The Role of Personality in Treatment-Related Outcome Preferences Among Pharmacy Students

Ernest H. Law, PharmD, PhD; Ruixuan Jiang, PharmD; Anika Kaczynski, MS; Axel Mühlbacher, PhD; A. Simon Pickard, PhD


Am J Pharm Educ. 2019;83(7) 

In This Article


Of 200 potential respondents, 185 completed the questionnaire (93% response rate) between April and May 2015. The mean age of the cohort was 25.9 years (SD=4.9), 100 (54%) respondents were female, and the largest racial/ethnic group was white (87 respondents, 47%) (Table 1). Mean scores for the Big Five personality traits were significantly different across all tertiles; therefore, heterogeneity was observed in each trait among the students (Table 2). Mean score (SD) for low, moderate, and high conscientiousness tertiles were 4.1 (0.9), 5.8 (0.3), and 6.7 (0.3), respectively. For low, moderate, and high agreeableness tertiles, mean scores (SD) were 3.5 (0.6), 4.7 (0.3), and 6.0 (0.5), respectively.

Figure 1 illustrates the average best-worst scores across tertiles of conscientiousness. Respondents reporting the highest levels of conscientiousness had a 21% higher positive preference for "no problems" in usual activities (UA1) than those with the lowest conscientiousness scores (ANOVA, p=.03). For the pain/discomfort attribute, those in the high conscientiousness group found "no problems" (PD1) to be 22% more positively preferred (ANOVA, p=.03) and "a lot of problems" (PD3) to be 19% more negatively preferred (ie, greater aversion) than those in the low conscientiousness group (ANOVA, p=.04). No significant differences in attribute-level preferences were observed across agreeableness tertiles.

Figure 1.

Relative Importance of Cancer Treatment-Related Outcome Dimension and Severity by Low (white bars), Moderate (gray bars), and High (dark bars) Conscientiousness Subgroups
*p<.05 for preference difference between high and low levels of Conscientiousness; CONC=Conscientiousness; Mod=moderate; MO=mobility; SC=self-care; UA=usual activities; PD=pain/discomfort; AD=anxiety/depression; Number after abbreviations indicates severity level of dimension; eg, MO1 indicates level 1 on mobility

The results of the logistic regression analysis for choosing death over moderate and severe health states are reported in Table 3. More conscientious respondents showed trends towards a higher likelihood of choosing death over a moderate health state (OR, 3.9; 95%CI, 0.4–34.7), but this difference was not significant. Respondents with higher agreeableness showed a trend toward a lower chance of choosing death over a moderate (OR, 0.2; 95% CI, 0.02–1.5) or severe health state (OR, 0.7; 95% CI, 0.4–1.4) compared to those with lower agreeableness, but the results were not significant.