Moral characteristics predicting COVID-19 vaccination

Zher-Wen Au, Shanshan Zhen, Rongjun Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: The current study aims to assess, for the first time, whether vaccination is predicted by different behavioral and cognitive aspects of moral decision-making.

Background: Studies linking moral factors to vaccination have largely examined whether vaccination decisions can be explained by individual differences in the endorsement of various principles and norms central to deontology-based arguments in vaccination ethics. However, these studies have overlooked whether individuals prioritize norms over other considerations when making decisions, such as maximizing consequences (utilitarianism).

Method: In a sample of 1492 participants, the current study assessed whether vaccination is explained by individual differences in three aspects of moral decision-making (consequence sensitivity, norm sensitivity, and action tendency), while also considering ethics position (idealism, relativism) and moral identity.

Results: Supportive vaccination (vaccine uptake accompanied by a positive attitude toward vaccines) was associated with utilitarianism (increased consequence sensitivity) and increased tolerance to risks and harm toward others. Meanwhile, although those in the non-vaccinated group was associated with higher harm sensitivities, they neither supported nor received the COVID vaccines (when vaccines prevent harm from infection).

Conclusion: Pro-vaccination messages may be made more effective by addressing perceptions of harms associated with vaccines and infections, respectively.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)820-836
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number3
Early online date29 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Social Psychology

User-Defined Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • idealism
  • moral
  • utilitarianism
  • vaccination


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