Obedience: Dispositional Explanations


The Authoritarian Personality


  • Adorno et al. used F-scale to study unconscious attitudes towards other racial groups.


  • People with authoritarian personalities identify with the 'strong' and have fixed cognitive style.

Authoritarian characteristics

  • Extreme respect for authority and obedience to it.

Origin of the authoritarian personality

  • Harsh parenting creates hostility that cannot be expressed against parents so is displaced.
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Research support

  • Some of Milgram's obedient participants had authoritarian personalities (Elms).

Limited explanation

  • Can't explain increase in obedience across a whole culture.
  • Better explanation is social identity theory.

Political bias

  • Equates authoritarian personality with right-wing ideology and ignores extreme left-wing authoritarianism.

Evaluation extra

  • Methodological problems
  • Correlation, not causation
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