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What is the authoritarian personality?

People with an authoritarian personality have the tendency to be especially obedient to authority. They have an extreme respect for authority and submissiveness to it. They also show contempt for people they perceive as having inferior social status and have highly conventional attitudes towards sex, race and gender. They believe that we need strong and powerful leaders to enforce traditional values such as love of country, religion and family. They are rigid in their beliefs and these cannot be changed. They are hostile to minority groups


Who investigated causes of obedient personality?

Adorno et al


What was Adorno's method into investigating the authoritarian personality?

Studied over 2000 American middle-class, white people and their unconscious attitudes to other ethnicities. They developed a number of personality tests, including the F scale (F stands for Fascism). Participants had to score 1-6 on how much they agreed with the statements given.


What were Adorno's findings regarding the authoritarian personality?

Adorno found correlations between his scales showing the strength of the generalised prejudice in his sample. The highest correlations were between anti-semitism and ethnocentrism and ethnocentrism and fascism, showing that a dislike of foreigners was linked to anti Jewish and Nazi sympathisers. These individuals had developed an 'us and them' mentality. These characteristics of the authoritarian personality make them hostile to all non conventional people and they believe in power and toughness and the rule of law.


What was the conclusion of Adorno's study?

Children who grow up in a harsh disciplinarian family may repress their hostility towards parents and seem to idolise them. In later life they act in a submissive way towards authority figures. Their repressed hostility towards their parents is displaced onto non-threatening minority groups as prejudice and discrimination


What research supports the link between obedience and the authoritarian personality?

Milgram and Elms conducted interviews with a small sample of fully obedient participants who scored highly on the F scale, believing that there might be link between authoritarian personality and obedience. They found little difference between obedient and defiant participants on the MMPI variables. However, they did find high levels of authoritarianism among those participants classified as obedient. Therefore they concluded that the more obedient you are the more likely you are to have an authoritarian personality. Thus this research supports the link


How could social and situational factors play more of a role in obedience than dispositional factors?

Any explanation of obedience in terms of individual personality will find it hard to explain obedient behaviour in the majority of a country's population. For example, in pre war Germany, millions of individuals all displayed obedient, racist and anti-semantic behaviour. This was despite the fact that they must have differed in personalities. It seems unlikely that they all possessed an authoritarian personality. This, therefore means that it is a limitation of Elms and Milgram's theory because it is clear that an alternative explanation is much more realistic - that social and situational factors could explain obedience better than dispositional


How is the F scale bias?

The F scale measures tendency towards a right wing political belief (Fascism). This may be evidence of bias, as research shows that extreme left wing belief (e.g Russian Bolshevism) can lead to just as much obedience as extreme right wing belief. Thus the research is bias and reductionist as it doesn't consider other political beliefs.


What is an example of Adorno's scale?

Could they imagine marrying a Jew?


How does temporal validity affect the results of Adorno?

Adorno's study was conducted in America in 1950. Times were extremely different back then, including prejudice against homosexuality to be the social norm. This is not the same in this day and age as it is more common for homosexual couples to be open. Therefore the conclusions made by Adorno lack temporal validity and thus cannot be applied to people in the 21st Century.