The Journal of Social Psychology, 1982, 117, 171-182.


University of New South Wales, Australia



Indian psychologists have shown considerable interest in the applicability of the two constructs of authoritarianism and achievement motivation to their society. General population sampling has, however, been lacking in the research to date. In the present study, scales to measure authoritarianism, achievement motivation, neuroticism, and social desirability were administered to a random cluster sample of 305 people in Bombay. Authoritarianism was measured by the Ray "Directiveness" scale rather than by the F scale. Indian respondents were found to be more submissive and more ambitious than respondents in comparable previous samples gathered in Australia, Scotland, and England. Authoritarianism correlated slightly with neuroticism and social desirability but motivation did not. After some deletions of inappropriate items, all scales showed satisfactory internal reliability. Both authoritarianism and achievement motivation therefore may be important constructs to be employed in understanding India today.


Books and articles on the topic of authoritarianism continue to proliferate (10, 13, 15, 42), and countries bordering the Indian Ocean are now a major source of this material (10, 12, 40, 45). They include not only India itself but also Australia and South Africa.

In the many Indian social scientific journals in particular the topics of authoritarianism and achievement motivation retain a prominence not seen in Western journals for many years (11, 17, 21, 23, 26, 50). McClelland's (14) well-known hypothesis that economic wealth and poverty are related to levels of achievement motivation in the relevant populations and India's brush with authoritarian rule (the "Emergency" proclaimed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 26, 1975) do much to explain the interest of the two constructs.

In both fields, Indian research seems to be marked by considerable consciousness of the need for alternative measuring instruments to the standard F scale and TAT (12, 19, 49, 51). Indian psychologists also have the distinction of being just about the only people able routinely to make the projective measurement of achievement motivation reliable in the test-retest and internal consistency senses (31, 48). Indian theory has also been innovative enough to suggest reasons why the typical Indian authoritarian might be produced by developmental problems with the mother rather than the father (23). The potential relevance of this theory to India's experience of rule by Mrs. Gandhi seems obvious. With their history of very thoroughgoing political and cultural conquest first by the Muslims and then by the British, a theory that Indians might have come to expect authoritarianism of their rulers does at least seem plausible. Whether they are authoritarian in any deeper sense, however, must be a different question.

Applications of the F scale to Indian Ss have so far revealed high scores (3, 16, 26) by international standards (52). As the Ss concerned were, however, non-samples (available groups) of students, the generalizability of such findings is highly questionable. Other Indian findings of some interest have been that authoritarian attitudes as indexed by the F scale do not predict neuroticism (51), rigidity (18), hostility (12), or experimentally induced aggression level (11). Furthermore, in other work, high F scale scorers were found to be more flexible and responsive to success and failure (53), to be less conforming (50), and to have higher job morale (24). Although not at all without precedent in the West (28, 30, 37), this quantity of unexpected findings in what is after all a relatively very small literature suggests the possibility that the Adorno et al. theory (1) may provide an even worse match with reality in India than it does in the West. This impression is borne out somewhat by work in related fields. Rao (27) found that experimentally induced frustration elicited more rigid responses and Ramamurti and Gnanakannan (25) found that rigid people are more insecure but Muhar reports (18) that rigidity is highly lacking in generality and has in any case little relationship to F scale score. Also, authoritarian personality (in the sense of tendency towards interpersonal dominance) has been shown to correlate -.40 (6) and -.83 (8) with anxiety and neuroticism. Authoritarians in this sense would seem to be distinctly less anxious in India. Finally, in spite of the generally high F scale scores among Indian students, Sharma and Srivastoga (47) found a preponderance of deference needs over dominance needs among their (student) Ss and Nandy (22), in a general population sample, found an overwhelming acceptance of democratic norms among Indians.

In the field of achievement motivation among Indians Misra and Tripathi (17) found that induced need deprivation leads to high levels of achievement motivation. This finding confirms the hypothesis put forward independently by Ray (41) to the effect that Hullian drive-reduction theory would be a better explanation of the high levels of achievement motivation he observed in the Philippines than is McClelland's theory that high achievement motivation leads to high material prosperity. From the Misra and Tripathi findings and the Ray-Hull theory one would then predict that need for achievement in a country as perennially poor as India would be generally very high. As McClelland's theory provides precisely the opposite prediction, an interesting test should be possible.

