The Authoritarian Personality

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The Authoritarian Personality

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1. The Authoritarian Personality Perspectives from Adorno et al., Altemeyer and Sidanius & Pratto PSY2003S

3. Right about that time… A problem in psychology theory Had theories to explain prejudice (eg. Freud’s stuff) BUT: all individual based How do these explain an entire political party showing this behaviour? Triggers a concerted effort to look at this phenomenon Especially from Jewish psychologists in Europe

4. Interesting evidence Research from the time shows a link between prejudice for different groups Fink (1947): Correlations between prejudice for various groups Adorno at al. (1950): Correlation between anti- semitic and anti-Negro prejudice And, uh-oh… Hadley (1947): Correlations between prejudice for imaginary groups One possible conclusion: some people are more prone to the process of prejudice than others

5. How do we explain this? Prothro (1952): Not that some people are more negative/evil; rather, they are more receptive to prejudiced beliefs. Possibilities: frustration poor psychological adjustment political conservatism religious fundamentalism

6. The Authoritarian Personality Proposed by Theodore Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel Levinson and Nevitt Sanford (1950) Very detailed, based on empirical research A syndrome - determines susceptibility to prejudice and patterns of belief and ideology display behaviour which follows a coherent pattern defines a ‘type of person’ who is more likely to show prejudiced behaviour

7. Authoritarian traits Authoritarians display most of: Conventionalism Submission to authority figures Authoritarian Aggression Anti-intraception Superstition and stereotypy Concern with power and toughness Destructiveness and cynicism Projectivity Concern with sexual goings-on

8. Examples from Adorno et al. High scorers M352 (pg. 760-761) (“Authoritarian” syndrome) 5057 (pg. 757) (“Conventional” syndrome) As opposed to low scorers M711 (pg. 779-781) (“Easy-going” syndrome) F515 (pg. 782-783) (Genuine liberal)

9. How much authoritarianism could a fascist chuck… The F-scale measures authoritarianism Agreement based Likert-type scale

10. Example items from the F-scale & (supposedly) high F-scorers

11. How to become an authoritarian personality Adorno et al. explain the development of the personality in childhood Freudian style – their theoretical basis Psychodynamic analysis of early family life Mostly come from strict household / authoritarian parents Tension: hate v. fear of reprisal

12. Causes and effects

13. Discussion of the theory How was the theory built (what methodology was adopted)? Straightforward social science project Interviewed people, looked for common patterns in both histories and attitudes/behaviours Once this was done, built scales (F-scale, etc). Found the psychometric properties of the scales. Validated and refined the F-scale by various means (discriminant validation, confirmatory methods, etc.) The F-scale was then used to further the theory and select people for further interviews

14. Here comes the error… Serious error in the F-scale: Acquiescence bias All items worded in the same direction (agreement = authoritarianism) What about people who naturally tend to agree (acquiescent subjects) ? Does a high F-score mean high authoritarianism or high acquiescence? No way to know Acquiescence is a “third variable”

15. Other criticisms Freudian basis is highly suspect (shaky foundations) Extensive use of projective tests (e.g. TAT) – known to be of low reliability and suspect validity Was it research or a criticism of a particular political system? Cannot predict prejudice in societies were prejudice is the norm (e.g. South Africa)

16. Show me the money – empirical evidence Several relational studies How strongly is prejudice related to authoritarianism? Look at normatively prejudiced societies AND normatively non-prejudiced ones Not very impressive correlations: Strongest: Ray (1980) r = 0.59 (R2 = 0.34) Weakest: Orpen & van der Schyff (1972) r = 0.05 (R2 = 0.0025) Uncorrected average over 25 studies: r = 0.28 (R2 = 0.0784)

17. Is Authoritarianism useless? Should we drop the notion of a personality trait which predicts prejudice? Criticisms mostly aimed at specifics of Adorno et al’s theory, rather than the concept Still useful in societies where prejudice is not normative Rephrase: Personality variables affect prejudice in certain social climates

18. The concept overhauled: RWA 1980’s: Authoritarianism re-done by Bob Altemeyer (Uni. Winnipeg) Looked at all the research on Authoritarian personality, re-analyzed it Replaces Freudian notions with more modern ideas such as attitudes and cognition Comes up with a simplified version of Authoritarianism: RWA (right-wing authoritarianism)

19. Features of RWAs Altemeyer reduces authoritarianism to three dimensions only (Adorno et al had 9) Submit to established authorities [Authoritarian submission] Tend to be punitive, harsh [Authoritarian aggression] Conform to conventional standards [Conventionalism] Makes a shift from personality to personality dimension

20. Typical RWA attitudes Attitudes found in RWAs include: High in prejudice (gay, minorities, environmentalists, feminists) Politically conservative High in religiosity (exaggerated piety/zeal; emphasis on sentiment rather than behaviour) and fundamentalism Perceive the world as being very dangerous.

