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The Journal of Social Psychology, 1984, 123, 21-28.


The University of New South Wales, Australia



In a random general population sample (N = 100) of Sydney, Australia, scales to measure three attributes commonly seen as associated in the authoritarianism literature (Directiveness, Conservatism, and Ethnocentrism) were correlated with a scale of materialistic achievement orientation. Conservatives were found to be neither more authoritarian (directive) nor more "greedy" (achievement oriented) than liberals but were slightly more likely to be ethnocentric (r = .26). Achievement orientation predicted Directiveness (.41) and Ethnocentrism (.27). It was concluded that achievement motivation may be responsible for many instances of authoritarian behavior and that some ethnocentrism is an outcome of economic competition.


Despite the considerable popularity of the two constructs of achievement motivation and authoritarianism in the social psychology literature in the postwar years, few authors seem to have examined the relationship between these constructs. DeCharms, Morrison, Reitman, and McClelland (4) reported a low significant correlation between achievement values and the California F scale among a group of 30 Ss but a nonsignificant relationship between projectively measured n-Ach and F scale score. Brown (3), on the other hand, found an inverse relationship between n-Ach and authoritarianism. Friis and Knox (6) showed that achievement orientation failed to correlate with a measure of adherence to authority derived from Borgatta (2), while Lorr, Suziedelis, and Tonesk (8) found correlations of .31 and .30 between two authoritarianism factors and an achievement values scale. This fairly confusing picture is complicated by the doubtful validity and reliability of at least some of the measures used and the lack of any attempt at representative sampling.

In an attempt to clear up this confusion, Ray (16) reported a series of studies in which he correlated his Directiveness scale of authoritarian personality with an achievement orientation scale also devised by him. He found a consistent positive relationship in an international range of random population samples. Although both scales had been extensively validated as predictors of relevant behavior, the fact that they were devised by one author does of course suggest the possibility of some artifact. Each scale, however, was then reduced to factorial "purity" (with the aid of cluster analysis) and the correlations were recalculated: the result remained substantially unaltered.

The use of the Ray (13) Directiveness scale as a measure of authoritarianism, however, means that the results are not as generalizable as might at first appear. That scale measures only one of the many covarying traits that were said initially to make up the authoritarianism syndrome by Adorno et al. (1). It measures the concept of domineering, aggressive behavior that lies at the heart of any concept of authoritarianism but it does not measure the purportedly associated constructs of conservatism and racism. The Directiveness scale has, in fact, been shown to be generally orthogonal to both conservatism and racism (15, 17, 19). Since a large part of the interest in the authoritarianism construct lay in the explanation it purported to provide for conservatism and racism, the research with the Directiveness scale leaves important questions unanswered.

The information available on the relationship between achievement motivation and conservatism (20) relies on a short conservatism scale of low reliability, and achievement motivation has been found to predict prejudice against immigrant workers in Germany (25). More data are obviously needed.


A questionnaire was administered to a random doorstep cluster sample of 100 people living in the Sydney metropolitan area of Australia. The sampling method was of the type used in commercial public opinion polls, where it generally gives very reliable results (12). The N was limited to 100, since correlations explaining as little as 4% of the variance will be shown as significant with such an N (5, p. 362). The data were gathered in October, 1982.

The questionnaire contained five scales: the 14-item version of the Ray-Lynn Achievement Orientation scale (14, 18), the Ray (23) Conservatism scale slightly adapted to make it suitable for use in Australia, an eight-item short form of the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability scale (24), a special purpose version of the Ray (13, 26) Directiveness scale (see Appendix), and the Ray (11) Attitude to Southern Europeans scale.

The version of the Directiveness scale used in the present study was designed rigorously to exclude any item that might also be said to measure achievement motivation (e.g., nos. 8, 12, 14 and 25 of the original). While post hoc factor analyses (as used previously) to remove any overlapping items between the Directiveness and Achievement Orientation scales are useful, a careful a priori structuring of the scales to ensure conceptual nonoverlap was thought to be a more powerful method of examining the real relationship between the two attributes. The items for this special-purpose scale were taken from the pool used in the construction of a modified, high reliability Directiveness scale as reported elsewhere (21). These particular scale-construction data were also useful in that they were accompanied by validity criteria. The special-purpose scale was checked against these criteria and found to show validity very similar to the more usual Mark III version of the scale [as used in Ray (17)].

