Survival-oriented personality factors are associated with various types of social support in an emergency disaster situation

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Mutual help is common in human society, particularly during a disaster. The psychological processes underlying such social support are of interest in social and evolutionary psychology, as well as in the promotion of community resilience. However, research in terms of personality factors or support types is sporadic and has yet to address actual emergency situations. In this study, we analyzed survey data from survivors of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The data included five types of social support occurring during the evacuation from a potential tsunami area: providing and receiving actual help and oral encouragement, as well as perceived support. The personality factor items included the Big Five dimensions and eight "power to live" factors, which were identified as advantageous for survival during this disaster. While none of the Big Five dimensions were associated with social support, six of the power to live factors were. Altruism, problem solving, etiquette, and self-transcendence contributed to the provision of actual help. Leadership and active well-being contributed to oral encouragement with the latter contributing also to perceived support. The findings were largely consistent with the literature in a non-emergency context. The relevance of the majority of these pro-survival personality factors to social support appeared to support the view that the propensity to cooperate in service of human survival in a disaster situation is primarily a social, rather than an individual, phenomenon, and encourages research on the mechanisms underlying how personality factors provide a benefit to both the individual and their community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0228875
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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