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Australian Journal of Psychology 1972, 24, 13-18.

Also reprinted as Chapter 45 in: J.J. Ray (Ed.) "Conservatism as Heresy". Sydney: A.N.Z. Book Co., 1974

(With a post-publication addendum following the original article)



Macquarie University, North Ryde

Evidence is presented to show that agreement with certain items claimed by Rudin (1961) to be anti-rational-authoritarian is positively related to neuroticism and negatively related to socio-economic status and intelligence, whereas agreement with pro-authoritarian items from the same scale is not related. This evidence is held to support Rudin's argument that rational and irrational authoritarianism (as exemplified by the F-scale) are independent, and that pathology is related to rejection of the former as well as acceptance of the latter.

The descriptions of the authoritarian personality which were developed by Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson and Sanford in their 1950 report of the research arising out of studies of ethnocentrism, anti-semitism and conservatism carried strong evaluative suggestions concerning those who scored highly on the F-Scale (Potentiality for Fascism). In the final chapter of that book it is even stated that authoritarianism is a "disease" to be "cured". Subsequent research (e.g. Christie et al., 1954; Shils, 1954) in this area has, in the main, gone to reinforce the implied value judgment and to perpetuate the identification of authoritarianism with potentiality for fascism. Authoritarianism has become, in psychology, what sin is in theology.

In 1961, Rudin, stimulated by the problem of academic anti-intellectualism, published a scale said to be measuring "rational authoritarianism" as defined by Fromm (1947). He assumed the California F-Scale to be measuring "irrational authoritarianism", since the description by Adorno et al. of the authoritarian's personality conforms closely to what would be expected of a participant in the master-slave relationship. This is the paradigm case offered by Fromm for irrational authority, whereas rational authority is exemplified in the teacher-student relationship. Here the only difference between people lies in degree of knowledge or competence.

Rudin predicted a negative correlation between the two scales but found no relationship (r = 0.04, N = 438). He reported a corrected split half reliability of 0.63 (N = 190), but claimed only face validity.

The Rudin scale seems to have generated little interest within psychology, perhaps because the Zeitgeist of the postwar decades has been actively in favour of conceiving permissiveness versus authoritarianism as the dominating factor distinguishing different types of socialization and social organisation. In this worldview special approval is reserved for anti-authoritarianism which is regarded as a distinguishing mark of the liberal mind.

Authority is a many-faceted element in experience however, and it is not conceptually satisfying to regard acceptance of any and every form of authority (without distinction as to time, place or situation) as indicative of incipient Fascism and necessary prejudice. There seems to be a reasonable basis for Rudin's argument that acceptance of the authority of people judged to have greater competence than one's self in a particular area is different from the tendency to accept authority indiscriminately.

The purpose of this study is to report some correlates of "rational authoritarianism" and to show that they differ from those of the F-Scale.


The data reported here were collected during a survey of heads of households (male and female) conducted in Perth, Western Australia, in 1962. Details of the sample have been reported by Tauss (1967). In all there were 718 respondents to an interview schedule which included questions aimed at a variety of psycho logical and sociological variables. Of these, the following form the basis of this study:

(a) The Rudin (1961) scale of "rational authoritarianism". This scale includes 13 items reflecting antirational-authoritarian attitudes and therefore scored "false" in the original form of the scale, and 6 items scored "true" whose content is pro-authoritarian. Typical items are: "There isn't much your parents or older people can tell you that will help you get along in the world nowadays" (neg.). "The best school system is one that is democratic and treats all the pupils exactly alike" (neg.). "All teachers should be treated with more respect than the average person" (pos.).

(b) The short form of Eysenck's (1958) Neuroticism Scale (N).

(c) Welsh's (1956) R-scale or Repression. This scale has been shown by Jackson and Messick (1958) to measure an acquiescence dimension of importance in the MMPI and therefore appears to indicate acquiescence in the responses to pathological items. It is keyed "false".

(d) Tauss's (1964) Neurotic Manifestation Index (NMI). This scale was constructed for the purposes of the survey by utilizing criterion groups of Ss under treatment for neurotic disorder and groups not under treatment.

(e) Martin's (1964) balanced SD scale, also constructed for the purposes of the survey using a local sample. Twenty-two positive items and twenty-two negative items which in content resemble those of Edward's SD scale. This scale is balanced for acquiescence.

