Intention to Oppose Animal Research: The Role of Individual Differences in Nonconformity

By Goldsmith, Ronald E.; Clark, Ronald A. et al. | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, September 10, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Intention to Oppose Animal Research: The Role of Individual Differences in Nonconformity


Goldsmith, Ronald E., Clark, Ronald A., Lafferty, Barbara, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


Using animals to test cosmetic products is controversial, but little research has explored its social and psychological influences. Relationships between two personality constructs related to nonconformity (independence and anticonformity) and attitudes toward animal testing were studied using data from a survey of 418 students. The Independence Orientation and Nonconformity Orientation Scales (Ringness, 1970) were used to measure independence and anticonformity. Results showed that behavioral intentions were unrelated to age, women were more likely to get involved in antitesting behavior than were men, holding antitesting attitudes predicted intended action, and higher levels of anticonformity were associated with opposition as well, even when the effects of the other variables were held constant.

Keywords: animal rights, animal testing, anticonformity, independence, nonconformity, personality

Animal testing for research purposes is a controversial topic (e.g., Gluck & Kubacki, 1991; Hovey, 2004). Because ethical and moral implications are raised by this practice, some individuals are polarized in their attitudes about the justification for animal testing. This is particularly true when animal testing is used for consumer products, with less polarization - but still controversy - when the testing is for medical research (Driscoll, 1995). Many researchers want to understand people's views of animal use (Knight, Nunkoosing, Vrij, & Cherryman, 2003). An overview of most published public opinion studies shows that researchers have used many variables to describe and explain opposition to a range of animal research practices. Some common explanatory variables include age, sex, religion, and pet ownership (Hagelin, Carlsson, & Hau, 2003). While some research focuses on animal-testing attitudes (Hagelin et al.), the individual personality traits that predispose an individual to form antianimal-testing sentiments remain largely unstudied. Research can explain why some people oppose animal testing and suggest why some are more interested in social movements than are others.

Although some studies have begun to profile this group of people, as a whole, they account for variance only with respect to attitudes toward animals and animal testing (Furnham, McManus, & Scott, 2003; Jerolmack, 2003). This suggests that more personality traits should be included to compile a more complete profile. We proposed two personality constructs, independence and anticonformity, that influence attitudes toward using animals in pharmaceutical and cosmetic product testing, particularly among Generation Y individuals. These constructs derive from the primary nonconformity elements of social response theory (Nail, MacDonald, & Levy, 2000). Thus, the purpose of this study was to assess the relationships between independence and anticonformity with subjects' intentions to support an organization that opposes animal testing for cosmetic and pharmaceutical research. The intended contribution of the study was an improved understanding of the influence of social response tendencies (i.e., personality traits) on attitudes toward animal testing.

Attitudes toward animal testing, along with various demographic and personality variables, have been studied to determine the nature of animal rights activists. In many attitudinal studies, gender played an important role. Galvin, Colleg, and Herzog (1998) evaluated participants in the 1996 March for Animals in Washington, D. C. They found that 74% of the demonstrators were female. The majority of other studies also indicated that females were more likely to oppose animal research in general and consumer product testing specifically (e.g., Broida, Tingley, Kimball, & Miele, 1993; Eldridge & Gluck, 1997; Furnham et al., 2003; Kruse, 1999; Matthews & Herzog, 1997; Peek, Bell, & Dunham, 1996; Pifer, Shimizu, & Pifer, 1994; Plous, 1996).

Various personality traits also have been assessed to help explain the nature of animal rights activists.

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