The short form of the achievement motivation (AO) scale used in the present study consisted of items numbered 1, 3, 4, 6, 10, 13, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, and 28 of Ray (18) Appendix A. The short form has been shown elsewhere (14) to have validity very similar to the full scale. No special-purpose alterations to this scale were needed as it had initially been constructed with an eye to avoiding any conceptual overlap with authoritarianism.

The Attitude toward Southern Europeans scale was used to measure Ethnocentrism; this scale was the basis of the attitude toward immigrant workers scale used in the German study mentioned above (25). Since both Australia and W. Germany have large numbers of postwar emigrants from Mediterranean countries, the prospects of obtaining comparable data seemed unusually good.


The reliabilities ("alpha") for the scales were as follows: Conservatism .82, Ethnocentrism .81, AO .71, Social Desirability .66, and Directiveness .63. The rather low reliabilities of the latter two scales reflect their short length.

The AO scale correlated -.07 with Conservatism, -.27 with Ethnocentrism, .14 with Social Desirability, and .41 with Directiveness. Correlations greater than .20 were required for significance at the .05 level. Ambitious people, then, were ethnocentric and authoritarian but not conservative or dishonest. The only significant demographic correlate of achievement motivation was .24 with education. All correlations were therefore recalculated with the effect of education partiailed out. The reductions observed were very small and did not affect the significance of any coefficient. The correlation between AO and ethnocentrism became .22.

Conservatism correlated .26 with ethnocentrism, .07 with Social Desirability, .16 with Directiveness, .26 with age, and -.30 with education. Conservatives, then, were ethnocentric, older, and less educated. They were not dishonest, authoritarian, more likely to be male or occupationally distinctive.

Ethnocentrism correlated -.16 with Social Desirability, -.08 with Directiveness, .22 with age, -.25 with sex, -.41 with occupation, and -.27 , with education. Prejudiced people were older, more likely to be male, more likely to be in manual occupations and less educated. They were not, however, dishonest or authoritarian.

The means (and SDs) of the scales were as follows: Conservatism 93.17 (19.28), Ethnocentrism 41.48 (12.98), Achievement Orientation 32.56 (5.38), Social Desirability 16.77 (4.08), and Directiveness 18.00 (3.75). When compared with previous American data gathered in the greater Los Angeles area (23), the Australian mean on conservatism was not significantly different.

The mean age of the sample was 40.1 years, there was a slight preponderance of females, approximately two thirds of the sample worked in non-manual occupations, and mean education fell between junior and senior school.


"The politics of greed" has long been a popular left-wing explanation of conservatism. There also appears to be a persistent view that only conservatives are authoritarian (29). The present findings give cause to question both theories.

As the most cursory inspection of its items shows, the AO scale measures achievement motivation of a quite vocational and materialistic sort. People seeking their own personal economic aggrandizement should get high scores on it. Yet the negligible correlation between this scale and conservatism shows that such people are not at all characteristically conservative. Leftists are as personally "greedy" as "Rightists."

It should be noted that the "materialistic" conception of achievement motivation used in the present study is not particularly eccentric. Achievement motivation is more usually measured by projective tests but what constitutes an achievement in the scoring manuals for such tests generally seems very strongly colored by the Protestant work ethic of North America. The examples in McClelland et al. (9), for instance, center on essay competitions, apprentices fixing machines, homework, quizzes, exams, study, inventions, and becoming doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. All these have clear relevance to eventual personal vocational success and the material rewards that come with it. However widely the authors define achievement motivation, its de facto range is much more limited.

The failure of the measure of authoritarian personality to relate to conservatism may seem surprising in view of the well-known high correlation between the California F scale and conservatism (1), but this simply shows how idiosyncratically authoritarianism was originally conceived in the California studies. Rokeach (28) has also shown that alternative conceptualizations of authoritarianism do not result in the same relationship with conservatism. The Directiveness scale used in the present study, unlike the F scale, has been shown to be a good predictor of actual authoritarian behavior (26). If behavior is the referent, then, authoritarianism seems equally common among both liberals and conservatives.

The present finding that achievement motivation is a reasonably strong predictor of authoritarianism (Directiveness) in the context of what is usually reported of the relationships between psychological variables is made doubly significant by the fact that it is merely one of many such findings (16, 25). It shows that even determined efforts to eliminate content overlap between the two scales have virtually no effect on the relationship between them. There can therefore now be few grounds for questioning the reality of the relationship. Strict causal inferences cannot, of course, be made from correlational data, but it would seem a reasonable explanation for the present findings to theorize that one might be moved to push others around for a variety of reasons: it might itself be a satisfier -- one does it because one likes it; or it might be instrumental -- one does it as a means of getting something else that one wants. The present findings concern the latter: people who are ambitious for material success tend to find the directing of people an integral part of what they do or would like to do.