(f) Goossen's (1950) Hidden Intelligence Test. Designed for use in surveys where administration of a formal IQ test might be expected to damage rapport. The questions refer to current affairs and civic responsibilities.

(g) The short form of Eysenck's (1958) Extraversion (E).

(h) Social Power. An index derived by summing weighted scores for club membership, office bearing and occupation of similar positions of influence. Adapted from Svalastoga (1959).


Of the total of 718 respondents only 460 gave usable replies to all the measures whose interrelationships are discussed in this paper. All those who failed to give replies to any one of the eleven variables shown in Table 1 were necessarily omitted.

Using this sample, the correlation between positive and negative segments of the scale (both scored "agree") was calculated as 0.20 indicating that the two halves of the scale were relatively poorly matched measured of "rational authoritarianism" (compare Ray, 1970) and that the scale as a whole was generating considerable acquiescence variance. This was expected following Martin's (1964) demonstration that yeasaying from this scale defines a distinct acquiescence factor. Because of this characteristic of the scale, the positive and negative segments are treated hereunder as separate scales although it should be noted that the generation of acquiescence variance does not necessarily mean that content scores are systematically affected. Content scores and acquiescence scores derived from combination of the two segments with appropriate scoring are also reported. Cronbach's Alpha for the scale as a whole was 0.67.

The correlations of all relevant variables are given in Table 1.

The correlations with scores on the positive segment of the Rudin scale are in general not significant, the highest being that with the negative segment of the same scale. There is a significant negative correlation with education and also with the Welsh R-scale but we may conclude that little or no relationship exists between tendency to agree with items expressing "rational authoritarianism" and indices of psychopathology or social disadvantage. The Welsh R scale is in any case not a strong measure of psychopathology, and the correlation with education is not supported by similar relationships with income or occupation.

Correlations with scores on the negative segment of the Rudin scale (which is here scored in the antirational-authoritarian direction) tell a different story. Those who score highly on this scale are of lower occupational status, lower income, lower education, hold fewer positions of social power, are more neurotic, more extraverted and less sensitive to what is socially desirable. The strongest relationship found was the negative one with intelligence as measured by the Goossen scale.


Correlations between Segments of the Rudin Scale and Sociological and Personality Measures

....N = 460....................Rudin pos...Rudin neg.......Rudin Balanced.....Rudin Acq.

In columns 1, 2 & 4 below, a high score indicates agreement with the scale items concerned. For column 3, agreement with the anti-authority items earns a low score.

Occupation.................... .05..............-.20**................ .22**....................-.15**
Income..........................-.05...............-.25**................ .23**.....................-.23**
Education.....................-.13**............-.25**................ .19**.................... -.26**
Social power.................-.01..............-.26**................. .25**.....................-.21**
Rudin pos.....................1.00.............. .20**.................-.23**....................-.56**
N...................................-.06.............. .17**.................-.12*......................-.16**
Goossen Intelligence....-.04...............-.39**.................-.36**....................-.35**
Welsh R........................-.13**............-.13**.................-.07.......................-.14**
Martin SD......................-.07..............-.18**..................-.21**....................-.13**

*p < .05 **p < .01

We may conclude that agreement with items that express attitudes antipathetic to "rational authoritarianism" is related to a variety of characteristics known to occur with psychopathology and sociopathology. Correlations of the other measures with the Rudin scale as a whole when this is (a) scored for content and (b) scored for acquiescence (see Cols. 3 and 4, Table 1) are of the same order as the correlations found with the negative segment of the Rudin scale. The inclusion of the pro-authoritarian items does nothing to strengthen the general relationship between rational authoritarianism and indices of psychopathology, social status and intelligence. Agreement with items which express antipathy to "rational authority" constitute the characteristic which appears to be responsible for these relationships.

Response Sets

Since the main evidence in this study lies in the relationship between pathological scales and the Rudin scale, and Martin (1964) has previously demonstrated that acquiescence from these two types of scale is orthogonal it is prima facie unlikely that the correlations are artefacts due to common acquiescence variance. However, certain empirical checks can conveniently be made. Three measures of so-called response sets appear in Table 1. The first is the acquiescence from the Rudin scale itself. The relative size of the correlations of this measure with the crucial indices demonstrates that indiscriminate agreeing is not an important factor in the correlations. This is confirmed by the fact that the two parts of the Rudin scale, although both scored "agree" correlate differently with these indices.