21. Typical RWA cognitive styles High RWAs have a cognitive style which leads to: Trouble at spotting false inferences (“yea-saying”). Prone to self-contradiction Difficulty disengaging critical thought from religious beliefs More prone to fundamental attribution error (overestimate individual factors and underestimate group factors) Difficulty in dealing with ambiguities

22. Implication of RWA cognitive style (don’t copy down!!) “The amount of money universities have to carry out their leftwing mission is mind-boggling. Whereas conservative and pro-American intellectual sources (such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute) and conservative journals may have budgets of a few million dollars, universities have billions of dollars. A great portion is taxpayers' money (through research grants and student- financed tuition), and in addition the leftists control most student activity assessments.” (Eagle Forum Collegiate) Can RWA theory helps us gain an insight into why this statement would be convincing?

23. Measuring RWA & examples Also uses a Likert-type agreement scale, but with half of the items reversed Our country will be destroyed someday if we do not end the perversions eating away at out moral fibre and moral beliefs [A] Our prisons are a shocking disgrace. Criminals are unfortunate people who deserve much better care, instead of so much punishment. [A - reversed item] What our country needs is more discipline, with everyone following our leaders in unity [S] There is no “One Right Way” to live life; everybody has to create their own way [C - reversed item] One good way to teach certain people right from wrong is to give them a good stiff punishment when they get out of line. [C] A "woman's place" should be wherever she wants to be. The days when women are submissive to their husbands and social convention belong strictly in the past. [C – reversed item]

24. Development of RWA Altemeyer: Cognitive style is learnt at home Early socialization is important Parents/guardians play a large role No displaced aggression – plain old learned behaviour The child learns about hierarchy, submission, etc. by observation, punishment & reward Cognitive style follows as a consequence Conservatism is passed down from parents (no unconscious stuff at work) So, choose your parents carefully!

25. The Authoritarian gene? McCourt et al (1999) Study of monozygotic / dizygotic twins raised apart/together Found 50% variance due to genetic factors; 35% only for unshared environment Conclusion – genes more important than upbringing in RWA Katz & Barrett (1997) As young as 6 months, can distinguish ‘high-bias’ and ‘low-bias’ children ‘high-bias’ children paid more attention to race of adults entering the room Too young for parental influence to be a major factor

26. Another perspective: SDT Social Dominance Theory (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999) Another explanation of the role of personality in prejudice Extremely simple, elegant view One single personality dimension: Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) Takes into account not only the individual (as Adorno et al & Altemyer do), but also the divisions which exist in society

27. Societies create hierarchies based on three features: Age Gender [these two exist in all societies] “empty set” (arbitrary stuff - race, wealth, political party, religion) [only in societies producing economic surplus] Hierarchies according to these groups are kept at particular levels by legitimizing myths The interesting question: What importance does a particular person give to these hierarchies? (what is their level of social dominance orientation - SDO?) Basics of SDT

28. Legitimizing myths The degree to which societies emphasize hierarchies is controlled by legitimizing myths Hierarchy Emphasizing myths (HE) – racism, sexism, nationalism Hierarchy Attenuating myths (HA) – socialism, multiculturalism, universal rights The degree to which HE and HA myths prevail in a society sets how important hierarchies are for that society

29. Measuring the myths – SDO scale Likert-type questionnaire; HA and HE items (emphasis on measuring the focus on hierarchies) HA items examples: Some groups of people are simply inferior to others If certain groups stayed in their place, we would have fewer problems Sometimes other groups must be kept in their place HE items examples: It would be good if all groups could be equal Group equality should be our ideal All groups should be given an equal chance in life

30. Development of SDO & Maintenance of hierarchies

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