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Flashcards in Obedience: Dispositional Factors Deck (12)
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1

Adorno and his colleagues (1950) wanted to understand the anti-semitism on the holocaust. On the basis of their research they came to believe that

A high level of obedience was basically a psychological disorder, and tried to locate the causes of it in the personality of the individual

2

Adorno concluded that people with authoritarian personality:

- have a tendency to be especially obedient to authority
- have extreme respect for authority and submissiveness to it
- show contempt for people they perceive as having inferior social status and have highly conventional attitudes towards sex, race and gender
- view society as ‘going to the dogs’ and therefore strong leaders are required to enforce traditional values such as love of one’s country and family

3

How is the authoritarian personality formed?

-Adorno et al concluded that the authoritarian personality is formed in childhood, as a result of harsh parenting
- typically, the parenting style identified by Adorno features extreme disciplines, an expectation of absolute loyalty, impossibly high standards and severe criticism of perceived failings
- also characterised by conditional love, that is, the parents’ love and affection for their child depends entirely on how he/she behaves

4

Why do individuals with authoritarian personalities have a dislike (and even hatred) for people considered to be socially inferior?

- Adorno argued that these experiences create resentment and hostility in the child
- but the child cannot express these feelings directly against their parents due to fear or reprisal
- so the fears are displaced onto others who are perceived as weaker- process called scapegoating, and explains why those with authoritarian personalities have a dislike (and even hatred) for people considered to be socially inferior = psychodynamic explanation as the ego uses the defence of displacement to deal with conflict

5

Adorno et al conducted a key study in 1950:

The authoritarian personality

6

Explain the procedure of the authoritarian personality:

- Adorno investigated the causes of obedient personality in a study of more than 2000 middle-class, white Americans and their unconscious attitudes towards other racial groups
- they developed several scales to investigate this, including the potential for fascism scale (F-scale) which is still used to measure authoritarian personality
- example question from F-scale includes: “obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues for children to learn” where answer boxes range from 1= disagree strongly—> 6= agree strongly

7

What were the findings and conclusions of Adorno et al (1950) The Authoritarian Personality?

- people with authority leanings (I.e. those who scored high on F-scale) were identified as ‘strong’ people and were generally contemptuous of the weak- they were very conscious of their own and others’ status, showing excessive respect and servility to those of higher status
- authoritarian people had a cognitive style where there was no ‘fuziness’ between categories of people, with fixed and distinctive stereotypes about other groups- there was a strong correlation between authoritarianism and prejudice

8

What are the evaluation points for authoritarian personality as an explanation for obedience?

✅ research support for link between authoritarian personality and obedience (Milgram and Elms)
❌ limited explanation
❌ explanation based on flawed methodology (Greenstein)
❌ problem for much of research of authoritarian personality is the use of correlations

9

Explain how there is research support for link between authoritarian personality and obedience (Milgram and Elms)

- Milgram and Elms conducted interviews with a small sample of fully obedient participants from one of Milgram’s studies who all scored highly on the F-scale
- however this link is merely a correlation between two measured variables= this makes it impossible to draw the conclusion that authoritarian personality causes obedience on the basis of the result
- it may be that a ‘third factor’ is involved- perhaps obedience and authoritarian personality are associated with a lower level of education and are not directly linked with each other at all

10

Explain how the authoritarian explanation is a limited explanation

- in pre-war Germany, millions of individuals all displayed obedient, racist and anti-Semitic behaviour; this was despite the fact that they must have differed in their personalities in all sorts of ways
- it would extremely unlikely that the majority of the country’s population all possessed an authoritarian personality
- this is a limitation of Adorno’s theory because it is clear that an alternative explanation is much more realistic- perhaps social identity explains obedience
- the majority of German people identified with the anti-Semitic Nazi state, and scapegoated the ‘outgroup’ of Jews

11

Explain how the explanation is based upon flawed methodology

- Greenstein goes as far to describe the F-scale as a ‘comedy of methodological errors’
- for example, the scale has every one of its items worded in the same ‘direction’
- this means it is possible to get a high score for authoritarianism just by ticking the same line of boxes down one side of the page
- people who agree with the items on the F-scale are therefore not necessarily authoritarian but merely ‘acquiesces’, and the scale is just measuring the tendency to agree on everything, which is a significant limitation for the authoritarian personality as an explanation for obedience as this dispositional explanation is based upon the F-scale and the participants’ outcomes from this- one possible way in which this can be overcome is instead of providing

12

Explain how a problem for much of research of authoritarian personality is the use of correlations

- Adorno and his colleagues measured an impressive range of variables and found many significant correlations between them
- for instance they found that authoritarianism had a strong correlation with measured of prejudice against minority groups
- however, no matter how a strong a correlation between two variables may be, correlation doesn’t mean causation and so it does not follow that one variable causes the other
- therefore, Adorno could not claim that a harsh parenting style caused the development of an authoritarian personality