PY12002 - Prejudice + personality: the authoritarian personality (Week 15)

What is prejudice?

'Thinking ill of others without ill warrant' (Allport, 1954)

All-embracing - views are usually generalized and applied to all members of the group

Magnification of differences between groups - categorization process

Values - tend to value our own group more than others

Persistence (key criterion) - struggle to change prejudiced ideas

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The authoritarian personality

Theory drew from Freudian logic - perceptions tell us more about the individual than the real world ('projection')

Questionnaire developed to identify the prejudiced/non-prejudiced; assessed:

  • Anti-Semitism 
  • Ethnocentrism (measure/evaluate outgroup in terms of the values of the in group)
  • F-scale - someone scoring highly may indicate that the individual is more inclined to form fascist ideologies

Found that those who scored highly on the questionnaires:

  • Prejudiced against those that they have not met
  • Perceptions of 'them' not based on bad personal experiences with 'them'; rather, says something about the perceiver's psyche
  • Co-variation of prejudices
  • Ethnocentric celebration of 'us' and 'ours'
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Authoritarian personality - Adorno's interviews

Interviewed participants high on Authoritarianism + participants low on Authoritarianism

Purpose - to identify differences in family dynamics leading to these different personalities

Claimed that strict upbringing leads to 'authoritarian personality'

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Development of an authoritarian personality

Adorno et. al. explain prejudice in terms of personality - upbringing shapes personality and this shapes social values and perceptions

Strict upbringing leads to suppression of emotions, frustration and resentment + an idealized image of family

Such feelings act as a motor in later life:

  • General respect for authority
  • Feelings of hostility redirected onto others lower in hierarchy
  • Failings you cannot recognize in family and self are seen in others (through projection)

Parents motivated to be strict through family 'Status Anxiety'

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Authoritarian personality + prejudice

Helps explain:

  • Hostile feelings towards others (frustration)
  • Tendency to use 'all-embracing categories' and stereotypes (black/white)
  • Contents of images of others (projection)
    • Negative
    • Magnification of differences between groups
    • Value differences associated with 'us' and 'them'
  • Persistence (projection)
  • Support for status quo and relationship with authority
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Limitations of Adorno's reseach

❌ Time bound

❌ Cannot be sure about causality between authoritarian personality and incidents such as the Holocaust - unlikely all of Germany had an authoritarian personality

❌ Assumes those with high/low in authoritarianism have different relationships between parents

  • Low - integrated (mix of strengths and weaknesses)
  • High - ambivalent (surface is positive, underneath is negative)

❌ Used interviews to analyze relationship between parents

  • Retrospective (rests on subjective memories)
  • Subjective analysis of interviewee's accounts
  • What counts as 'ambivalence' or 'integrated'

❌ Theory guides interpretation

  • Analyst knew whether interviewee scored high or low in authoritarianism
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Limitations of the concept of the authoritarian pe

❌ The role of authoritarianism

  • Prejudices don't always co-vary
  • Even when they do, they are not always associated with authoritarianism
    • There has been a historical decline in Authoritarianism
    • Cultural factors support racism without Authoritarianism (Pettigrew)
    • Racist beliefs and fascist ideology can appeal to non-Authoritarians
    • Can be liberal racism
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