The motivation behind authoritarian behavior may often be much less dark and gloomy than that proposed by Adorno et al. (1). Imposing one's own will on others may in fact be an inevitable concomitant of obeying the key imperatives of modern Western culture. The need to dominate others may be an outcome of the Protestant work ethic. In this context it may be noted that the one country where the relationship between achievement motivation and authoritarianism was not found was India (22). India, of course, is characterized by core cultural values very far from the Protestant tradition of Northern Europe and its derivative societies. The highest correlation so far found between the Directiveness scale and the AO scale was in Scotland (16), the traditionally Calvinist part of the British Isles. Weber (30) considered specifically Calvinist Protestantism as the historical key to the development of capitalism and modern materialistic culture generally.

The relationship between conservatism and ethnocentrism was fairly weak in the context of what is usually found (19) and this may reflect the importance of studying prejudice against different outgroups separately. In Australia, prejudice against immigrants has been elsewhere (11) shown to be little related to prejudice against blacks. Conservatism may therefore be much more predictive of one type of prejudice than another. The caution that there is no overall relationship between prejudiced attitudes and discriminatory behavior, however, cannot be neglected (7, 11). Although it may be more consistent with their ideology to admit dislike of other ethnic groups, one cannot therefore assume that conservatives will behave in more prejudicial ways towards members of such groups.

While the revelation of achievement motivation as a minor source of ethnocentrism may at first seem a little surprising, it fits in with the view that economic competition is a common source of racism. Achievement motivated people are more aware of competition generally and are also therefore more racist. Southern European immigrants are seen as important economic competitors and hence threaten the ambitious person's own desires for economic pre-eminence. An implication of this theory is that ethnic groups which are seen as offering less threat of economic competition will not tend to attract more prejudice from achievement motivated persons. If one assumes that Negroes are less economically competitive than Southern Europeans, one would therefore predict that there would be less tendency for ambitious people to be prejudiced against them. Two previous studies of attitudes to blacks carried out in California and in South Africa (17, 27) did include the same AO scale as was used above. In both cases the AO scale showed no significant prediction of attitude towards blacks. Once again, then, it is clear that ethnocentrism cannot be treated as a unitary entity (11). Dislike of Mediterraneans (in both Australia and West Germany) is related to achievement motivation but dislike of Negroes (in both South Africa and California) is not.


Directiveness Scale

1. Are you the sort of person who always likes to get his own way?
2. If you are told to take charge of some situation, does this make you feel uncomfortable?
3. Do you dislike having to tell others what to do?
4. Would you rather take orders than give them?
5. Are you argumentative?
6. Are you pretty good at getting your own way in most things?
7. Do you try to get yourself into positions of authority where you can?
8. Are you hopeless at organizing other people?

Note: Items 1, 5, 6, and 7 are scored 3 for Yes, 2 for ? and 1 for No. The rest are scored 1, 2, and 3 for the same answers, respectively.


{Articles below by J.J. Ray can generally be accessed simply by clicking on the name of the article. I am however also gradually putting online a lot of abstracts, extracts and summaries from older articles by other authors so if an article not highlighted below seems of particular interest, clicking here or here might just save you a trip to the library}

1. ADORNO, T. W., FRENKEL-BRUNSWIK, E., LEVINSON, D.J., & SANFORD, R.N. The Authoritarian Personality. New York: Harper, 1950.

2. BORGATTA, E. F. The work components study: A set of measures for work motivation. J. Psychol. Stud., 1967, 16, 1-11.

3. BROWN, R. W. A determinant of the relationship between rigidity and authoritarianism. J. Abn. Soc. Psychol., 1953, 48, 469-476.

4. DE CHARMS, R., MORRISON, H. W., REITMAN, R., & MCCLELLAND, D. C. Behavioral correlates of directly and indirectly measured achievement motivation. In D. C. McClelland (Ed.), Studies in Motivation. New York: Appleton-Century, 1955.

5. EDWARDS, A. L. Experimental Design in Psychological Research. New York: Holt Rinehart, 1960.

6. FRIIS, R. H., & KNOX, A. B. A validity study of scales to measure need achievement, need affiliation, impulsiveness and intellectuality. Educ. Psychol. Meas., 1972, 32, 147-154.

