Chapter 42 from: J.J. Ray (Ed.) "Conservatism as Heresy". Sydney: A.N.Z. Book Co., 1974


John J. Ray
A scale measuring 'Humanistic Radicalism' (HR) was written to express types of attitude characteristic of student radicals and other types of Radical intellectual. On a sample of Australian army conscripts this scale was found to have satisfactory reliability and to correlate significantly positively (p <.01) with two measures of authoritarianism -- short forms of the California F scale and the Rokeach 'D' scale respectively. Explanations of this finding are considered.

WHEN ADORNO ET AL (1950) produced evidence that their measure of 'authoritarianism' correlated consistently with various measures of political Conservatism, they concluded that this was evidence of a necessary association between Conservatism and authoritarianism. This was immediately questioned by Shils (1954) and others -- who claimed that there was also such a thing as an 'authoritarianism of the Left'. The F scale was identified as artifactually loaded with Right-wing ideology and was hence said to be a measure not of general authoritarianism but rather of 'authoritarianism of the Right'.

An obvious response to these claims was to attempt to produce some scale (analogous to the F scale) that would be sensitive to Left-wing authoritarianism. While Rokeach (1960) has produced a measure (the Dogmatism or 'D' scale) which has claims to be a measure of general authoritarianism, no one yet seems to have produced a measure of peculiarly Left-wing authoritarianism. This is a little surprising as Left-wing authoritarianism is surely as distinctive an entity as Right-wing authoritarianism. The present work represents evidence that such a scale would be possible.

Perhaps the name most frequently associated with prior attempts to measure Left-wing authoritarianism is that of Eysenck (1954). He spoke of Radical 'tough-minded' attitudes versus Conservative tough-minded' attitudes and attempted to measure these. His work has however been severely attacked by Christie (1956) and Rokeach & Hanley (1956) -- who showed that Eysenck had in fact failed to produce evidence for there being a dimension of 'tough-mindedness' in attitudes. Certainly Eysenck has not as yet presented evidence that there is a group of Radical (or Liberal) attitudes which can also be shown, on some objective basis, to be authoritarian.

Although the name 'Humanism' is given to the sort of Left-wing ideology treated in this paper, there is no particular implication that all Left-wing ideology is humanistic or that all Humanism is authoritarian. It will simply be claimed that some sorts of humanitarian ideology are authoritarian and evidence for this will be produced in the form of correlations between a measure of this ideology and other scales accepted as measuring authoritarianism.


This work had its origin in a larger study by the present author of relationships among various ideology measures often associated with the 'authoritarianism' research tradition. The sample comprised 404 Australian National Servicemen (conscripts) -- being the October, 1968 intake at 3TB Singleton. During their first week in camp, 474 recruits received a seventy-one item questionnaire containing several attitude scales in short form. Short forms of the scales were necessitated by a half-hour time limit placed on testing by the Army. As it was, seventy of the questionnaires handed in showed significant incompleteness and had to be discarded. The Army conscripts formed a sample with several advantages in social research where wide generalizability of results is desired. They were selected at random from the entire Australian twenty-year-old male population by a national birth date ballot procedure. Non-citizen migrants and students were not exempted although the latter could have their liability deferred for two or three years. There was no geographical bias between city and country and only very obvious medical rejects were excluded prior to intake. One very great advantage this type of sample has over door-to-door studies is the absence of any 'volunteer artifact' -- which elsewhere is often very large (cf. Martin & Westie, 1952). Since it is known that the psychological characteristics of the co-operative minority are in fact different from those of the majority (Patterson & Wilson, 1969; Sheridan & Shack, 1970) this sort of bias is also a serious one that we do very well to avoid.

