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Article written in 1990 for J. Social Psychology but not accepted for publication


J.J. Ray

University of N.S.W., Australia


Van Ijzendoorn (1989) showed that high scorers on a one-way worded F scale tended to have low scores on a measure of moral development. It is suggested that this is not empirical information as both measures are politically polarized. The use of one-way worded scales is also again questioned. It is also pointed out that the association between conservatism and "ethnocentrism" is largely a product of the educational system and that the use of student Ss by Van Ijzendoorn is therefore potentially misleading in this area.

Van Ijzendoorn (1989) reported two studies wherein young Dutch college students and High School students who scored high on a one-way-worded version of the California F scale (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson & Sanford, 1950) also showed some tendency to score low on a measure of moral development modelled on the work of Kohlberg (1984). Van Ijzendoorn interprets this to mean that authoritarianism could be viewed as a form of arrested moral development.

Van Ijzendoorn, however, appears to be unaware of the political ramifications of the two measures used. The F scale has always been held to contain a "Right-wing" bias (Christie & Jahoda, 1954; Ray, 1973a) and there now seems to be no dispute that the Kohlberg stages largely derive (particularly at the higher levels) from Liberal philosophy rather than developmental observations (See both Kohlberg, 1981 and the vast review in Modgil & Modgil, 1985). The higher levels are defined in terms of what Liberals idealize. Liberals therefore are more likely to reach them.

One needs therefore to be aware only of the opposed political content of the two measures to explain a negative correlation between them. The correlation arises because it is built in. It is true by definition. It is therefore hardly empirical information and tells us nothing about authoritarianism.

In this context, therefore, the only surprise is that Van Ijzendoorn (1989 p. 43) found in two of his previous studies that moral development and vote did not correlate. This is only superficially surprising, however. Lipset (1960) shows that vote is much more influenced by economic self-interest than by ideology and in conformity with that Ray (1973b, 1983b & 1984) has shown that the F scale does not predict vote in the general population either (true for both balanced and one-way-worded versions of the scale).

Furthermore, results from any one-way-worded version of the F scale are problematical. I have now written on that topic too often (e.g. Ray, 1983a & 1985) to repeat it again here but note that Van Ijzendoorn (1989) was aware of one of my briefer critiques on the subject. He rejects my criticisms on the grounds that three studies in Dutch have apparently found meaningless acquiescence to be an unimportant problem with the F scale. As I cannot read Dutch very well, I cannot examine these "refutations" critically but note that the same conclusion by Rorer (1965) did not withstand critical assault (Peabody, 1966; Campbell, Siegman & Rees, 1966; Jackson, 1967; Ray, 1983a & 1985). One also wonders why Van Ijzendoorn was so dogmatic on the issue. Successful balanced versions of the F scale have been available for years (e.g. Ray, 1972). Why not be on the safe side and use them?

Another quite commonplace finding of his work is also accepted too uncritically by Van Ijzendoorn (1989). He finds that "ethnocentrism" correlates fairly highly with conservatism of political position. He seems unaware of the demonstration by Sniderman, Brody & Kuklinski (1984) that this phenomenon is associated with exposure to high or medium educational levels. Putting it a little bluntly, it is not a "natural" association (as Van Ijzendoorn appears to think) but rather one produced by the educational system. Teachers at both the secondary and tertiary levels tend to be both Left-leaning and anti-racist so the extent to which the two variables become associated among students is simply a measure of their acculturation to the educational system and most students do acculturate to some degree. In a general population sample, therefore, one would expect much lower correlations than those observed by Van Ijzendoorn among his student Ss. This is indeed so. In fact, both in Australia and Britain there seems generally to be no significant correlation between conservatism and racial attitudes among general population samples (See, for instance, Ray & Furnham, 1984; Ray & Lovejoy, 1986). The findings by Van Ijzendoorn are therefore so far from being generalizable as to be positively misleading.

