Dispositional explanations for Obedience - Authoritarian personality type


The Authoritarian Personality Type

A personality type, proposed by Fromm (1941) to exlain people characterised by rigid, conservative beliefs and absolute obedience to authority.

-Blind allegiance to conventional beliefs about right and wrong

-Respect and obedience for those in authority 

-Belief in agression towards those with alternative beliefs 

-Tendency to project one's felings of rage onto a weaker group.

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Adorno et al. (1950)

Adorno et al. (1950) believed this personality type were shaped by parenting focused on hierarchal and authoritarian styles in which children learn through social learning.

He created the "F-scale" to attempt to explain racism and the atmosphere that led to the slaughter of six million Jews and the holocaust.

A sample of 2000 American participants were asked 30 questions using a likert scale and had to agree or disagree.e.g "The businessman and the manufacturer are more important to our country than artists and writers."  100 of these participants were then interviews in depth, including about their upbringing.

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Results and Conclusions from Adorno's study

Those that scored highly were hostile to those of inferior status but obedient of those in high status. They also held traditional values and were fairly rigid in their opinions. 

-Authoritarian personalities wer emore likely to categorise people.

-Children who grew up in disciplinarian families may repress their hostility towards their parrents by displacing it onto minortiy groups in the form of prejudice and discrimination.

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Evaluation of Adorno's Study

- Temporal validity - in the 1950's prejudice and discrimination was normal.

- Interviews were biased as the interviewer knew the dimenstions of the scale

- Adorno was an exiled due in WW2 which may have caused personal bias.

- The F-scale was politically based, not scientifically.

- There was little research into other variables that may have affected their answers.

- Evidence is weak in comparison to Milgram, who found variations in social context when he changed the location or uniform etc.

- Harsh parenting style does not alway produce prejudiced children.

- Some prejudice people don't conform to the personality type.

- Doesn't explain why people are prejudiced against some groups and not others.

- Doesn't explain how whole social groups can be prejudiced.

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Evaluation of Adorno's Study cont

- Zilmer et al. found Nazi war criminals scored highly on only 3 of the dimensions out of 9, suggesting that there is limited validity.

-Elms (1996) et al found obedient participants in Milgram's study were more authoritarian, supporting the link between the personality type and obedience.

-Altemyer (1998) found participants who were more willing to give themselves electric shock were also authoritarian, supporting the explanation.

- Hymnan and Sheatsley (1954) found lower educational levels were probably a better explanation of high F-scale scores. 

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