Included in the battery given to this sample was a group of fifteen items written by the present author and designed to reflect the sort of utterance often shouted by student activists, preached by Left-wing intellectuals and taught by Left-wing social scientists. It was naively supposed that such utterances would reflect a type of upper class radicalism (not necessarily much associated with preference for any of the existing political parties) that would be opposite to the 'authoritarianism' said by Lipset (1960) to be characteristic of the working class: In expectation of this proving true, fifteen items had also been selected from the California F scale -- items in the original expressing superstition, projectivity etc. being excluded from the present study on the grounds that they might best be viewed as empirical correlates rather than as essential elements of authoritarianism (cf. French & Ernest, 1955; Prothro & Melikian, 1953). The original idea was then that the two supposedly opposite groups of fifteen items might be combined into one bi-polar scale and thus produce the long awaited 'balanced F scale'.

Also included in the battery was the Australian revision of the Rokeach Dogmatism scale produced by Anderson & Western (1967). The chief attraction of this version of the 'D' scale was its brevity -- it being composed of only nine items. The wording of two items was changed slightly to give better applicability to a conscript as distinct from a student sample.

The ten strongest items (judged from the item analyses provided by the original authors) of the Beswick & Hills (1969) Australian Ethnocentrism scale were also included. This scale had five positive and five negative items. Prior occupation and educational attainment were also ascertained from each recruit.

When the results had been obtained, all scales were subjected to item analysis before any conclusions about relationships among them were drawn. Item analysis in this sense consisted of finding the coefficients 'alpha' (Cronbach, 1951) for each scale and the correlations of each item with the relevant scale total.


The projected 'balanced F scale' was unsuccessful. Most of the supposedly 'negative' items in fact correlated positively with the original F scale items. It is this finding then that became the material for further analysis. As a preliminary, however, it must be pointed out that this finding is somewhat different from the previously well-known finding (Peabody, 1961 and 1966) 1966) that attempted 'reversals' of original F scale items do sometimes correlate positively with the originals. Such correlations could be and have been attributed to the inherent psychological meaninglessness of F scale item reversals (Christie, Havel & Seidenberg, 1956). In Kerlinger's (1967) terms the reversed items simply do not provide relevant 'criterial referents' for people of Left-wing views; reversed F scale items are not a 'natural' expression of Left-wing orientation. These things, however, could scarcely be said of the present items (see appendix to this chapter).

In the present case, therefore, it was decided to treat the two groups of items as separate scales in their own right. To do this, however, it is necessary to show that the group of 'Humanistic Radicalism' items do empirically hang together. It is theoretically quite possible for all such items to correlate negatively with F scale score and yet fail to intercorrelate among themselves. The conventional index of scalability (or: 'homogeneity') in this sense is, of course, Cronbach's (1951) coefficient 'alpha' -- and this was hence computed for each scale in the battery. The values obtained were as follows: ten item ethnocentrism scale .65; nine item dogmatism scale .60; fifteen item F scale .74; fifteen item humanistic radicalism scale .65. Mean scores (and SDS ) for the same scales were 30.12 (6.27), 29.91 (4.77), 52.78 (7.84) and 55.54 (6.57) respectively.

It was found that the Humanistic Radicalism scale correlated with both measures of authoritarianism at a level of significance < .01. The correlation with the 'D' scale was .266 and the correlation with the F scale was .474.

Other findings of interest were the expected significant negative correlations of the F scale with both indices of socio-economic status (r with education = -.236 and r with occupational status scored on the Congalton (1969) scale = -.186) and with a failure of the Humanistic Radicalism scale to correlate with either of these indices at all (rs were -.016 and -.027 respectively). The correlation between the Humanistic Radicalism scale and Ethnocentrism was non-significant (r = .053) while the F scale correlated significantly positively with ethnocentrism (r = .249).


It has been shown, then, that the sort of utterance we can so readily recognise as characteristic of much radical or liberal talk today is in fact among the general population associated with attitudes previously identified as authoritarian. Let us consider some objections that might be levelled against this finding:

Following the line of argument developed in Ray (1971), it might be argued that F scale items are not a good measure of authoritarianism. Note, however, that even the index of authoritarianism proposed in Ray (1971) -- the AA scale -- has a high correlation with F scale scores (r = .76). Although the F scale does measure other things as well, there is no dispute that authoritarianism is one of the components. The attempted a-priori elimination of 'non-central' F scale items from this study and the demonstrated homogeneity of the items actually used should also be some guarantee that authoritarianism was what we were measuring here. There is in addition the second line of evidence represented in the correlation of the Humanistic Radicalism scale with the 'D' scale items.

