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(Article written in 1999 for publication in The Journal of Clinical Psychology but not accepted for publication)


J.J. Ray

University of New South Wales, Australia


Hightower (1997) purports to show that tolerant people are psychologically more healthy than intolerant people. He ignores a large amount of literature suggesting that prejudice is essentially normal rather than psychopathological and quotes as support for his arguments research that is already known to be seriously flawed. Some references ignored by Hightower that do not support his theory are listed and it is shown that his own research depends on a measuring instrument already known to be unsound.

In a recent paper in The Journal of Clinical Psychology, Hightower (1997) purported to show that tolerant people are psychologically healthier than prejudiced people. This is a popular theory with a long history of research behind it but Hightower, regrettably, seems to have little interest in the previous literature relevant to his work and, in consequence, produces new research of his own which is incapable of supporting his conclusions. Some corrective to such a misleading paper does therefore seem both proper and needed.

A notable feature of Hightower's paper is its selective citation of the literature. Previous research which reported conclusions at variance with his theory is simply ignored. Brief allusions to some of the ignored literature seem therefore in order here: Billig (1978) found British Neo-Nazis to fall generally within the normal range of mental health; Ray (1973) found the same among Australian Neo-Nazis; Masling (1954) found no correlation between anxiety and authoritarianism; Ray (1972) found that racially tolerant respondents tended towards militarism rather than anti-militarism; Elms (1970) found that Right-wing extremists had normal mental health; Ray (1981) found no tendency for racists to score high on the Eysenck & Eysenck (1976) 'P' scale (which normally reflects, tough, aggressive, uncaring behaviour); Ray (1988a) reported two general population studies in Germany and South Africa respectively in which it was found that German racists were especially low on neuroticism and that South African racists were unpolarized on neuroticism and Peterson (1990) found that Republican voters in the U.S.A. were especially well-adjusted. Some other papers tending to show that racism is normal rather than mentally unhealthy are: Charny (1982), Crocker & Schwartz (1985), Duckitt (1983 & 1985), Elwert (1982), Freedman (1984), Furnham & Kirris (1983), Kinloch (1986), Kitano (1966), Maykovich (1975), Mihalyi (1984/85), Rule, Haley & McCormack (1971), Sidanius, Ekehammar & Brewer (1986), Taylor (1980), Thomas (1974), Van Staden (1987), Volkan, (1985).

So what are we to make of the few references which Hightower marshals in support of his theory? He does of course allude to the well-known authoritarianism theory of Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson & Sanford (1950) but this theory must hold some sort of record for the number of times it has been attacked as not according with the facts. See, for example, Titus & Hollander (1957); Altemeyer (1981) and Ray (1976 & 1988b). Hightower seems unaware that such criticisms have ever occurred.

The work that Hightower cites most and appears to rely on most, however, is that of Gough & Bradley (1993). In evaluating this work it may suffice to quote what I have already written elsewhere: "Gough & Bradley (1993) constructed a scale of rated racist behaviour and correlated it with a form of the California 'F' scale (usually described as measuring authoritarianism). They found a correlation between the two of essentially zero (.08) and were reduced to trawling through a vast matrix of correlations with individual items in order to find some shred of (statistically dubious) evidence that would support the California theory of authoritarianism (Adorno et al., 1950)" (Ray, 1994, p. 231). Relying on the conclusions of such an intellectually disreputable approach to research was surely most unwise.

Hightower also quotes the work of Grossarth-Maticek, Eysenck & Vetter (1989). Ray (1990) has however pointed out that this work relied on a most peculiar scale of racism consisting of items that almost nobody agreed with and suggested that presenting the relationships in correlational form would show them as negligible. Hightower, of course, shows no awareness of such considerations.

All this ignoring of the literature might perhaps be forgiven if Hightower's own research was well-conceived. Unfortunately, it was not. It relied for its measure of personal adjustment on the Shostrom (1964) POI. Unfortunately, the scales of this instrument have been shown to have reliabilities far lower than would be acceptable even in the preliminary version of a measuring instrument and to have other psychometric problems such as a factor structure quite different from that proposed by Shostrom (Ray, 1984 & 1986). What, if anything, the POI "scales" measure is then essentially unknown.

Hightower's conclusions, then, are not supported by the available data and it seems unlikely that racism is in general associated with poor mental health.


Adorno,T.W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D.J. & Sanford, R.N. (1950). The authoritarian personality New York: Harper.

Altemeyer, R. (1981). Right-wing authoritarianism Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.

Billig, M. (1978) Fascists: A social psychological view of the National Front London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Charny, I.W. (1982) How can we commit the unthinkable? Genocide: The human cancer. Boulder, CO: Westview

Crocker, J. & Schwartz, I. (1985) Prejudice and ingroup favoritism in a minimal intergroup situation: Effects of self-esteem. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin 11, 379-386.

