Individualism, Authoritarianism, and Attitudes Toward Assisted Death: Cross-Cultural, Cross-Regional, and Experimental Evidence1


  • 1

    This research was supported by the Dissertation Founders Fellowship, Institute for Social Research, and a grant by the Department of Psychology, University of Michigan to the first author. Thanks to Agnieszka Rogozinska and Grzegorz Król for their help in collecting and coding the data of Study 1, and Ramona Kenntner and Katharina Seidler for their help with Study 2.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Markus Kemmelmeier, who is now at interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Social Psychology, Department of Sociology, Mail Stop 300, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557. E-mail: markusk@unr.ed.


We hypothesized that in individualistic cultures, individualism predicts positive attitudes toward assisted death, whereas authoritarianism is negatively associated with favorable views of this issue. Study 1 confirmed this hypothesis in a Polish sample (n= 100). Study 2, using a German sample (n= 102), found the predicted relationships only for forms of assisted death that involved the individual self-determination of a terminally ill patient. In Study 3 (n= 72), we found experimental evidence that priming individualistic aspects of the self-concept results in more favorable views of physician-assisted suicide. Using a representative sample (n= 1158), Study 4 found that across the United States, regional levels of individualism are reflected in corresponding patterns of support for assisted suicide. Our research confirms that individualism shapes positive views of assisted suicide. The discussion focuses on assisted suicide as a cultural phenomenon and explores the implications of growing levels of individualism for public opinion and policy on assisted suicide.