Paper written in 1990 for the academic journals but not accepted for publication


J.J. Ray

University of New South Wales, Australia


B.J. Miller

James Cook University of North Queensland, Australia


Authoritarianism is now often measured by behaviour inventories. Heaven has recently produced one which contains clear elements of hostility. It was thought that this scale might provide a particularly good prediction of racism. This was tested on a general population sample (N = 250) in Cairns, Australia. Ten Bogardus-type social distance questions designed to elicit attitudes to blacks (Australian Aborigines) were asked but only the "neighbours" item was weakly predicted by the Heaven scale. It is concluded that authoritarianism predicts racism only if authoritarianism is measured by the dubious 'F' scale of Adorno et al. (1950).


The relationship between authoritarianism and racism must by now have gained some sort of accepted status in psychology: Although ingroup favouritism is usually now seen as normal and very readily evoked (Brown, 1986; Tajfel & Fraser, 1978), many psychologists probably agree with Brown (1965) in his conclusion that, for all its faults (Christie & Jahoda, 1954; McKinney, 1973; Altemeyer, 1981), there is still nonetheless something in the old Adorno et al (1950) proposal that an "authoritarian" personality does particularly predispose one towards racism. Certainly, enthusiastic advocates of the theory are still readily found (e.g. Van Ijzendoorn, 1989; Meloen et al, 1988; Witt, 1989; Kelley, 1985; Browning, 1983).

It may therefore be surprising to some to learn that it is actually quite difficult to demonstrate any relationship at all between racism and authoritarianism. The most reliable way to do it is to use the California F scale as a measure of authoritarianism and tertiary students as subjects. Other measures of authoritarianism fail to predict racism (Ray, 1983 & 1984). Given the fact that the F scale gives little or no prediction of authoritarian behaviour (Titus & Hollander, 1957; Titus, 1968; Ray & Lovejoy, 1983), this means that the relationship between authoritarianism and racism is actually quite dubious. A relationship can be demonstrated only if a behaviorally invalid measure of authoritarianism is used.

Interestingly, this is also true of the Altemeyer (1981) RWA (Right™wing authoritarianism) scale. Like various other measures of a Rightist orientation, (Sniderman, Brody & Kuklinski, 1984) it does predict racism to some degree (at least among well©educated samples) but its claim to measure authoritarianism is dubious (Ray, 1987).

One of the measures that has recently been used to measure authoritarianism is the Ray (1976) "Directiveness" scale. This scale has the attraction of good behavioural validity, perhaps largely because it is in behaviour inventory format. It does not, however, predict racism (Ray, 1983 & 1984). Heaven (1985) has, however, criticized the Directiveness scale on the grounds that its conceptual focus is too narrow -- concentrating on the aggressive dominance of the leader as one pole with the authoritarian submission of the follower as the other pole. Although these would seem to be the basic phenomena of any conception of authoritarianism, Heaven seems to feel that there are ramifications of authoritarianism extending well beyond that.

Specifically, he takes the items of a version of the Directiveness scale, adds in items from an achievement motivation scale and two sub-scales of the Buss-Durkee (1957) Hostility inventory and produces a new scale which (after item analysis and length reduction) is said to offer a more well-rounded measure. Since racial attitudes do undoubtedly often have a hostile component, this could well be a key innovation as far as measuring something relevant to racism is concerned. Perhaps it is not authoritarianism as such which predicts racism but rather "authoritarian hostility". The present paper attempts to examine that.


As Sears (1986) has pointed out, psychology has been far too reliant on the college student as the source of data. It seemed timely, therefore, in the present study to make some attempt at general population sampling. The data gathered was from a random doorstep sample of 250 people in the Australian city of Cairns. Cairns was chosen partly for reasons of convenience but also because there is some tradition in that part of Australia towards an open expression of racial dislikes -- particularly towards Aborigines (Australian native blacks). Since frankness on racial matters is probably rather rare today, this seemed particularly opportune for finding out what the real correlates of racially antagonistic attitudes are.

The subjects were interviewed in 1987 from door to door by the junior author personally with the exception of 50 interviews that were carried out by trained assistants. Sampling was random and based on voter registration records. Since electoral registration is compulsory in Australia, this made for an unusually comprehensive sampling frame. With the aid of call-backs, over 60% of the sample originally selected was interviewed.

