Dispositional Factors - Explaining Obedience in Terms of the 'Authoritarian Personality'

explaining obedience in terms of the 'authoritarian personality - social influence

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Dispositional factors: explaining obedience in terms of the `authoritarian
Obedience and the authoritarian personality
The authoritarian personality provides a clear explanation to obedience as a person with this
personality would not only obey orders, but expect others to obey orders too. The connection
between obedience and the authoritarian personality was considered vague and many psychologists
were convinced that there were other factors that offered a better explanation as to the reasons for
obedience. Sidanius and Pratto put forward the idea of social dominance. This idea came from the
concept of people within groups wanting to compete with and be better than other groups,
especially those that are similar. From this comes the idea that due to people within one group
wanting to be socially superior to other groups, they are more likely to obey others within their own
The authoritarian personality
People of this personality are most commonly associated with obedience. It is most commonly used
as a reference to people who willingly submit to the orders of others, in particular their superiors or
authoritative figures. It is also thought of to be a person who acts as an authoritarian to those they
consider inferior or lower ranking than them. In this situation they would expect their own orders to
be obeyed. It can be considered that a person with an authoritarian personality may be excessive in
following orders and will usually follow them blindly without forethought of what the implications or
consequences of obeying might be. The following characteristics are common in those of an
authoritarian personality:
Hostility to people perceived to be of lower status
Respect for people perceived to be of higher status
A preoccupation (distraction) with power
Blind respect for authority
Conventional and conformist
Adorno and the f-scale
Adorno was concerned with finding a way to measure anti-Semitism and came up with the f-scale
(the f stands for fascist since the Americans are right wing). The f-scale measured the different
aspects of personality that were considered relevant to an authoritarian personality. This included
conventionalism, preoccupation with power, puritanical sexual attitudes and superstition.
Development of the authoritarian personality
The authoritarian personality is thought to have developed from harsh parenting throughout
childhood, especially through punishment for disobedience. This can bring about the idea that that is
the attitude to take. The child should respect their parents and control the inferiors. This could also
explain the more naturally submissive inclinations of those with an authoritarian personality.
Adorno's ideas are likely to be rather biased since most Americans are quite right wing. Adorno's
f-scale suggests that only extreme right-wings are likely to have an authoritarian personality. This,
however, is not true as shown by the obedient inclinations and authoritarian personalities of some
extreme left-wings, especially communists. Therefore, there must be other factors that influence


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