Political Psychology, 1998, Vol. 19, Issue 4, 659-661.
ON NOT SEEING WHAT YOU DO NOT WANT TO SEE: MELOEN, VAN DER LINDEN & DE WITTE ON AUTHORITARIANISM
School of Sociology, University of N.S.W., Australia
Meloen, Van der Linden & De Witte (1996) were puzzled by their finding that their various scales of authoritarian attitudes all correlated at similar low levels with approval for a racist political party. They also reported that the "Directiveness" behavior inventory correlated not at all with political variables. If the validity characteristics of the various scales used are taken into account, however, the
implications of their results are clear: The alleged scales of authoritarian attitudes were simply functioning as alternative scales of conservatism and people who preferred Leftist political parties were just as likely to be authoritarian as those who preferred racist political parties.
Meloen, Van der Linden & De Witte (1996) report what they consider a very puzzling finding -- that a variety of different scales of authoritarian attitudes all show quite similar low levels of correlation with preference for a racist political party. They point out that these empirically similar scales that they used all operationalize allegedly different conceptualizations of authoritarianism and conclude: "One wonders if there is something wrong with operationalization practices if they do not differentiate between important theoretical aspects".
They also report that the Ray (1976) "Directiveness" scale (a behaviour inventory) showed no correlation at all with the various political variables that they examined and conclude that the Directiveness scale therefore is an even poorer operationalization of authoritarianism.
These findings are however puzzling only if you assume what has to be proved: That attitude scales can validly measure authoritarianism and that authoritarianism is an attribute of one part of the political spectrum only.
And these assumptions are now rather heroic. Demonstrations that the California F scale (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson & Sanford, 1950) in its various forms lacks validity as a predictor of authoritarian behavior are by now hoary with age (Titus & Hollander, 1957; Titus, 1968; Altemeyer, 1981; Ray, 1988 & 1990c) and Ray (1985b, 1987a, 1988 & 1990a, b & c) has shown that both the F scale and the Altemeyer authoritarianism scale essentially measure nothing more than various sorts of political conservatism. So if all the scales Meloen et al (1996) used measure nothing more than political conservatism, it is no wonder that they give similar but low predictions of preference for conservative political parties. It is not puzzling at all. In fact it makes excellent sense of the findings.
Giving some heed to the validity evidence also gives the findings with respect to the Directiveness scale quite different implications. Unlike the various attitude scales of authoritarianism, the Directiveness scale is highly predictive of authoritarian behaviour (Ray, 1976; Ohja, Singh & Rajiv, 1987; Ray & Lovejoy, 1983 & 1988). In fact, it has one of the highest validities ever recorded for a behavior inventory (Ray, 1987b). The findings with the Directiveness scale therefore confirm the equally hoary and commonsense view (Shils, 1954) that authoritarianism -- WHEN VALIDLY MEASURED -- is equally likely to be found on the political Left and the political Right. Meloen et al
appear unwilling to see it but what their findings with the Directiveness scale in fact clearly show is that Leftists are just as authoritarian in personality as are supporters of racist political parties. This may be an uncomfortable fact for those committed to
Leftist views but it would seem to have no inherent theoretical difficulty (Ray, 1983 & 1985a).
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.
Meloen, J.D., Van der Linden, G. & De Witte, H. (1996) A test of the
approaches of Adorno et al., Lederer and Altemeyer of
authoritarianism in Belgian Flanders: A research note.
Political Psychology 17, 643-656.
Ohja, H. & Singh, Rajiv R. (1987) Directiveness scale in Hindi.
Indian Psychological Review 32(5-6), 50-52.
Ray, J.J. (1976) Do authoritarians hold authoritarian attitudes? Human Relations, 29, 307-325.
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. (1984) Directiveness and authoritarianism: A rejoinder to Duckitt. South African Journal of Psychology 14, 64.
Ray, J.J. (1985a) Authoritarianism of the Left revisited. Personality & Individual Differences 6, 271-272.
Ray, J.J. (1985b) Defective validity in the Altemeyer authoritarianism scale. Journal of Social Psychology 125, 271-272.
Ray, J.J. (1987) Special review of "Right-wing authoritarianism" by R.A. Altemeyer. Personality & Individual Differences 8, 771-772.
Ray, J.J. (1987) The validity of self-reports. Personality Study & Group Behaviour 7(1), 68-70.
Ray, J.J. (1988) Why the F scale predicts racism: A critical review. Political Psychology 9(4), 671-679.
Ray, J.J. (1990a) Letter to the editor about Altemeyer's Enemies of Freedom. In: Canadian Psychology, 31, 392-393.
Ray, J.J. (1990b) Book Review: Enemies of freedom by R. Altemeyer. Personality & Individual Differences, 11, 763-764.
Ray, J.J. (1990) The old-fashioned personality. Human Relations, 43, 997-1015.
Ray, J.J. & Lovejoy, F.H. (1983). The behavioral validity of some recent measures of authoritarianism. Journal of Social Psychology, 120, 91-99.
Ray, J.J. & Lovejoy, F.H. (1988) An improved Directiveness scale. Australian Journal of Psychology 40, 299-302.
Shils, E.A. (1954) Authoritarianism: Right and Left. In: R. Christie &
M. Jahoda (Eds.) Studies in the scope and method of
"The authoritarian personality" Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press.
Titus, H.E. (1968). F scale validity considered against peer
nomination criteria. Psychological Record, 18, 395-403.
Titus, H.E. & Hollander, E.P. (1957) The California F scale in
psychological research: 1950-1955. Psychological
Bulletin 54, 47-64.
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