7. LA PIERE, R. Attitudes and actions. Social Forces, 1934, 13, 230-237.

8. LORR, M., SUZIEDELIS, A., & TONESK, X. The structure of values: Conceptions of the desirable. J. Res. in Personal., 1973, 7, 139-147.

9. MCCLELLAND, D. C., ATKINSON, J. W., CLARK, R. A., & LOWELL, E. L. A scoring manual for the achievement motive. In J. W. Atkinson (Ed.), Motives in Fantasy, Action and Society. Princeton, N.J.: Van Nostrand, 1958.

10. RAY, J.J. (1971) Ethnocentrism: Attitudes and behaviour. Australian Quarterly, 43, 89-97.

11. RAY, J.J. (1974) Are racists ethnocentric? Ch. 46 in Ray, J.J. (1974) Conservatism as heresy Sydney: A.N.Z. Book Co.

12. RAY, J.J. (1975) Public opinion polls and attitude measurement. Current Affairs Bulletin 52, 24-30.

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

14. RAY, J.J. (1979) A quick measure of achievement motivation -- validated in Australia and reliable in Britain and South Africa. Australian Psychologist 14, 337-344.

15. RAY, J.J. (1979) Does authoritarianism of personality go with conservatism? Australian Journal of Psychology 31, 9-14.

16. RAY, J.J. (1980a) Achievement motivation as an explanation of authoritarian behaviour: Data from Australia, South Africa California, England and Scotland. Chapter in: P.C.L. Heaven (Ed.) Authoritarianism: South African studies Bloemfontein: De Villiers.

17. RAY, J.J. (1980b) Authoritarianism in California 30 years later -- with some cross-cultural comparisons. Journal of Social Psychology, 111, 9-17.

18. RAY, J.J. (1980) The comparative validity of Likert, projective and forced-choice indices of achievement motivation. J. Social Psychology, 111, 63-72.

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

20. RAY, J.J. (1981) The politics of achievement motivation. J. Social Psychology, 115, 137-138.

21. RAY, J.J. (1981) Authoritarianism, dominance and assertiveness. Journal of Personality Assessment 45, 390-397.

22. RAY, J.J. (1982) Authoritarianism and achievement motivation in India. J. Social Psychology 117, 171-182.

23. RAY, J.J. (1983) A scale to measure conservatism of American public opinion. Journal of Social Psychology 119, 293-294.

24. RAY, J.J. (1984) The reliability of short social desirability scales. Journal of Social Psychology, 123, 133-134.

25. RAY, J.J. & KIEFL, W. (1984) Authoritarianism and achievement motivation in contemporary West Germany. Journal of Social Psychology, 122, 3-19.

26. RAY, J.J. & LOVEJOY, F.H. (1983). The behavioral validity of some recent measures of authoritarianism. Journal of Social Psychology, 120, 91-99.

27. RAY, J.J. & HEAVEN, P.C. L. (1984) Conservatism and authoritarianism among urban Afrikaners. Journal of Social Psychology, 122, 163-170.

28. ROKEACH, M. The Open and Closed Mind. New York: Basic Books, 1960.

29. STONE, W. F. The myth of Left-wing authoritarianism. Polit. Psychol., 1980, 2, 3-19.

30. WEBER, M. The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. (trans. T. Parsons). London: Unwin, 1930.

School of Sociology, The University of New South Wales P. 0. Box 1, Kensington, N.S.W., Australia 2033

* Received in the Editorial Office, Provincetown, Massachusetts, on May 11, 1983. Copyright, 1984, by The Journal Press.


It may also be worth noting that later work by Burger (1985) also found similar results. He found that a "desirability of for control" scale predicted various measures of achievement motivation among a group of students.

Reference Burger, J.M. (1985) Desire for control and achievement-related behaviors. J. Personality & Social Psychology, 48 (6), 1520-1533.

Replication is one of the cornerstones of science. A new research result will normally require replication by later researchers before the truth and accuracy of the observation concerned is generally accepted. If a result is to be replicated, however, careful specification of the original research procedure is important.

In questionnaire research it has been my observation that the results are fairly robust as to questionnaire format. It is the content of the question that matters rather than how the question is presented (But see here and here). It is nonetheless obviously desirable for an attempted replication to follow the original procedure as closely as possible so I have given here samples of how I presented my questionnaires in most of the research I did. On all occasions, respondents were asked to circle a number to indicate their response.

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