Australian Journal of Psychology, Vol. 31, No. l, 1979, pp. 9-14



University of New South Wales

Existing scales of authoritarianism are generally lacking in validity. Their correlations with conservatism are therefore uninformative. A new scale of authoritarianism in personality scale format has been devised and shown to be valid. Various correlates of this scale in Australia suggest that it is not related to conservatism. Two general population studies in England and Scotland found that there were no correlations between the new scale and various conservatism attitude items. It was concluded that authoritarianism of personality is equally likely to be found on either side of the political divide even if admiration of traditional authority is generally associated with conservatism only.

One must almost apologize for giving such an old topic fresh consideration. The endeavours of Rokeach and Eysenck notwithstanding, surely we all know now that there is always at least some correlation between conservatism and authoritarianism? As one who in the past has even argued that the F scale is indistinguishable from a measure of conservatism (Ray, 1973a) and as one who has also (Ray, 1973b) presented findings showing that even Rokeach's "D" scale is strongly related to conservatism of attitudes, there should be no doubt that the present author is not going to say anything to upset the consensus.

In fact, however, what will be presented here is a most fundamental challenge to the notion that authoritarians are conservative.

The problem that has plagued 30 years of work on authoritarianism is doubt about the validity of the scales used to measure it. From the start there was the apparently inexplicable fact that authoritarian governments on the world scene were at least as likely to be Left wing as Right wing (Shils, 1954) and there was also the obvious problem with acquiescent response set with both the "F" and "D" scales (Brown, 1965). The latter problem has been more or less solved (Ray, 1972a, 1974a), but we are still left with the basic problem that, whenever it is directly tested (e.g., Titus, 1968), the relationship of the F scale to the behaviours it is supposed to predict is at best evanescent. Ray (1976) has shown that this is even true of balanced attitude scales specifically devised to overcome the various problems of the F scale.

It was for this reason that it was decided in Ray (1976) that the problem of devising a valid scale had to come first before any further research into authoritarianism could proceed. It was particularly evident at that point that the entire attitude scale approach was dubious. No permutation or combination of it seemed to yield scales that gave any substantial prediction of authoritarian behaviour - behaviour defined at its irreducible minimum as "the tendency or desire to impose one's own will on others". In this impasse, one solution that had previously been overlooked seemed an obvious candidate for attention: What about using a personality scale to measure authoritarian personality? Attitude scales in general provide a poor prediction of behaviour (Rambo, 1970), whereas many personality scales predict behaviour well enough to have routine clinical and industrial uses. True to expectation, the personality scale developed in Ray (1976) to measure authoritarianism (the "Directiveness" scale) did in fact correlate up to .54 with peer-rated authoritarian behaviour.

Now that such a scale of authoritarianism was at last available, however, what did it tell us about the correlates of authoritarian behaviour? It did seem fairly clearly to be orthogonal to ethnocentrism. This, however, was reasonably consonant with the findings in Ray (1972b) where it was shown that it was the conservative rather than the authoritarian component of attitudes which predicted ethnocentrism. On the relationship between authoritarianism and conservatism, however, the findings in Ray (1976) were no more than suggestive. The Directiveness scale was found not to correlate with attitude to apartheid among students and not to correlate with voting preference (for political parties) among a community sample. More extensive replication was clearly needed.


To give the findings some cross-cultural character, in this study the sample used was a cluster sample of London and its suburbs. Cluster sampling along similar lines is widely used by public opinion polls in both England and Australia where it generally gives highly accurate results. The n chosen for the study was 100 - as the gain in significance with ns beyond 100 is very small.

