EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – A new study revealed extroverts were more hesitant about COVID-19 vaccination during the pandemic’s peak.
“We expected that people who were especially high in extroversion would be more likely to get the vaccine,” Melissa Baker, Ph.D., lead author and assistant professor at The University of Texas at El Paso said. “We figured those people would want to get back out in the world and socialize, right? It’s actually the opposite.”
The findings, which were published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, can help with future public health messaging and vaccination campaigns, according to the team of scientists, based at UTEP and the University of Toronto.
The findings also offer a unique perspective on vaccine hesitancy research, a field that has largely focused on political affiliation.
“We wanted to look at vaccine hesitancy a different way,” Baker who is a member of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration said. “Of course, politics can help explain some of it, but there are personal differences between people, too — and that led us to this personality aspect.”
The study is based on surveys of over 40,000 Canadian adults, taken between November 2020 and July 2021.
Online questions evaluated each participant’s personality based on a model known as the “big five,” which gauges an individual’s openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and emotional stability.
Additional questions probed how respondents felt about vaccination. For example, one question asked, “When a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, will you be vaccinated?” As the vaccine rollout began, questions were altered to reflect their availability.
Most of the team’s hypotheses were supported. For instance, people who were more open and agreeable were more likely to get the vaccine.
“Those are the kind of people who are open to new things, new information and just like to go with the flow,” Baker said. “We also expected that for people with high conscientious because they are detail-oriented and big planners.”
On the other hand, those with low emotional stability, or those who experience extreme emotions, were less likely to be vaccinated.
Extroverts, to the team’s surprise, were 18% more likely to refuse the vaccine.
While the pandemic is over, the team said the findings could help with future public health messaging strategies for vaccination from various diseases, not just COVID-19.
“If we know you need to reach a certain type of personality, we can think about the message that will actually reach and persuade that person,” Baker said.