Another critical observation might be that the reliabilities of the scales here employed were rather low. This might be held to reflect on the integrity or factorial unity of the constructs. This is not so. The reliabilities here observed are simply a penalty of having to use short scales. They are not a-typical of those observed with other scales of comparable length that are available in the literature (compare, for example, the reliabilities of the scales in the battery presented by Anderson & Western (1967) -- ranging from .55 to .73).

Perhaps the most serious objection that might be urged, however, centres around the familiar issue of acquiescent response set. Perhaps the correlations observed are due to a common factor of acquiescence. Certainly, while such an explanation can never be ruled out altogether, the continued widespread use of the F scale in its original form would appear to reflect a judgment by many psychologists (supported by empirical studies and systematic arguments such as those by Kerlinger (1967) and Rorer (1965)) that the acquiescence factor is of little importance. For all that, in my other published studies I have always made a consistent point of using balanced scales in order to eliminate where possible any alternative explanation in terms of acquiescence. Indeed the present study springs from just such an attempt.

Since the present relationships are a little unexpected, the appeal of an explanation in terms of acquiescence artifact is doubly strong here. The general assurances of Kerlinger and Rorer might on other occasions suffice to set our minds at ease but the present situation demands more specific proof. But how can we examine the question? If we have not controlled for acquiescence before the event can we control for it after the event? The usual method of 'statistical' (i.e. 'post hoc') control is of course either the analysis of covariance or partial correlation -- but each of these requires an independent measure of the thing to be removed. Do we have in the present work an independent measure of Yeasaying? Such a measure is often obtained (cf. Ray, 1970 and Ray, 1971) by taking the items of a balanced scale and adding the number of 'agrees' irrespective of direction of wording. Such a score may be significantly related to the scale score proper (Ray, 1970) or insignificantly related (Ray, 1971). The only successful balanced scale in the present study was the ethnocentrism scale and our yeasaying score was accordingly derived from it. As mentioned, the score was obtained by adding up the item scores without reversing the negative items. This score correlated .085 with ethnocentrism, .257 with dogmatism, .257 with the F scale and .179 with the HR scale. Partialling out acquiescence from the correlations between the Dogmatism and HR (originally .266) and F and HR scales (originally .474) left reduced correlations of .231 and .450: That the reduction afforded was so slight is mainly attributable to the very small influence of acquiescence on HR scores (r = .179). It has been shown, then, that the correlation between Humanistic radicalism and authoritarianism cannot be attributed to a common acquiescence artifact. We are now free to seek a substantive interpretation of the findings.

One very apparent explanation is that all three scales employ very sweeping and simplistic wording. Difficult issues and questions are treated as solvable or answerable by simple formulas. That this feature accounts for a substantial proportion of the correlation observed is doubly attested to by the fact that three HR items appeared as successful negative items in the Ray (1971) 'Attitude to authority' scale (also normed on National Servicemen). The favourable judgments of authority implied in the F scale are obviously greatly outweighed in impact by the 'intolerance of complexity' or 'intolerance of ambiguity' components of that scale. Intolerance of complexity is viewed here as a special or more particular case of intolerance of ambiguity. Whatever we call it, however, the items of both scales evince an inability to see that opposing points of view on the issues concerned may each have merit. This in turn may be a result of failing to see or failing to care about the full implications of any one of the opinions expressed.

It is concluded then that an authoritarian type of Left-wing ideology has been detected and is embodied in the 'Humanistic Radicalism' scale. We ought, however, to be cautious about generalising these findings to 'institutional' Humanists (i.e. members of Humanist clubs or organisations). The present findings concern relationships in the population at large and do hence have some claim to represent psychologically 'basic' connections: People who have however gone so far as to join a Humanist organisation might perhaps be expected to have thought out their position fairly thoroughly in rational terms and might have come to conclusions that disallow other attitudes of an authoritarian and dogmatic kind.

