Mining HPV Vaccine Knowledge Structures of Young Adults From Reddit Using Distributional Semantics and Pathfinder Networks

Muhammad Amith, Trevor Cohen, Rachel Cunningham, Lara S. Savas, Nina Smith, Paula Cuccaro, Efrat Gabay, Julie Boom, Roger Schvaneveldt, Cui Tao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects adolescents and young adults from 9 high-risk HPV virus types that cause 90% of cervical and anal cancers and 70% of oropharyngeal cancers. This study extends our previous research analyzing online content concerning the HPV vaccination in social media platforms used by young adults, in which we used Pathfinder network scaling and methods of distributional semantics to characterize differences in knowledge organization reflected in consumer- and expert-generated online content. The current study extends this approach to evaluate HPV vaccine perceptions among young adults who populate Reddit, a major social media platform. We derived Pathfinder networks from estimates of semantic relatedness obtained by learning word embeddings from Reddit posts and compared these to networks derived from human expert estimation of the relationship between key concepts. Results revealed that users of Reddit, predominantly comprising young adults in the vaccine catch up age-group 18 through 26 years of age, perceived the HPV vaccine domain from a virus-framed perspective that could impact their lifestyle choices and that their awareness of the HPV vaccine for cancer prevention is also lacking. Further differences in knowledge structures were elucidated, with implications for future health communication initiatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCancer Control
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • HPV
  • Pathfinder networks
  • Reddit
  • distributional semantics
  • graph theory
  • health promotion
  • knowledge representation
  • social media
  • vaccine
  • word embeddings
  • young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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