The finding by Basumallik and Banerjee (2) that achievement motivation and risk-taking are unrelated adds to the growing Western literature (43, 54) which also questions this once widely-accepted relationship. Finally, Muthayya (20) found no relationship between TAT achievement motivation and authoritarianism, whereas Tiwari and Singh (53) found that high F scale scorers had high levels of aspiration. Ray (38) has reported similar confusion in the West where measures of doubtful reliability and validity are used; hence any advancement of knowledge in this area would again seem to be dependent on the use of improved measuring instruments for the constructs concerned.

The guiding hypotheses of the present study were as follows: (a) Indians will be more submissive to authority than Westerners not only in their political life but also interpersonally (i.e., at the personality level). (b) Indians will show higher levels of achievement motivation than Westerners. (c) Achievement motivation and authoritarianism will be positively correlated among Indians. Underlying all three of these hypotheses is the assumption that scales to measure these constructs that work in the West will also work reasonably well in India. This assumption obviously cannot be allowed to pass without test.


Four scales to measure interpersonal authoritarianism, achievement motivation, neuroticism, and social desirability set were administered to a random cluster sample of 305 people living in the Greater Bombay area. As no remotely adequate master list of the Bombay population was available, cluster sampling seemed the system most likely to give any Bombay resident the chance of being included. Cluster sampling is in any case by far the most widely used sampling method in ordinary public opinion polls. The actual work and administration of the survey was done by Operations Research Group, a local Bombay market research firm. All the usual precautions (use of trained interviewers, field supervisors, validity checks, etc.) were observed. Bombay was chosen as the venue for the study both because it is India's second-largest city (population approximately eight million) and also because it is the traditional "Gateway to India." Bombay cannot be said to be representative of India as a whole (India is still an overwhelmingly rural country), but it does contain immigrants from all parts of India as a substantial proportion of its population and it represents an important society in its own right (being more populous in fact than most countries). It also accounts for a very major fraction of the Indian economy. Nonetheless the only comparisons that will be attempted in the present work will be between Bombay and other major cities of the English-speaking world. Given the vast difficulty of sampling rural areas in Third World countries, no broader ambition could be entertained.

The scales used were the Ray (32) 26-item Directiveness scale to measure interpersonal authoritarianism, the Ray (39) 28-item Achievement Orientation (AO) scale, the six-item short form of the Maudsley Personality Inventory Neuroticism scale (7) and an eight-item short form (9) of the Crowne and Marlowe (5) social desirability scale. These two latter scales were included as a check on artifactual contamination of the two main variables by anxiety and by social desirability responding. Because of its collapse in internal consistency when used in another third-world country (The Philippines) where English is widely spoken (41), it was felt that no form of the California F scale could fruitfully be used on the present occasion. Bhushan (4) has produced a partial adaptation of the Ray (29) "Balanced F scale" for Indian use, but his adaptation ended up with only six negative items out of a total of 34 and was in any case tested on students only.

The major methodological difficulty of the survey was the language problem. Over 80 languages are spoken in Bombay. Fortunately, it was the general consensus among local acquaintances that something like 99% of the population could nonetheless be reached by use of only four languages (English, Hindi, Marathi, and Gujurati). This did mean, however, that many people would be reached in what was for them a second language, a second language that was often far from perfectly understood. Bombay Hindi, for instance, is notorious for its barbarizations and even the other two native languages have several subvarieties. This meant that getting generally usable translations of the scales was difficult. A scale translated into Bombay Hindi, for instance, would be greeted with some scorn by a native Hindi speaker from the Hindi heartland. The recourse adopted under the circumstances, therefore, depended on the fact that all the interviewers spoke good Indian English, a distinct form of English which at its least deviant occupies a position similar to Scottish English and which at its most deviant occupies a position analogous to Pidgin English. Like Scottish and Pidgin, it also has many subvarieties depending on the speaker's area of origin and degree of education. In some form or other it is probably spoken by more people than speak the English of England. As a group the interviewers underwent an exhaustive briefing by the author in the precise meaning of each item of the scale in its English form. This, together with group discussion on the best translation of each item into each of the three Indian languages, took a total of two days. Afterwards the interviewers were provided with the questionnaire in three bilingual forms -- English item followed by Marathi item, English item followed by Gujurati item, and English item followed by Hindi item. The interviewers were then told that the criterial form of each item was the English wording and that they could if need be translate it into a variety of forms in order to achieve full comprehension by the Ss. This meant that each interview took much longer than it would have done in the West. An average interview time of one hour (compared with 15 minutes for the same questions in Australia) was reported. The meaning of each item was therefore carefully explained before a response was sought. The fact that the criterial form of the questionnaire was in English had the side-benefit of enhancing the prestige of the survey and thus minimizing refusals to be interviewed. Data were gathered in July and August, 1981.


