Are Opinions on Euthanasia and Vaccinations Related to Personality Traits?

2023 words (8 pages) Essay in Psychology

18/05/20 Psychology Reference this

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Euthanasia and vaccines are controversial matters that both have a divide in opinions amongst New Zealanders and worldwide. With two major measles breakouts in Christchurch and Auckland this year alone and a vote on the ‘End of Life Choice Bill’ nearing, it is interesting to examine what influences the way people feel about these topics. Also interesting to examine is if personality traits have any relationship to the way people feel about these topics. The defining key concepts within our study are euthanasia, vaccinations and ‘The Big Six Dimensions of Personality’ (Lee et al. 2017). These personality traits are Agreeableness defined as one’s tendency to be cooperative and tolerant, Conscientiousness meaning being organised and diligent, Extraversion relating to being sociable and outgoing, Honesty-Humility which is being fair and sincere, Neuroticism characterised as the act of being anxious and insecure, and Openness to Experience, identified as curious and creative.

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‘Demographic and psychological correlates of New Zealanders’ support for euthanasia’ by Carol HJ Lee, Isabelle M Duck and Chris G Sibley (2017a) is a prior study concerned with what demographic and psychological components influence New Zealander’s attitudes toward the legislation of euthanasia. For this study 15,822 participants with a mean age of 49.34 years took part in the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Survey (NZAVS) which asked questions about various personal and demographic characteristics. Regarding participants demographics, a large quantity were religious, parents, in a committed romantic relationship, employed and lived in an urban area. The support for the legislation of euthanasia in New Zealand was measured using an individual element: “Suppose a person has a painful incurable disease. Do you think that doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life if the patient requests it?”, which was answered using a Likert scale, ranging from 1 (definitely no) to 7 (definitely yes). Participants answers allowed researchers to investigate links between assorted demographic and psychological aspects with New Zealander’s sentiments towards euthanasia. After asking the specific question relating to euthanasia, Lee et al. (2017) discovered that the demographic findings showed non-religious, liberal, younger, employed, non-parents and those living in rural areas were more supportive of euthanasia. In contrast, individuals of Pacific or Asian ethnicity with lower income and higher deprivation, education and socio-economic status were less supportive. Relating to personality traits, Lee et al. (2017) identified participants high on Extraversion, Conscientiousness and Neuroticism showed more support towards euthanasia whilst those high on Agreeableness and Honesty-Humility showed less support. The study concluded that there is substantial support for euthanasia when individuals are asked if doctors by law should be able to end the life of a patient with a painful incurable disease upon the patient’s request. There are reliable demographic and personality differences in support for euthanasia. 

‘Personality and demographic correlates of New Zealanders’ confidence in the safety of childhood vaccinations’ is another study completed by Carol HJ Lee, Isabelle M Duck and Chris G Sibley (2017b) which was designed to explore New Zealander’s attitudes towards the safety of childhood vaccinations by examining the distribution, demographic and personality correlates associated with these attitudes. 16,642 participants with a mean age of 47.5 years took part in the NZAVS. A large portion of participants declared they were parents, living in an urban area, employed, and born in New Zealand. To infer participants attitudes towards the safety of childhood vaccinations from personality factors, NZAVS asked questions relating to ‘The Big Six dimensions of personality’, which are noted as Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Honesty-Humility, Neuroticism and Openness to Experience. The independent variable measuring participants attitude towards vaccines was the statement “It is safe to vaccinate children following the standard NZ immunisation schedule”, which participants then rated how they felt using a Likert scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Lee et al. (2017) discovered that demographic factors such as European ethnicity, men, having a child, having a partner, higher household income, higher education and living in an urban area were associated with higher confidence in the safety of scheduled childhood vaccinations. Maori, single, not a parent, employed, higher levels of subjective health satisfaction and living in more deprived areas were all found to be associated with lower confidence. Age, religion and being born overseas were found to be not significantly associated with confidence in vaccines. Regarding personality traits, those who were high on Agreeableness and Conscientiousness were found to convey higher confidence. Conversely those high on Openness to Experience were shown to be less confident. Extraversion, Honesty-Humility, and Neuroticism were not significantly connected with confidence in vaccines. In conclusion, one third (26%) of participants do express a degree of concern, 5.5% of participants are strongly inimical and approximately two thirds (68.5%) participants were confident that “it is safe to vaccinate children following the standard New Zealand immunisation schedule.”