The second possible measure of acquiescence is the Welsh R-scale. This scale is scored "false" and hence the negative correlations with the two parts of the Rudin scale suggest that agreeing is concerned in all three sets of scores. In so far as the Welsh R-scale has been shown to be a measure of acquiescence however, it is acquiescence peculiar to pathological items (MMPI) and therefore only to be expected in cases such as the present. Nevertheless to check whether the relationship between Rudin negative and psychopathology was likely to be vitiated by artefactual acquiescence, Welsh's R-scale was partialled out from the correlation between Rudin negative and N. This yielded a partial r of 0.15 (p < .01).

Partialling out SD (also likely to be substantively concerned in psychopathology) from the same correlation resulted in a partial r of 0.11 (p < .05) and partialling out both SD and R yielded a partial r of 0.09 (significant but only by a one-tailed test).

In general, then, while the kinds of response set known to operate in the MMPI contribute to these relationships, the correlations remain significant after statistical controls have been applied and there is little likelihood that they are artefactual in the sense of being independent of the content of the items.


In this study we have evidence that there is a form of pro-authoritarian statement (Rudin's positive items), agreement with which is unrelated to neuroticism, social power or any index of socio-economic status except education, but this segment of the Rudin scale appears to be of minor significance. We also have evidence that agreement with a certain kind of anti-authoritarian statement (Rudin's negative items) is negatively related to all the indices of socioeconomic status, to social power and to intelligence; and positively related to two independently constructed indices of neuroticism. Alongside this evidence we must set the fact that agreement with the pro-authoritarian items of the F-scale is known to correlate negatively with intelligence, education and socio-economic status and positively with ethnic prejudice and political conservatism. In addition, there is evidence that agreement with the pro-authoritarian items of the F-scale is not related to neuroticism and a wide range of other indices of psychopathology (Masling, 1954; Elms, 1970). On an empirical level, then, Rudin is supported in his assertion that "rational authoritarianism" is discriminable from the "irrational authoritarianism" measured by Adorno et al.

Further interest attaches to the way in which this distinction is made, since the anti-rational-authoritarian is shown to possess many of the attributes, both as regards social position and personality characteristics, which were supposed by Adorno et al. to characterise the pro-irrational-authoritarian. It might now be argued that the concept of authoritarianism has been overgeneralised and that what is of prime importance is whether the authority to which one defers has or has not claims to rational support. Rejecting the right kind and accepting the wrong kind of authority appear to be equally indicative of social and personal inadequacy.

In this connection the relationships with intelligence would seem to be illuminating. Agreement with pro-authoritarian (F-scale items) and agreement with anti-authoritarian items (Rudin negative) are both negatively related to intelligence, leaving us with what appears to be almost a truism; people of low intelligence are likely to accept irrational authority and reject rational authority, i.e. to fail in discrimination between what is rational and what is not.

The entitlement of the Rudin negative scale to the description of "rational authoritarianism" therefore seems to rest on some empirical foundation, apart from the purely conceptual argument that it cannot be rational to reject all authority.

Just which kinds of authoritarian statements are to be regarded as rational, is of course, quite another matter. The value of further work directed at clarifying the distinction is self-evident, since it cannot be believed that the nineteen items supplied by the Rudin scale exhaust the interest of the concept. Indeed we commonly take some trouble to teach our students to make the rational-irrational distinction, arguing that they should take the objective procedures of the scientist as their ideal criterion for rational authority. This makes it difficult to understand why the distinction has been neglected so completely in discussions of authoritarianism. One can only suppose that since contact with authority is often unpleasant, anything which provides a "rationalisation" for a general dislike of authority -- as much of the reported research with the F-scale does -- is too eagerly accepted.


ADORNO, T. W., FRENKEL-BRUNSWIK, E., LEVINSON, D. J. & SANFORD, R. N. The authoritarian personality. New York: Harper & Row, 1950.

CHRISTIE, R. & JAHODA, M. (Eds.), Studies in the scope and method of "the authoritarian personality". Glencoe, Illinois: Free Press, 1954.

