Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Isabel Goodall 

BSc [Hons] Applied Psychology

I am an Applied Psychology student at IADT who specialised in the practice path. My main area of interest during my degree was social psychology, and I completed my undergraduate major research project in this area. As a post-graduate, I want to volunteer abroad to gain cross-cultural knowledge and build on my experience before progressing to a Master's programme. In my future endeavours, I want to progress into Child Psychology or Social Psychology. My main areas of interest are child-centred play therapy and psychotherapy, as I want to explore different modalities of integrating both mind and body.

Project Description

My final year project was based on volunteering. Volunteering has become an increasingly popular area of research due to the surge in the number of volunteers in the past decade. Volunteering is a planned behaviour to assist people or groups in society who require help. My study aimed to investigate the personality type and life satisfaction differences between volunteers and non-volunteers.

Project Objectives

The main objective of this study was to address the gaps in the literature in the area of volunteering, such as predispositions and potential outcomes, to provide a complete picture of volunteering. This study aimed to address the gap with the following research question: What are the life satisfaction and personality differences between different volunteer types? This study hypothesised that there would be a difference for the participants on their personality traits (Extraversion/ conscientiousness/ Openness/ Agreeableness/ Neuroticism) based on volunteer type (Long-term/ Short-term, /Former/ Never volunteered) and that there will be a difference for the participants on their life satisfaction, based on different volunteer type. A questionnaire-based design was applied. Participants were categorised into one of the Volunteer types (long-term, short-term, former, and never). Participants were between 18 and 66 years old (N=141) and were recruited primarily using convenience sampling. The participant's age, gender, volunteer type, area of volunteering, and volunteer population were assessed using a demographic questionnaire. The Big Five Inventory developed by Costa and McCrae (1992) was used to measure personality traits, and the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener et al., 1985) was used to assess life satisfaction. This data was statistically analysed to investigate the volunteer process proposed by Omoto et al. (2010).

Project Outcomes

Overall the results indicated a significant difference in personality traits based on volunteer type. These findings complemented those of Dorner and Rosza (2018). In this study, volunteers displayed higher levels of extraversion, agreeableness, and lower levels of neuroticism. There was also a significant difference in life satisfaction levels based on volunteer type. These findings coincide with research in the area. Volunteers displayed higher levels of life satisfaction compared to non-volunteers. A strength of this study is the contribution to the social psychology literature. Additionally, this study filled a gap in the literature where limited studies have been conducted on a diverse age sample. Practical implications indicated that volunteering can help promote social capital and, as a result, can enhance the benefits of volunteering, such as life satisfaction and acting as a buffer against depressive symptoms, as well as increasing social connections and trust. However, a limitation of this study was the relatively small sample size which can reduce the generalisability of the findings. These findings emphasise the importance of promoting volunteering to help improve social connections and life satisfaction and imply that volunteer organisations should recruit volunteers with specific personality characteristics linked to long-term retention.

Thesis Title

An investigation into the differences, in personality traits and life satisfaction, between volunteer types.