As with all door-to-door sampling, the pressure towards brevity in the questionnaire was considerable. For this reason the Ray (1976) Directiveness scale was used in its short form of 14 items (see Appendix A). The Conservatism scale chosen for use was the Wilson and Patterson (1968) "C-scale". This is by now probably the most widely used conservatism scale there is -- particularly in the U.K. As this is a 50 item scale in its original form, however, the need for abbreviation was even more acute than in the case of the Directiveness scale. The short form presented in Wilson (1973b) of only 10 items was the one finally chosen (see Appendix B). The 10 items of this form, however, were selected more for their interest as individual items. This is because of the considerable controversy which surrounds the structure of conservatism. It seems that whether or not conservatism is a unitary trait depends entirely on the criteria which are adopted to assess unitariness. Wilson (1973a) has argued cogently for unitariness while Ray (1973b) and others have presented findings in support of multidimensionality. It seems, then, that any structure presented for conservatism is highly arbitrary and dependent solely on theoretical usefulness. From the viewpoint of the present study, it seemed to be of most interest to assess conservatism in terms of the individual issues in which it is expressed. For this reason, the 10 Wilson items will be presented both as single items and as an overall scale. Ray (1974b) has shown that single items can be both reliable and valid measures of constructs.

All interviewing was carried out by the author personally in October 1977. Replies were anonymous. The area sampled was defined as the area served by commuter transport. In addition to the scales, questions on age, sex, intended vote, occupation and education were asked.

The reliabilities (coefficient "alpha") observed for the two scales were .66 for the Directiveness scale and .54 for the Conservatism scale. The correlation between them was, at .048, totally insignificant. The correlation between the Directiveness scale and the individual conservatism items was also very easy to summarize - the highest correlation was .136, which was also nonsignificant. Even two additional items on Scottish independence and the E.E.C. failed to show any significant relationship.

The reliabilities for the two scales given above are rather low but are entirely consistent with what must be expected when scales undergo such drastic shortening. Using vote as an index of Conservatism, there was also no relationship with authoritarianism. With 12 degrees of freedom, the Chi-squared was 16.71 (nonsignificant at the < 05 level).

The Directiveness scale showed no significant correlations with age, sex, occupation or education. This indicates again that authoritarian personality is not distributed in the way that use of the F scale would lead us to believe.

The degrees of freedom above were obtained with four categories of Directiveness score and five categories of vote (30 Labour; 7 Liberal; 17 No preference; 0 Scottish Nationalist; 45 Conservative; and 1 National Front).


Given the rather iconoclastic nature of the findings so far, yet further replication was thought advisable. The venue for study was then transferred to Glasgow and a sample taken of the Strathclyde region. The method was identical to Study I - the same randomized cluster sampling and the same questionnaire. In fact, on demographic variables, there were no significant differences between the London and Glasgow samples. The n was again 100.

Again the Directiveness scale showed no significant relationship with either the Conservatism scale or any of its items individually and again there was no connection between vote and authoritarianism. The different voting pattern in Scotland was in fact the main reason for transferring the study north of the border but even so the Chi-squared between vote and Directiveness score was 13.03 (df of 12). This is again below statistical significance.

One difference that did emerge in Scotland, however, was in the correlation between Directiveness and education (r = .207) and between Directiveness and sex (point biserial r of - .332). This meant that male Scots and better educated Scots were more authoritarian in personality. The relationship with education is, of course, the reverse of what is most usually found with the F scale.

The relationship with maleness can perhaps be interpreted in terms of a more crudely dominant male role in Scotland. The relationship with education may mean that, in Scotland, the traditional reverence for education ensures that anybody who wishes to be dominant is obliged to seek educational superiority.

The degrees of freedom above were obtained from four categories of Directiveness score and five categories of vote (35 Labour; 1 Liberal; 11 No preference; 28 Scottish Nationalist; and 25 Conservative).


We now have data from three separate societies which suggest that when authoritarianism of personality is validly measured, it shows no association with political ideology. To reconcile this with previous findings we must insist on the distinction between authoritarianism of attitudes and authoritarianism of personality. One refers to how a person habitually feels and the other refers to how he behaves. It is perhaps a sad fact of our complex world that these two often do not go together.