ELMS, A. C. Those little old ladies in tennis shoes are no nuttier than anybody else: it turns out. Psychology Today, 1970, 3, 27.

EYSENCK, H. J. A short questionnaire for the measurement of two dimensions of personality. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1958, 42, 14-17.

FROMM, E. Man for himself. New York: Rinehart, 1947.

GOOSSEN, C. V. The Goossen hidden intelligence test. Public Opinion Quarterly, 1950, 14, 759-766.

JACKSON, D. N. & MESSICK, S. J. Content and style in personality assessment. Psychological Bulletin, 1958, 55, 243-252.

MARTIN, J. Acquiescence: measurement and theory. British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 1964, 3, 216-225.

MARTIN, J. Response style and the measurement of conformity and deviation. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis. Univ. of W.A., 1964.

MASLING, M. How Neurotic is the authoritarian? Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1954, 49, 316-318.

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

RUDIN, S. A. The relationship between rational and irrational authoritarianism. Journal of Psychology, 1961, 52, 179-183.

SHILS, E. A. Authoritarianism "Right" and "Left". In R. Christie and M. Jahoda (Eds.), Studies in the method and scope of "the authoritarian personality". Glencoe, Illinois: Free Press, 1954.

SVALASTOGA, K. Prestige, class and mobility. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1959.

TAUSS, W. Validation of a questionnaire for neurotic manifestation. Australian Journal of Psychology, 1964, 15, 191-198.

TAUSS, W. A note on the prevalence of mental disturbance. Australian Journal of Psychology, 1967, 19, 121-123.

WELSH, G. S. Factor dimensions A and R. In G. S. Welsh & W. G. Dahlstrom (Eds.), Basic readings on the MMPI in psychology and medicine. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1956.


1). The above paper follows the convention among psychologists of treating any statistically significant results as if they had some wider importance but it must be noted that the large sample size in this study allows many extremely weak relationships to be shown as statistically significant. Readers must therefore make their own judgment about how important the significant correlations with the two psychopathology scales are. In the entire study, only the negative correlation between IQ and anti-authority attitudes is substantial in the context of what is usually reported in the academic psychology literature.

2). To understand the full significance of the above findings, it is important to know that they are one episode in a major post-war effort by psychologists to explain the psychological underpinnings of both conservatism and Nazism. The effort was initiated by the prominent Marxist theoretician Theodor Wiesengrund (generally known as Theodor Adorno after his mother's Spanish stage-name) and a major point of the effort was an attempt to show that the psychological underpinnings of Nazis and conservatives were the same. The major tool in this effort was the undoubted fact that Leftists who are out of power anywhere at any time are strongly critical and rejecting of the existing authorities in their society and wish to overturn them and replace them with authorities in which they hold power. Conservatives, on the other hand very strongly see the powers that be as the product of a long period of trial and error and as therefore something not to be tampered with lightly.

Since Nazis (who were socialists IN power) also were respectful of THEIR authorities, Marxist psychologists such as Adorno acclaimed this similarity as proving that conservatives and Nazis were basically the same -- totally downplaying the fact that Communists (who were most undisputably Leftists IN power) demanded and got complete subservience to their authority too. That the attitude to the existing authorities among Leftists depended totally on whether they were in power or not in their society was totally ignored.

Nonetheless, the research did rightly focus attention on attitude to power and to the existing authorities as central to the Left/Right divide in times and places where Leftists have not achieved their aim of supplanting all other authorities. When out of power, Leftists ARE systematically anti-authority. And this has repeatedly been confirmed by survey research -- from the much-quoted original work by Adorno et al. (1950) to my own research on the subject (Ray, 1972 & 1984).

In that context, studies of attitude to authority became a major topic among psychologists and the study above is just one such. Its findings are therefore of broader significance than might at first appear. They go to the heart of the Left/Right divide in contemporary Western societies. And, unlike the vast majority of studies that psychologists have done in this field, this study is of attitudes IN THE GENERAL POPULATION. Most of the other "research" on the topic consisted of academics handing out a bunch of questionnaires to their students -- who dutifully gave back the expected responses.