Duckitt, J. (1983) Authoritarianism and adjustment in an authoritarian culture. J. Social Psychology 121, 211-212.

Duckitt, J.H. (1985) Prejudice and neurotic symptomatology among white South Africans. J. Psychology 119(1), 15-20.

Elms, A.C. (1970) Those little old ladies in tennis shoes are no nuttier than anyone else, it turns out. Psychology Today 3, 27-59.

Elwert, G. (1982) Probleme der Auslaenderintegration. Gesellschaftliche Integration durch Binnenintegration? Koelner Zeitschrift fuer Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 34, 717-731.

Eysenck, H.J. & Eysenck, S.B.G. (1976) Psychoticism as a dimension of personality London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Freedman, D.G. (1984) Village fissioning, human diversity and ethnocentrism. Political Psychology 5, 629-634.

Furnham, A. & Kirris, R. (1983) Self-image disparity, ethnic identity and sex-role stereotypes in British and Cypriot adolescents. J. Adolescence 6, 275-292.

Gough, H. & Bradley, P. (1993) Personal attributes of people described by others as intolerant. In P.M. Sniderman, P.E. Tetlock & E.G. Carmines (Eds.) Prejudice, politics and the American dilemma (pp. 60-85) Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Grossarth-Maticek, R., Eysenck, H.J. & Vetter, H. (1989) The causes and cures of prejudice: An empirical study of the frustration-aggression hypothesis. Personality & Individual Differences 10, 547-558.

Hightower, E. (1997) Psychosocial characteristics of subtle and blatant racists as compared to tolerant individuals. J. Clinical Psychology 53, 369-374

Kinloch, G.C. (1986) Racial attitudes in South Africa: A review. Genetic, Social and General Psychology Monographs 263-281

Kitano, H.H.L. (1966) Passive discrimination: The normal person J. Social Psychology 70, 23-31.

Masling, M. (1954) How neurotic is the authoritarian? J. Abnormal & Social Psychology 49, 316-318.

Maykovich, M.K. (1975) Correlates of racial prejudice. J. Personality & Social Psychology 32, 1014-1020.

Mihalyi, L.J. (1984/85) Ethnocentrism vs. nationalism: Origin and fundamental aspects of a major problem for the future. Humboldt J. Social Relations 12(1), 95-113.

Peterson, S.A. (1990) Political Behavior: Patterns in Everyday Life. Newberry Park: Sage.

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

Ray, J.J. (1973) Antisemitic types in Australia. Patterns of Prejudice 7(1), 6-16.

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

Ray, J.J. (1981) Explaining Australian attitudes towards Aborigines Ethnic & Racial Studies 4, 348-352.

Ray, J.J. (1984) A caution against use of the Shostrom Personal Orientation inventory. Personality & Individual Differences 5, 755.

Ray, J.J. (1986) Perils in clinical use of the Shostrom POI: A reply to Hattie. Personality & Individual Differences 7, 591.

Ray, J.J. (1988) Racism and personal adjustment: Testing the Bagley hypothesis in Germany and South Africa. Personality & Individual Differences, 9, 685-686.

Ray, J.J. (1988) Why the F scale predicts racism: A critical review. Political Psychology 9(4), 671-679.

Ray, J.J. (1990) Racist extremism and normal prejudice: A comment on Grossarth-Maticek, Eysenck & Vetter. Personality & Individual Differences, 11, 647-648.

Ray, J.J. (1994) Are subtle racists authoritarian? Comment on Duckitt. South African J. Psychology, 24(4), 231-232.

Rule, B.G., Haley, H. & McCormack, J. (1971) Anti-Semitism, distraction and physical aggression. Canadian J. Behavioral Science 3, 174-178.

Shostrom, E.L. (1964) An inventory for the measurement of self-actualization. Educational & Psychological Measurement 24, 207-218

Sidanius, J., Ekehammar, B. & Brewer, R.M. (1986) The political socialization determinants of higher order sociopolitical space: A Swedish example. J. Social Psychology 126, 7-22.

Taylor, M.C. (1980) Fraternal deprivation and competitive racism: A second look. Sociology & Social Research 65, 37-55.

Thomas, C.W. (1974) The significance of the E(Ethnocentrism) factor in mental health. J. Non-White Concerns in Personnel & Guidance 2(2), 60-69.

Titus, H.E. & Hollander, E.P. (1957) The California F scale in psychological research: 1950-1955. Psychological Bulletin 54, 47-64.

Van Staden, F.J. (1987) White South Africans' attitudes toward the desegregation of public amenities. J. Social Psychology 127, 163-173.

Volkan, V.D. (1985) The need to have enemies and allies: A developmental approach. Political Psychology 6, 219-247.

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