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The Journal of Social Psychology, 1980, 111, 303-304.


University of New South Wales, Australia


Although the cognitive aspects of the authoritarian personality -- rigidity and intolerance of ambiguity -- have been used as the basis of a great deal of psychological research, Brown (1) has shown that the relationship between these attributes and F scale score is not generally replicable. One reason for this could be the initially low and perhaps now vanished validity of the F scale as a measure of authoritarianism (2). Since a more valid scale (the "Directiveness" scale) is now available, it becomes a matter of some interest to see whether it shows the predicted relationship with cognitive variables. The Directiveness scale is a direct measure of authoritarian personality (i.e., a behavior inventory) unlike the F scale which endeavours to infer personality characteristics from attitudes.

Short forms of the Directiveness (2) and balanced F (3) scales (14 items each) were included in a questionnaire together with the Budner (4) intolerance of ambiguity scale and the Gough-Sanford (5) Rigidity scale. The questionnaire was mailed out to 500 people selected at random from the electoral rolls of the Australian state of New South Wales. The 134 persons who returned the questionnaire showed a distribution of demographic characteristics (age, sex, occupation, education) indistinguishable from that observed in contemporaneous doorstep samples carried out in the Sydney metropolitan area. The final sample was thus representative of the general population even though it was not random.

The personality (Directiveness) scale correlated -.166 with Rigidity and -.323 with Intolerance of Ambiguity. The balanced F scale correlated .527 and .512 with the same variables. The latter three correlations are all significant at the .05 level. The personality scale correlated significantly negatively (-.188) with the balanced F scale. The reliabilities of the two scales were .77 (Directiveness) and .75 (balanced F). The two halves of the balanced F scale correlated -.472 (before reverse-scoring). The reliabilities of the two cognitive scales were .74 (Rigidity) and .56 (Budner IA). Of the two, only the Budner scale is balanced. The correlation between its two halves was .066. The Budner positive items correlated -.278 with the Directiveness scale, while the Budner negative items correlated -.188.

Even with an F scale in balanced form the relationship between authoritarian attitudes and the two cognitive variables has clearly been replicated. The more interesting finding, however, is that this is not at all true of the authoritarian personality as such. In fact, if anything, authoritarian personalities are the opposite of what we are normally led to expect. They tend to be tolerant of ambiguity. The psychometric inadequacies of the Budner scale also demonstrated above, however, suggest caution in accepting this result.

It may be concluded that the cognitive correlates of authoritarianism can be demonstrated only with the F scale. Alternative measures of authoritarianism give a different and even opposite picture. This conclusion is consistent with previous findings that even alternative attitude scales of authoritarianism show authoritarians to be both cognitively complex (6) and racially tolerant (7).


1. Brown, R. Social Psychology. New York: Free Press, 1965. See p. 509.

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

3. Ray, J.J. (1979) A short balanced F scale. Journal of Social Psychology, 109, 309-310.

4. Budner, S. Intolerance of ambiguity as a personality variable. J. Personality, 1962, 30, 29-50.

5. See Rokeach, M. The Open and Closed Mind. New York: Basic Books, 1960.

6. Ray, J.J. (1972) Non-ethnocentric authoritarianism. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Sociology 8(June), 96-102.

7. Ray, J.J. (1972) Militarism, authoritarianism, neuroticism and anti-social behavior. Journal of Conflict Resolution 16, 319-340.

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