The questionnaire was a large one covering diverse topics but only the personality questions will be focused on here. The Heaven scale was administered as published except that respondents indicated on a card where their views fell on a scale from one to six. Attitudes toward Aborigines were measured by the familiar Bogardus social distance technique essentially as modified for Australian conditions by Taft et al, (1970).


The reliability (alpha) of the Heaven scale was found to be .74, which was deemed satisfactory, though not high. As Heaven seems to use tertiary students or their relatives as his normal data source, some drop in scale reliability was to be expected when the scale was applied to a general population sample.

It was felt that it would initially be maximally informative if the Heaven scale were correlated with each individual item of the Bogardus scale. When this was done, it was found that all correlations were less than .10 except for the correlation with "To be one of my neighbours". This correlation was -.156 (p <.05) and indicates that high scorers on the Heaven scale showed a slight tendency to say "No" in answer to the question. Overall, however, the picture is very much one of orthogonality between authoritarian personality and social distance. The correlations in fact, did not even have a consistent sign, though most were negative.

As the social distance items were administered in Likert format, it is appropriate to treat them as forming a Likert scale. When this was done a scale with a reliability (alpha) of .94 was produced. Its correlation with the Heaven scale was ----.063 (n.s.).

It was also thought of some interest to see what would happen if a more narrowly-specified definition of authoritarianism were used. To examine this, the seven items originally taken from Ray's (1976) "Directiveness" scale were extracted and treated as a separate sub-scale. The reliability (alpha) of the sub-scale was .78. The sub-scale correlated .715 with the Heaven scale as a whole. This sub-scale also, however, was found not in general to predict social distance. Again the exception was the "neighbours" item. The correlation with this item was -.137 (p <.05). At least on the present occasion, therefore, Heaven's innovations do not seem to have had much effect one way or the other. Once again authoritarianism as measured by a true personality scale (as distinct from the Adorno et al attitude scale) was found not to predict racial attitudes. Given the considerable acceptance the Adorno et al theory still seems to have, it seems worthwhile to continue pointing this out.


{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. (1950). The authoritarian personality New York: Harper.

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

Brown, R.(1965) Social psychology N.Y.: Free Press.

Brown, R.(1986) Social psychology (2nd. Ed.) N.Y.: Free Press.

Browning, D. (1983) Aspects of authoritarian attitudes in ego development. J. Pers. Social Psychol. 45, 137-144.

Buss, A.H. & Durkee, A. (1957) An inventory for assessing different kinds of hostility. J. Consulting Psychol. 21, 343-349.

Christie, R. & Jahoda, M. (1954) Studies in the scope and method of "The authoritarian personality" Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press.

Heaven, P.C.L. (1985) Construction and validation of a measure of authoritarian personality. J. Personality Assess. 49, 545-551.

Kelley, K. (1985) Sex, sex-guilt and authoritarianism: Differences in response to explicit heterosexual and masturbatory styles. J. Sex Research 21, 68-85.

McKinney, D.W. (1973) The authoritarian personality studies The Hague: Mouton.

Meloen, J.D., Hagendoorn, L., Raaijmakers, Q. & Visser, L. (1988) Authoritarianism and the revival of political racism: Reassessment in the Netherlands of the reliability and validity of the concept of authoritarianism by Adorno et al Political Psychology 9, 413-429.

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

Ray, J.J. (1987) Special review of "Right-wing authoritarianism" by R.A. Altemeyer. Personality & Individual Differences 8, 771-772.

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

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

Sears, D.O. (1986) College sophomores in the laboratory -- Influences of a narrow data-base on social psychology's view of human nature. J. Personality & Social Psychology 51, 515-530.

Sniderman, P.M., Brody, R.A. & Kuklinski, J.H. (1984) Policy reasoning and political values: The problem of racial equality. Amer. J. Polit. Science 28, 75-94.

Taft, R., Dawson, J.L.M. & Beasley, P. (1970) Aborigines in Australia: Attitudes and Social Conditions Canberra: A.N.U. Press.

Tajfel, H. & Fraser, C. (1978) Introducing social psychology Harmondsworth, Mddx.: Penguin.

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.

Van Ijzendoorn, M.H. (1989) Moral judgment, authoritarianism and ethnocentrism. J. Social Psychology 129, 37-45.

Witt, L.A. (1989) Authoritarianism, knowledge of AIDS and affect towards persons with AIDS: Implications for health education. J. Applied Psychology 19, 599-607.

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