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First published in Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, v11 (Jan 2024) published by Springer Nature Limited. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-023-02487-z

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Humanities and Social Sciences Communications





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In the summer of 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the historic Roe v. Wade ruling, prompting various states to put forth ballot measures regarding state-level abortion rights. While earlier studies have established associations between demographics, such as religious beliefs and political ideologies, and attitudes toward abortion, the current research delves into the role of psychological traits such as empathy, locus of control, and need for cognition. A sample of 294 U.S. adults was obtained via Amazon Mechanical Turk, and participants were asked to provide their attitudes on seven abortion scenarios. They also responded to scales measuring empathy toward the pregnant woman and the unborn, locus of control, and need for cognition. Principal Component Analysis divided abortion attitudes into two categories: traumatic abortions (e.g., pregnancies due to rape) and elective abortions (e.g., the woman does not want the child anymore). After controlling for religious belief and political ideology, the study found psychological factors accounted for substantial variation in abortion attitudes. Notably, empathy toward the pregnant woman correlated positively with abortion support across both categories, while empathy toward the unborn revealed an inverse relationship. An internal locus of control was positively linked to support for both types of abortions. Conversely, external locus of control and need for cognition only positively correlated with attitudes toward elective abortion, showing no association with traumatic abortion attitudes. Collectively, these findings underscore the significant and unique role psychological factors play in shaping public attitudes toward abortion. Implications for research and practice were discussed.


Department of Psychology

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UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa


©2024 The Authors. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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