A finding by Fincham & Barling (1979) is perhaps a further testimony to the folly of using student data in this area. These authors found no correlation between attitudinal conservatism and moral development. They could not even find what Kohlberger had deliberately built in!


Adorno,T.W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D.J. & Sanford, R.N. (1951) The authoritarian personality. N.Y.: Harper.

Campbell, D.T., Siegman, C.R. & Rees, M.B. (1967) Direction of wording effects in the relationship between scales. Psychological Bulletin 68, 293-303.

Christie, R. & Jahoda, M. (1954) Studies in the scope and method of "The authoritarian personality" Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press.

Fincham, F. & Barling, J.I. (1979) Moral judgment and psychological conservatism. J. Social Psychology 107, 139-140

Jackson, D.N. (1967) Acquiescence response styles: Problems of identification and control. In I.A. Berg (Ed.) Response set in personality measurement Chicago: Aldine.

Kohlberg, L. (1981) Essays on moral development: Vol. 1. The philosophy of moral development N.Y.: Harper.

Kohlberg, L. (1984) Essays on moral development: Vol. 2. The psychology of moral development N.Y.: Harper.

Lipset, S.M. (1960) Political man N.Y.: Doubleday.

Modgil, S. & Modgil, C. (1985) (Eds.) Lawrence Kohlberg: Consensus and controversy Lewes, E. Sussex: Falmer.

Peabody, D. (1966) Authoritarianism scales and response bias. Psychological Bulletin 65, 11-23.

Ray, J.J. (1972) A new balanced F scale -- And its relation to social class. Australian Psychologist 7, 155-166.

Ray, J.J. (1973) Conservatism, authoritarianism and related variables: A review and an empirical study. Ch. 2 in: G.D. Wilson (Ed.) The psychology of conservatism London: Academic Press.

Ray, J.J. (1973) Dogmatism in relation to sub-types of conservatism: Some Australian data. European J. Social Psychology 3, 221-232.

Ray, J.J. (1983) Reviving the problem of acquiescent response bias. Journal of Social Psychology 121, 81-96.

Ray, J.J. (1983). Half of all authoritarians are Left-wing: A reply to Eysenck and Stone. Political Psychology, 4, 139-144.

Ray, J.J. (1985) Acquiescent response bias as a recurrent psychometric disease: Conservatism in Japan, the U.S.A. and New Zealand. Psychologische Beitraege 27, 113-119.

Ray, J.J. & Furnham, A. (1984) Authoritarianism, conservatism and racism. Ethnic & Racial Studies 7, 406-412.

Ray, J.J. & Lovejoy, F.H. (1986). The generality of racial prejudice. Journal of Social Psychology, 126, 563-564.

Rorer, L.G. (1965) The great response-style myth. Psychological Bulletin 63, 129-156.

Sniderman, P.M., Brody, R.A. & Kuklinski, J.H. (1984) Policy reasoning and political values: The problem of racial equality. Amer. J. Polit. Science 28, 75-94.

Van Ijzendoorn, M.H. (1989) Moral judgment, authoritarianism and and ethnocentrism. J. Social Psychology 129, 37-45.


Some 2007 research by Haidt would seem to be of considerable interest in connection with the above. Haidt argues that the basis of morality is instinctive but that conservatives display greater cognitive complexity in dealing with moral questions. Given the frequent Leftist assertion that "there is no such thing as right and wrong", that is not inherently surprising. Although they often use moral talk in an attempt to influence others, Leftists would seem, on their own admission, to have no serious interest in or committment to morality of any kind. That does make the invariable brutalities of Communist regimes rather understandable.

Part of a summary of Haidt's review:

"Haidt argues that human morality is a cultural construction built on top of -- and constrained by -- a small set of evolved psychological systems. He presents evidence that political liberals rely primarily on two of these systems, involving emotional sensitivities to harm and fairness. Conservatives, however, construct their moral understandings on those two systems plus three others, which involve emotional sensitivities to in-group boundaries, authority and spiritual purity."

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