In answering attitude scales therefore we might expect such people clearly to disavow authoritarian or dogmatic attitudes -- and this indeed has been found to be so (Ray, 1970) . Although he might like to impose his idea of the good world on the rest of the community, the humanist who has thought his position out ought usually to conclude that such an authoritative imposition is in fact incompatible with what he otherwise says he wants. In humanist intellectuals, therefore, we have grounds for believing that authoritarianism may be latent rather than acknowledged.

One inference that is very strongly suggested by the above results is that there may be a general factor of intolerance of ambiguity (or complexity) in matters of social policy -- an intolerance or love of sweeping solutions to political problems that is independent of ideological polarisation. That the correlation between the HR and F scales was so high -- in spite of the ideological opposition of the sentiments expressed -- suggests in fact that this intolerance of complexity is by far the most important factor in F scale scores. Its 'Right-wing-ness' is a quite secondary attribute. One qualification that must be stressed, however, is that we cannot assume that intolerance of complexity in social policy preferences would be correlated with other sorts of intolerance of complexity. We have demonstrated the generality of intolerance of complexity across ideological barriers but we have not in any sense demonstrated that it is a completely general trait. It might be the case that intolerance of complexity in perceptual tasks is completely independent of intolerance of complexity in social policy preferences.

Although it can be said, then, that the present work has shown that authoritarianism can be Humanist as well as anti-Humanist, it should not be assumed that the HR scale is in any sense a new scale of 'Left-wing authoritarianism' suitable for general use. As it stands, it is inadequate for this purpose in length, reliability and balance against acquiescent set. Details of its behavioural validity are also as yet unknown. What the HR scale has done however is to suggest that the phenomenon of Left-wing authoritarianism is both isolable and measurable. It does thus fill a notable gap in previous research and gives us some glimpse of a form of ideology that could not previously have been suspected of being authoritarian.

To summarise: We may say that the F and HR scales constitute measures of authoritarianism at opposing ideological poles -- where authoritarianism is understood to consist of intolerance of ambiguity on social issues and in matters of social (political) policy.


Adorno,T.W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D.J. & Sanford, R.N. (1950). The authoritarian personality New York: Harper.

Anderson, D.S. & Western, J.S. (1967) An inventory to measure students' attitudes. St. Lucia, Brisbane: Univ. Qld. Press.

Beswick, D.C. & Hills, M.D. (1969) An Australian ethnocentrism scale. Australian J. Psychol. 21, 211-226.

Christie, R. (1956) Eysenck's treatment of the personality of Communists. Psychological Bulletin 53, 411-438.

Christie, R., Havel, J. & Seidenberg, B.(1956) Is the 'F' scale irreversible? J. Abnorm. Soc. Psychol. 56, 141-158.

Congalton, A.A. (1969) Status and prestige in Australia Melbourne: Cheshire.

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Eysenck, H.J. (1954) The psychology of politics London: Routledge.

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


The Humanistic Radicalism (HR) Scale Items.

1 Human beings are more important than efficiency.
2 The thing children need most is lots of love and affection.
3 Human life is sacred.
4 There is seldom any reason to hurt people's feelings.
5 Dictatorships are totally wrong.
6 Some of the most lovable things about certain people are their little faults and foibles.
7 A bit of disorganisation sometimes does you good.
8 If the Army allowed more room for individuality it might be a better institution.
9 All men are equal.
10 The government should provide more help for the disabled.
11 People should be guided more by their feelings and less by the rules.
12 On some things it is impossible to make up your mind for days on end.
13 In the Army soldiers should not obey an order if it is obviously morally wrong.
14 Patriotism is just a glorified name for national selfishness.
15 Individual freedom is a basic human right.


A sequel to the above work can be found in the article below:

Ray, J.J. (1985) Authoritarianism of the Left revisited. Personality & Individual Differences 6, 271-272.

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