So it is of considerable real-world significance that the correlation between anti-authority attitudes and low IQ was quite substantial. Let me therefore spell out exactly what the correlation means. It means that people who say things such as the following are not too bright:

* Most people who are leaders in the world today got there by crooked or sneaky means.
* There isn't really very much your parents or older people can tell you that will help you get along in the world nowadays.
* The best school system is one that is democratic and treats all the pupils exactly alike.
* Complete freedom is the best way to bring up a child if you want it to be free and active.
* Most so-called "juvenile delinquency" is really just "youthful exuberance" and should not be punished.
* One of the best attitudes a young person can learn is that "nothing is sacred."

Such statements clearly go to the heart of contemporary politics in contemporary Western societies. They are very much of the political Left rather than of the political Right. They reflect the core Leftist orientation of being critical of whatever is seen as as authoritative in their society and wanting to tear down everything that is accepted around them and replace it with something else. There are however many types of authority -- and authoritarian arrangements (such as Communism) that enforce widespread obedience to some all-encompassing ideal earn quite opposite loyalties, of course. Leftists like some types of authority but not others. So talk of "authoritarianism" as some sort of monolithic entity that transcends time and place is, as Rudin saw, absurd. Much depends on the TYPE of authority in question. And the present results show that it is anti-authority attitudes of a clearly Leftist kind that are unintelligent.

So WHY do Leftists in the general population tend to be less intelligent? One reason could be that the most anti-authority people in society are criminals (certainly when judged by behaviour and even when judged by attitudes) and various studies show criminals to be in general of low IQ and poorly educated. The findings above could then be held to indicate only that criminality is merely the extreme case of a general lower class syndrome that includes low IQ and some types of anti-authority attitudes.

Note however that IQ is, in the results above, a much stronger predictor of attitudes than are any of the social class indicators so a failure to recognize conventional authority would seem to be unintelligent in its own right. And criminals are a very small minority in the population so would have had a very small presence in the present sample -- if any at all. So class and criminality can reasonably ruled out as an explanation of the present finding.

It may therefore be most fruitful to turn the question around: Why do less intelligent people adopt typically Leftist attitudes? And that is relatively easy to answer. Leftist thinking is simplistic. What could be more simplistic than "All men are equal"? So simple people are attracted to simple thinking.

References for Addendum

ADORNO, T. W., FRENKEL-BRUNSWIK, E., LEVINSON, D. J. & SANFORD, R. N. The authoritarian personality. New York: Harper & Row, 1950.

RAY, J.J. (1972) Non-ethnocentric authoritarianism. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Sociology 8(June), 96-102.

RAY, J.J. (1984). Half of all racists are Left-wing. Political Psychology, 5, 227-236.

For convenience, the items of the Rudin scale are presented below:


1. When a person in authority tells you to do something, you should do It, even though you don't see a good reason for it, provided they show you it is for your own good. (True)
2. It is generally best to be a little suspicious and critical of persons in a position of authority, or they may get too much like dictators. (False)
3. Most people who are leaders in the world today got there by crooked or sneaky means. (False)
4. No man really has the right to give another orders unless he can back it up with force. (False)
5. Someone who knows more than you do should be treated with respect, even if you don't think much of him personally. (True)
6. There isn't really very much your parents or older people can tell you that will help you get along in the world nowadays. (False)
7. Most "experts" are really only trading on their reputations to let them lord over people. (False)
8. It's no wonder some teachers have trouble keeping order in schools; they try to be bossy and run things that should be left to the pupils. (False)
9. When someone has spent years studying a subject, you can usually be sure that he will be better at it than you will. (True)
10. Teachers should be treated with more respect than the average person. (True)
11. The world is full of snobs who put on airs but aren't really better than anyone else at doing most of the things in life. (False)
12. Most people who regard themselves as authorities or experts should be taken down a peg now and then. (False)
13. The best school system is one that is democratic and treats all the pupils exactly alike. (False)
14. Complete freedom is the best way to bring up a child if you want it to be free and active. (False)
15. Most so-called "juvenile delinquency" is really just "youthful exuberance" and should not be punished. (False)
16. It is a good idea for pupils to give teachers a hard time; it keeps the teacher from getting too conceited and "drunk with power." (False)
17. "Bohemians" and people who lead wild lives are just unwilling to accept the fact that some kinds of social controls are necessary (for example, laws concerning what you can wear on the street). (True)
18. One of the best attitudes a young person can learn is that "nothing is sacred." (False)
19. Most policemen are fair and honest. (True)

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