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Australian & New Zealand J. Sociology, 1974, 10 (2), 143-144.

HOW DESIRABLE IS DOGMATISM?



J. J. Ray
University of New South Wales

J. Martin
Macquarie University

This report is concerned with the relationship between scores on the Rokeach Dogmatism scale, the Martin (1964) Social Desirability scale and amount of university education. The underlying theory is that dogmatism is inimical to higher education and is socially undesirable. Rather than asking people the rather hypothetical question of whether they think dogmatism to be socially undesirable, the scale-based approach used here is to see if people's pattern of response to dogmatic statements is similar to their response to socially undesirable statements. It is a covert way of finding out if people really do treat dogmatism as socially undesirable.

The two scales were administered in class time to psychology students at Macquarie University. The results were divided up into those students who had one, two and three or more years of contact with a university. As was expected from previous work (Ray, 1970), it was found (see Table) that dogmatism decreased with amount of university education. The 't' between the extreme groups was 3.08 (df = 123) which was significant at the < .01 level. It was also found that social desirability responding increased slightly with years of education (`t' of 2.47; p < .05).

Since the Dogmatism scale used was one balanced against acquiescence (Ray, 1970), it was also possible to examine the role of acquiescence in the results obtained. This was done by computing a separate acquiescence score from the dogmatism scale. This was simply the number of `Agrees' regardless of the direction of item wording. It was shown that acquiescence did not change with education.

The most interesting result, however, was one that appeared to be contrary to previous findings (such as Stanley and Martin, 1964). It was found that at no stage was there any tendency for the students to equate dogmatism with socially undesirable statements (correlations of .08 to -.17). It should be noted, however, that the correlation found for the present third-year group was in fact numerically identical to that found for their first year group by Stanley and Martin. It just happens that what is significant for an n of 127 is not significant for an n of 51. Clearly, however, any relationship there might be is an extremely weak one.

A possible reason for the failure of dogmatism to be regarded as undesirable is that what we call dogmatism may in fact in some degree be desirable. The students might be right. When all is said and done all the dogmatist is enforcing on his world is order. Yet seeking order in the phenomena of nature is precisely the task that the scientist sets himself. He attempts to build `systems and theories'. Often there will come a point when we must cease to be open minded and come to a decision. If we always waited for all the evidence to be in, it is doubtful whether we could function in everyday life at all. We might, in other words, have to take care lest we on one hand condemn as dogmatic, what is in fact a highly adaptive need for simplification, and on the other tolerate as open-minded the merely vacuous.

Table 1 - Statistics drawn from the Ray Dogmatism scale and the Martin SD scale for students after differing periods of University attendance.

.............Scale....... Statistics.......1 year contact...2 years contact...3 years contact

Sample size.....................................(n = 74)...............(n = 52)...............(n = 51)

'D' scale.................. mean.................86.94..................86.07..................79.54
..................................SD...................14.41..................13.01..................10.71
................................alpha.................... .83..................... .79.................... .71

SD scale.................mean..................25.22..................27.41..................27.64
..................................SD.....................5.80....................4.93....................4.37
................................alpha.................... .77.................... .67...................... .68

Acquiescence..........mean..................19.21..................19.50..................19.21
(`D' scale).................SD.......................3.54....................3.44....................3.28


Correlation between:
'D' and SD............................................ .08.....................-.02....................-.17
SD (+) and SD (-)................................-.57.....................-.31.....................-.50
'D' (+) and 'D' (-)...................................-.34.....................-.37....................-.51
'D' with acquiescence
from 'D'................................................. .31.................... .44...................... .30


REFERENCES

Martin, J. (1964) Response styles and the measurement of conformity and deviation. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Western Australia.

Stanley, G. and Martin, J. (1964) 'How sincere is the dogmatist?' Psychological Review, 71; 331-334.

Ray, J.J. (1970) The development and validation of a balanced Dogmatism scale. Australian Journal of Psychology, 22, 253-260.






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