Data collected from the euthanasia study shows that participants had a mean age of 49.34 years and the vaccination study showed a mean age of 47.5 years. As one of the methods for gaining participants for these studies was through the New Zealand electoral roll, the age range of participants was 18-95 years. Similarly between the two studies was a high number of participants being parents, in a committed relationship and employed. These limitations create a gap for current literature as nobody has used this study with a younger group of participants. The rationale for conducting our research is because it primarily focuses on younger individuals with the mean age coming to 20.35. The youngest participant in our study is 17 years old, which is an individual who would not be considered in prior studies due to not being enrolled on the electoral roll. Our oldest participant is 58 years old, which is significantly younger than the prior studies oldest participant. It is important to investigate with younger participants as it gives us a wider spectrum of information that we can use to gain a greater understanding of our topic of interest. 

The purpose of our study is to explore the relationship between personality and attitudes toward social policy, in order to establish if there is a link between the two. The social policies our study is focused on is euthanasia and vaccines. 

As we conduct our research we have no specific hypothesis, we are exploring the overall relationship to establish if there is a link between personality types and social policy.




Participants were recruited by attending their first allocated lab stream for the first-year Psychology106 (Psyc106) course at the University of Canterbury, during the week commencing on the 22nd July and concluding on the 28th July. For our study, we are using the data gathered from the 643 students who completed more than 80% of the computerised survey. Students had an incentive of gaining a 2% grade for taking part in the survey, however, it was not compulsory and if a participant began and decided they then wanted to opt-out, they were able to do so with their recorded answers being kept confidential. Near the beginning of the experiment, participants were asked what their gender was with 427 identifying as female, 208 as male, and 8 students choosing to identify as other. The age of participants ranged from 17 – 58 years old, with the average age being 20.35 years old and having a SD of 4.39 years. The ethnicity of participants was also asked with 498 participants stating they were NZ European, 63 being Maori, 26 being Chinese, 22 being Pasifika and 123 students stating they were from ‘Other’ backgrounds including Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. It is important to note that multiple ethnicities were able to be selected which explains why there is a difference of 89 between the number of participants and the ethnicity these students identify with.


The chosen apparatus for participants to complete the survey on was a computer supplied by the University of Canterbury. Participants took part in the NZAVS which is arranged by 40 blocks of questions aiming to gain intelligence about how the personality, attitudes, and values of New Zealanders may change over time. This is done by asking questions about the participants’ demographic and personality features, as well as their opinions on diverse matters such as culture within New Zealand. As we are concentrating on the relationship between personality and attitudes toward social policy, we are concerned with questions relating to the ‘Big Six Dimensions of Personality’ (Lee et al, 2017), as well as the one question focusing on euthanasia and the one question relating to vaccinations. Across each individual, the 40 blocks were presented at random as well as the question order being randomised across participants. Each question was able to be answered by using the psychometric Likert scale, which ranges from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree).


 For the research to be carried out the participants first had to attend their allocated Psyc106 laboratory stream. Once there, participants were taken into a computer room where they were given a brief explanation that they were about to individually undergo an approximately hour to an hour and a half long survey, however, they were not told specifics and were not aware of the true intention of the research. Students were then instructed to go onto a University of Canterbury supplied computer and click on a web link to Qualtrics, where the NZAVS was able to be completed. Students did not need to provide any of their personal information or use their university login as it was an anonymous survey. The first page was an information sheet explaining background information about why the survey was constructed, which students were instructed to read. Once doing this, they were directed to a consent form which they could choose to tick if they wanted to continue with the survey. It is important to note that while reading the consent form, participants became aware that this survey was approved by the University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee on 3rd June 2015 until 3rd June 2021. The survey contained 40 blocks of questions which were presented in a randomised order across participants, as well as the question order within each block being randomised across participants. Attention checks were included at random points throughout the survey to ensure that the items were fully read and followed, for example, “Please select ‘Strongly Agree’ for this question.” Once participants had concluded the survey, they were advised not to click out of the website and then they were free to quietly leave the classroom to ensure there was little to no disturbance for those still completing the survey. It was not until the participant’s laboratories the following week that they learned of the true purpose of the study.



Our research is structured as a correlation design within exploratory research because we are examining the relationship between personality and attitudes towards social policies. The purpose of what we are doing is to explore the relationship between the two variables of interest and see what links already exist, so as we are not experimenting there is no need to manipulate either variable. Exploratory research is generally qualitative as it is used to attain an understanding of fundamental reasons, opinions, and motivations. This is primarily our goal, to attain an understanding of if personality types are related to attitudes toward social policy. 





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