. When a customer arrives to pick up a prescription, a pharmacist could easily offer a flu shot, give the customer a piece of paper, ask them to make a plan, and tell them to take that plan with them and post it at home on their calendar.



  • Yijunli

    An interesting example of Deliberative mindset versus. implemental mindset. When people adopt an implemental mind by writing down a detailed plan (including the date AND the time), they are more likely to do it than merely thinking about it. Coming up with an exact time to do something is usually harder than coming up with a date only.