The initial internal reliabilities (alpha) of the four scales were as follows: Directiveness .52, Achievement Motivation .57, Neuroticism .72, and Social Desirability .55. Reliabilities as low as these are routine for the latter two very short scales but were well below what is normally observed for the two main scales. The drop had been expected on the general ground that a number of items are fairly obviously set in the context of a Western culture (e.g., the question in the AO scale about getting drunk since liquor drinking is illegal for most Indians). Rather than delete such items a priori, however, it was deemed best to administer all items and make deletions only on the empirical grounds of their failure to correlate with other items. For the AO and Directiveness scales eight and 12 items, respectively, were deleted because of their poor correlation with the score on the total scale. This left a 14-item Directiveness scale with a reliability of .63 and a 20-item AO scale with a reliability (alpha) of .68. The Directiveness scale items deleted were nos. 3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, and 23. Of those remaining, three had been slightly modified for Indian conditions as follows: The expression "Top Dog" in item 14 seemed to be untranslatable so the wording was changed to: "If anyone is going to be the winner, would you rather it be you?" As most Indians have never driven, item 21 was changed to: "If you had a car or scooter, do you think you would be a fast driver?" As the economic and status advantages of business managers are comparatively very great in India, item 39 was changed to: "If the salaries for the two jobs were not very different, would you prefer to be a worker rather than a manager?"

For the AO scale, item nos. 2, 5, 7, 8, 12, 16, 23, and 27 were dropped. The wording of item 15 ("Do you like getting drunk?") was changed to: "Do you ever drink alcohol?" in recognition of the more prohibition-minded Indian social climate. Even with the various changes and deletions, the reliabilities attained with the two scales are still not very high. Given the difficulties of communication under which the responses were gathered,, however, the degree of consistency in the responses is considerably reassuring.

The correlation between the shortened Directiveness and AO scales was a nonsignificant .021. Directiveness was uncorrelated with sex or occupation but was associated with younger age (r = -.174, p < .05) and with better education (r = .134, p < .05). Achievement motivation did not correlate with education, age, or occupation, but was associated slightly with male sex (r = .168, p < .05). The mean score on the Directiveness scale was 24.84 (SD 5.11) and on the AO scale was 50.57 (SD 5.62). The Directiveness mean was then below the midpoint, 28, of the scale, while the AO mean was well above the 40 midpoint. The Directiveness scale alone showed small correlations with Neuroticism (r = .200) and Social Desirability Set (r = -.216). Authoritarians were honest neurotics.

A basis for comparison of the above results with the situation in the West was a study carried out in Australia by Ray (33, 44) in 1976. The questionnaire for the Indian study was in fact an exact copy (plus translations) of the first five pages of the 1976 study except that instead of political preference being asked among the demographic questions, native language and religion were asked. The 1976 study comprised a random cluster sample of 95 people living in the Sydney metropolitan area (population approximately three million). One of the more useful aspects of the 1976 Sydney study was that comparable samples of London (England) and Glasgow (Scotland) had been found to show scores on achievement motivation and Directiveness that did not differ significantly from the Sydney means (33). In the case of Directiveness only, the Sydney mean had also shown no significant difference from the mean in Los Angeles and Johannesburg (35, 36). The data from the 1976 Sydney study were rescored for the "Indian" versions of the two main scales. The reliabilities observed were Directiveness .71 and AO .72. The mean scores were respectively 28.24 (SD 5.52) and 43.71 (SD 6.60). The Indian means differed from the Australian means in the expected direction with a significance of < .01. Indians were more submissive and more ambitious.

Some less precise comparisons are also possible between the Bombay sample and other random cluster samples gathered in Manila, Los Angeles, and Johannesburg. These latter three samples received only short forms (14 items each) of the two scales (34, 42) so that their data cannot be rescored for the Indian forms of the scales. The Indian data, however, can be rescored for the short forms used in these three countries (35, 36, 41). Table 1 gives the results. The reliabilities for the short form scores are too low in Bombay to make any strict comparisons, but it would seem from the tabulated means that the Bombay respondents have very nearly the highest achievement motivation scores vet recorded and have an even lower Directiveness scale mean score than the Filipinos.

