Neuroticism and Attitudes Toward Action in 19 Countries


  • We are grateful to the following for survey distribution and translation: Rong Su, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho, Sungjin Hong, Tarcan Kumkale, Jerome Rossier, Koorosh Massoudi, Huajian Cai, Sonia Roccas, Javier Arce-Michel, Cristina de Sousa, Rolando Diaz-Loving, Maria Mercedes Botero, Lucia Mannetti, Claudia Garcia, Pilar Carrera, Amparo Cabalero, Masatake Ikemi, Darius Chan, Allan Bernardo, Fernando Garcia, Inge Brechan, and Greg Maio. Thanks also to Chris Jones for his input throughout the preparation of this article.


Although individuals scoring high on Neuroticism tend to avoid taking action when faced with challenges, Neuroticism is also characterized by impulsivity. To explore cognitive biases related to this costly behavior pattern, we tested whether individuals who rated themselves as higher in Neuroticism would evaluate the general concepts of action and inaction as, respectively, more negative and positive. We further investigated whether anxiety and depression would mediate and individualism-collectivism would moderate these relations in a large international sample. Participants (N = 3,827 college students; 69% female) from 19 countries completed surveys measuring Neuroticism, attitudes toward action and inaction, depression, anxiety, and individualism-collectivism. Hierarchical linear models tested the above predictions. Neuroticism negatively correlated with attitudes toward action and positively correlated with attitudes toward inaction. Furthermore, anxiety was primarily responsible for emotionally unstable individuals’ less positive attitudes toward action, and individuals who endorsed more collectivistic than individualistic beliefs showed a stronger negative association between Neuroticism and attitudes toward action. Researchers and practitioners interested in understanding and remediating the negative consequences of Neuroticism should pay greater attention to attitudes toward action and inaction, particularly focusing on their links with anxiety and individualism-collectivism.