Home Personal Psychology Personality THE AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY I: PRELIMINARY PERSPECTIVES AND STUDIES

THE AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY I: PRELIMINARY PERSPECTIVES AND STUDIES

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While Adorno’s findings may not be accurate, they at least provided the impetus for further studies on prejudice and authoritarianism. Secondly, we cannot disregard the fact that the scales show high reliability and appreciable correlations with ·one another. Apparently, Adorno has isolated certain psychological factors which are closely interrelated and appear to be closely connected with certain ideological stands which are basically discriminatory, distortive, and hostile in nature. Finally, the Adorno study arrives at many of the same conclusions which its philosophical and historical counterparts have expanded. in nonempirical manner, and hence has bolstered the findings of these studies with the buttress of clinically and experimentally derived evidence.

Criticism of the California Studies

Considerable criticism was directed for many years against the Adorno study. The most prominent of these critiques offered in Studies in the Scope and Methods of “The Authoritarian Personality” that was edited by Richard Christie and the noted psychologist, Marie Jahoda. In the introductory chapter, Jahoda notes that there is poor alignment between the application of a clinical interviewing process to the study of a specific personality trait—such as authoritarianism. When engaged from a psychodynamic perspective (such as was embraced by the California Study group) , a clinical interview hopefully leads to an understand of the whole person–not just one trait.

Jahoda suggests that authors of The Authoritarian Personality were trying to focus on a specific social/political trait but were doing so by applying a broad psychological analysis–though it should be noted that the California Study group also use focused psychometric tools. Jahoda’s critique seems to be directed not to the “objective” results obtained through use of the psychometric scales, but to much more speculative accounts regarding the potential sources of authoritarian personality traits and to ways in which these traits are activated and sustained under specific conditions of stress and uncertainty.

In a later chapter, Richard Christie reviewed the work that has been done since the original book came out. He proposes that the authors over-emphasize the personality structures of fascism and ethnocentrism. Christie noted that they offered too little analysis regarding the social structures and social-political context within which authoritarianism operates.

A particularly important and influential chapter was prepared by Edward Shils, a noted sociologist. He criticizes the focus on what he identified as “right wing nativist fundamentalist ideology”. The California Study Group did not offer an analysis of authoritarianism as it exists at all points on the political ideological spectrum. Shils points out that the primary questionnaire (F Scale) being used by this study group was intended not to identify and measure authoritarianism, but rather to portray the primary extreme of the right wing along with antisemitic ideology and practices. Shils suggests that authors of The Authoritarian Personality are assuming that political ideology exists on a uni-dimensional scale, with the extreme left end of the spectrum being completely opposite of the extreme right end. In fact, according to Shils, the two extremes share much in common. This should be the focus on any study of authoritarianism.

Many of the criticisms offered in Christie and Jahoda’s book are echoed in the observations made by other psychologists, sociologists and political sciences during the remainder of the 1950s. Specifically, while most of the critics of this study acknowledged the positive aspects of The Authoritarian Personality they felt that it could be improved by (1) a change of methodology, (2) further research to refine the measurement of the variables used and to discover additional variables that might affect the prejudicial condition, and (3) discussion of the adequacy of the theoretical assumptions (Simpson & Yinger, 1958, pp. 95-96).

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