The Authoritarian Personality

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  • The Authoritarian Personality
    • The Authoritarian Personality
      • The F Scale:
        • The authoritarian personality is the identification of a specific personality type and provided a possible explanation for why some individuals require very little pressure  in order to obey
        • The F Scale where F stands for fascist was used by Adorno to measure the different components that make up the AP
          • Adorno also found that people who score high on the F scale tend to be raised by parents with authoritarian parenting style
            • Learning and imitation process
        • Contained statements such as 'obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn'
          • If you agreed with these statements indicated an AP - rigid thinkers who obey authority, see the world as black and white etc.
      • Right-wing authoritarianism(RWA):
        • Robert Altemeyer refined the concept of the AP by identifying a cluster of 3 original personality variables that he referenda to as the RWA
          • 3 important personality characteristics that predisposed them to obedience
            • 1) Conventionalism -an adherence to conventional norms and values
            • 2) Authoritarian aggression - aggressive feelings to people who violate these norms/values
            • 3) Authoritarian submission - uncritical submission to legitimate authorities
          • Tested the relationship between RWA and obedience in an environment where PP's are ordered to give themselves increasing levels of shock when they made mistakes on a learning task
            • Found significant correlation between RWA scores and the shock level that PP's were willing to give themselves
              • At the end of the experiment the PP's were told to press a button that gave a really long shock "as punishment for not trying"
                • PP's level of RWA was irrelevant as many of them did as they were told
    • Key study: Elms and Milgram (1966):
      • Procedure: Follow up study using PP's who had taken part in Milgrams previous study
        • 20 obedient PP's and 20 defiant PP's each completed the MMPI scale and the F scale to measure their levels of authoritarianism
          • Also asked open ended questions including once about their childhood relationship with their parents and their attitude to the experimenter and learner
      • Findings: Found little difference between obedient and defiant PP's on MMPI variables however found higher levels of authoritarianism among those PP's classified as obedient
        • Obedient PP's claimed that they were less close to their fathers during childhood and saw the experimenter as admirable and the learner as much less so
          • Obedient group were higher on the trait of authoritarianism
    • Evaluation
      • Research evidence for the authoritarianism/ obedience link:
        • Studies have reported that more AP PP's are more obedient in situations like Milgrams studies
          • Dambrun  and Vantiné overcame this problem by using an immersive virtual environment which is where actor takes the role of the learner which is filmed and displayed on a screen
            • PP's are informed that experiment was a simulation and that the shocks and the victims are not real
              • PP's still acted as if it was real and there was a clear and significant PP's RWA scores and the max voltage shock given to the victim Higher RWA = More obedient
      • The social context is more important:
        • Although Milgram accepted that there may be a dispositional basis to obedience and disobedience even though the evidence was not "strong"
          • Milgram shows that variations in the social context of the study were the primary cause of the differences in the PP's  levels of obedience not variations in personality
            • Specific social situations PP's found themselves in caused them to obey or resist regardless their personalities
              • Basing obedience purely on authoritarianism lacks flexibility to account for these variation
      • Difference between authoritarian and obedient participants:
        • Elms and Milgram's research also presented some important differences in the characteristics of the AP and the characteristics of obedient PP's
          • E.g when Elms and Milgram asked PP's about their upbringing many of the fully obedient PP's reported    having a very good relationship with their parents
            • Seems implausible that given the large number of PP's who were fully obedient the vast majority would have grown up in harsh environment with a punitive father
      • Education may determine authoritarianism and obedience:
        • Research has generally found that less educated people are consistently more authoritarian than the well educated.
          • Milgram also found that PP's with lower levels of education tended to be more obedient than those with a higher level
            • This suggests that instead of authoritarianism causing obedience lack of education could be responsible for both AP and obedience.
              • Possibility although even after educational level was statically controlled for in the Elms and Milgram study the more obedient the subject were still more authoritarian than the F scale
      • Left-wing views are associated with lower levels of obedience:
        • Altermeyer's reformation of the AP in therms of RWA suggests that people who define themselves on the right of the political spectrum are more likely to obey authority.
          • Therefore people who define as left wing are characterised by lower levels of obedience
            • Some support for this by Bégue carried out a replication of Milgrams study as part of a fake game show where PP's had to deliver  electric shocks to other PP's
              • Interviews using a questionnaire revealed that the more PP's defined themselves as left wing the lower the intensity of shocks they agreed to give the other PP's
                • Suggests that situational context does not exclude the possibility of individual differences as determining influence in obedience


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