Two final comparisons were the findings that the Bombay sample were not more neurotic (Mean = 12.86, SD = 3.55) than the Sydney sample (Mean = 12.63, SD = 3.57) but did show some tendency to represent themselves more favorably on the social desirability scale (Bombay mean and SD of 18.32 and 3.06 versus a Sydney mean and SD of 16.01 and 4.47). The t for the difference is 5.69 (p < .O1).


.............................Achievement motivation ..................Directiveness

Sample................N.....Alpha...Mean.....SD................Alpha... Mean..........SD

Sydney...............95...... .76.....31.44....5.83................ .78.......29.69.........6.16
Los Angeles.....101...... .72.....33.83.....5.27............... .73....... 29.28........ 5.79
Manila..............100....... .56.....34.31....4.33................ .53.......27.33........4.64
Johannesburg..100....... .67..... 35.20....4.74............... .75.......28.07.........5.78
Bombay...........305....... .58..... 35.10....4.33............... .46.......26.58.........4.48

The possibility that the difference in social desirability responding might explain the difference in Directiveness scores was examined by scoring city of origin as a dummy variable (0 = Sydney, 1 = Bombay) and carrying out partial correlations. Even with the influence of social desirability removed, the correlation between city of origin and Directiveness was a significant .206. The correlation is not high because city of origin is of course only one of many influences determining how authoritarian a person is. The multiple correlation achieved by using Directiveness, achievement motivation, and Social Desirability response together as predictors of city of origin was .528. This shows that the variables chosen explained a considerable amount of the difference between the two cities and shows that each variable contributed some independent prediction. The AO scale correlated .445 with city of origin.


A reasonably reliable measurement of authoritarianism of personality and achievement motivation can be achieved in a multilingual Indian general population sample. To obtain ideal scales of these two constructs, a full scale construction exercise using many more items than were available on the present occasion would be necessary. Clearly, standard scales from the West cannot simply be transplanted to India. Even so, however, the data gathered on the present occasion do enable some tentative comparisons to be made.

The data appear to contradict McClelland's (14) thesis. From the disastrous economic situation in Bombay and in India generally, McClelland would have to predict that achievement motivation scores there would be at an all-time low. Precisely the opposite is the case. The Bombay respondents were exceedingly highly motivated. The findings are in accord with the Ray-Hull thesis (41) that motivation is not a cause of the economic situation but rather one of its outcomes and that a poor economic situation induces high drive towards economic betterment. Economic deprivation, however, is not the only cause of increased motivation. Threat of any kind (e.g., racial threat in South Africa or threat to personal security in Los Angeles) could be responsible. Some measure of how "relaxed" a society is might then be the best predictor of prevailing levels of economic ambition.

Since economic motivation among Indians is so high, therefore, how is one to explain their extreme poverty? One possibility is to look outside the realm of personal characteristics altogether and to point to the historical pressures that have shaped a society and to the type of economic administration that the society has had. There is no doubt that the socialism of Mahatma Gandhi has been the guiding force behind the postwar administration of the Indian economy. By contrast, the countries making great economic progress since World War II (Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brazil, Kenya, Ivory Coast, S. Korea) have all followed very capitalist policies. There are then at least some grounds for supposing that it is the job of economists rather than of psychologists to explain extremes of wealth and poverty.

The popularity and great power of Mrs. Gandhi and the fact that such a large country for centuries was successfully subjugated by small numbers of first Moslem and then British invaders are, however, perhaps explained by the finding that Indians are particularly submissive people. If, then, there is any role for an explanation of India's poverty in terms of modal personality, it may be that it is their submissiveness which has led Indians not to fight battles against exploiters and oppressors whom in fact they needed to fight. A less submissive people might have spent less time both in the frying pan of colonial exploitation and in the fire of India's present all-embracing bureaucratic regulation and stultification of economic activity (46).

Perhaps the most surprising finding of the present work is that Directiveness and achievement motivation were not significantly correlated. The equivalent correlation in previous samples had been as follows: Sydney .33, London .39, Glasgow .49, Johannesburg .30, Los Angeles .46, and Manila .31. There is no immediately obvious explanation of this difference in terms of confounding variables as the mean scores of the Bombay and Sydney samples on social desirability response set and neuroticism showed no significant difference. It simply must tentatively be concluded that, unlike other countries, personal ambition in India does not lead to trying to push others around. Possibly achievement motivation in India tends to exist in fantasy rather than in practical expression, an interpretation consistent with the finding that India seems to be the only country where fantasy-based measures of achievement motivation are reliable and internally consistent (31).


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