It was because they failed to make such a distinction that Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, and Sanford (1950) mistakenly identified the person who tended to admire traditional authority with the person who himself liked to dominate others. No doubt the two do often go together and it is these people with whom we are all familiar that give the California account its plausibility. The trouble is, however, that there are also many people admiring of traditional authority who would timidly cringe at the thought of having to exercise authority themselves. One group admires authority because they would like to exercise it themselves while the other group admires it because they are so incapable of exercising it themselves. It is the former group that most of us would identify as authoritarian but the latter group which gets high scores on the F and related scales (Ray, 1976). Complicating the matter still further, however, is the fact that people who like exercising authority do not themselves always approve of it in theory. This is perfectly reasonable if we realize that it is the exercise of authority by other people that is most likely to interfere with our own exercise of authority. We are then left with an overall orthogonality of authoritarian attitudes and authoritarian behaviour.

The present results, then, are at least strongly suggestive that the California account is mistaken. Perhaps the validity of the Directiveness scale needs more investigation and perhaps other conservatism items might give a different result. Nonetheless, the validity of the Directiveness scale as a measure of authoritarian personality does seem to be superior to that of the F scale and conservatism was measured in three different ways in the present study - by vote, by a scale and by single-issue items.

It would seem, then, that if we wish to detect people something like the ones Adorno et al. (1950) had in mind, we need to know their scores on both a scale of authoritarian attitudes and a scale of authoritarian personality. It is only high scorers on both who fit their image of the Fascist personality. Authoritarian personalities alone are equally likely to be found on either side of the Left-Right divide.


{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}

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

BROWN, R. Social psychology. New York: Free Press, 1965.

RAMBO, W. W. Attitude measurement: The problem of predictability. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1970, 30, 43-48.

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

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

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. (b)

RAY, J.J. (1974) Balanced Dogmatism scales. Australian Journal of Psychology 26, 9-14. (a)

RAY, J.J. (1974) Are trait self-ratings as valid as multi-item scales? A study of achievement motivation. Australian Psychologist 9, 44-49.

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

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

TITUS, H. E. F scale validity considered against peer nomination criteria. Psychological Record, 1968, 18, 395-403.

WILSON, G. D. Liberal extremists. New Society, 1973, 26, 263-264. (a)

WILSON, G. D. The psychology of conservatism. London: Academic Press, 1973. (b)

WILSON, G. D., & PATTERSON, J. R. A new measure of conservatism. British Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 1968, 7, 264-269.

Received 2 May 1978.


The items of the Directiveness scale (short form) as used in the present study.

Response is "Yes" (scored 3), "?" (scored 2) or "No" (scored 1) unless the item is marked "R" - in which case the scoring is 1, 2 and 3 respectively.

1. Are you the sort of person who always likes to get their own way?
2. Do you tend to boss people around?
3. Do you like to have things "just so"?
4. Do you suffer fools gladly? R
5. Do you think one point of view is as good as another? R
6. Are you often critical of the way other people do things?
7. Do you like people to be definite when they say things?
8. Does incompetence irritate you?
9. Do you dislike having to tell others what to do? R
10. If you are told to take charge of some situation does this make you feel uncomfortable? R
11. Would you rather take orders than give them? R
12. Do you dislike standing out from the crowd? R
13. Do you find it difficult to make up your own mind about things? R
14. If anyone is going to be Top Dog would you rather it be you?


The ten items of the Wilson (1973b) Conservatism scale as used in the present study and Wilson (1973a).

Indicate whether or not you are in favour of each of the following:

1. Censorship
2. Coloured immigration
3. Divorce
4. Evolution theory
5. Death penalty
6. Working mothers
7. Sunday observance
8. Birth control
9. Co-education
10. Socialism

When scored as a scale, items l, 5, & 7 were scored 3 for Yes, 2 for Not sure and 1 for No. Remaining items were scored 1, 2, 3 for the same answers respectively.


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). 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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