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Journal of Social Psychology, 1986, 126, 809-810.



School of Sociology University of New South Wales, Australia

ALTHOUGH BOTH assertiveness and authoritarianism have considerable literatures devoted to them, any comparison of the two constructs is rare. One comparison (Ray, 1981) suggested that authoritarianism be seen as aggressive dominance and assertiveness as non-aggressive dominance. A difficulty with this suggestion, however, is that recent research (Ray & Lovejoy, 1986) has shown that a scale originally designed as a measure of authoritarianism (the Ray [1976] Directiveness scale) in fact predicted assertiveness better than did a scale expressly designed to measure assertiveness (the Lorr & More [1980] Directiveness scale). It appears that what some psychologists see as authoritarian could be seen by others as assertive. Is there, then, an empirical difference between behaviors that have been distinguished as assertive or authoritarian?

To help answer this question, a reanalysis was carried out, using data kindly supplied and analyzed by Heaven (1984). A sample of 130 Australian adults approached personally by students under quota restraints was gathered and found to show a reasonably representative demographic profile. The subjects received a questionnaire containing the Lorr and More (1980) Assertiveness battery, the Ray (1976) Directiveness scale, the Ray (1981) Dominance scale, and the Jackson (1967) Dominance scale. Scale reliabilities (alpha) ranged from .62 (Lorr & More Independence subscale) to .88 (Ray Dominance scale).

The mean correlation between the assertiveness subscales was .31. The Assertiveness (Lorr & More, 1980) scale as a whole correlated .69 with Jackson (1967) Dominance, .80 with Ray (1981) Dominance, and .60 with Ray (1976) Directiveness. This implies that different measures of assertiveness (the four Lorr & More subscales) correlated less well with one another than they did with measures of authoritarianism and dominance. Confirming this, the average correlation between the four assertiveness subscales and the other three scales was .49. The very high correlation between overall assertiveness and the Ray Dominance scale in particular suggests that the underlying theme in the Lorr and More battery is dominance rather than assertiveness.

As the Lorr and More (1980) battery is notable for its attempt to measure the different conceptions of assertiveness in an orderly and comprehensive way, the present findings suggest that behaviors distinguished by psychologists as very different are in fact highly correlated. The socially disapproved-of people (authoritarians) and the socially approved-of people (assertives) in Western society may tend to be substantially similar.


Heaven, P. C. L. (1984). Factor structure of the Lorr and More assertiveness inventory. Personality and Individual Differences, S, 741-742.

Jackson, D. N. (1967). Personality Research Form manual. New York: Research Psychologists Press.

Lorr, M., & More, W. W. (1980). Four dimensions of assertiveness. Multivariate Behavioral Research, IS, 127-138.

Ray, J.J. (1976) Do authoritarians hold authoritarian attitudes? Human Relations, 29, 307-325.

Ray, J.J. (1981) Authoritarianism, dominance and assertiveness. Journal of Personality Assessment 45, 390-397.

Ray, J.J. & Lovejoy, F.H. (1986) A comparison of three scales of directiveness. Journal of Social Psychology 126, 249-250.

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