Chapter in: P.C.L. Heaven (Ed.) "Authoritarianism: South African studies" Bloemfontein: De Villiers, 1980.


John J. Ray


Previous work on the relationship between need for achievement and authoritarianism was found on balance slightly to favour such a relationship but to be inconclusive because of defects in the measuring instruments. A conceptual analysis led to a simplified definition of each of the two concepts as a necessary prelude to examination of their relationship. The simplified definitions were operationalized in personality scales. These were the Ray-Lynn "AO" scale and the Ray (1976) Directiveness scale. Using door-to-door cluster samples of 95 Australians, 100 Englishmen, 100 Scotsmen, 100 South Africans and 101 Californians, correlations of .331, .395, .489, .305 and .465 between the two scales were observed. In five separate studies using more traditional attitude-type measures of authoritarianism, the relationship with achievement motivation was found to be present in two samples only. It was concluded that achievement motivation rather than the need to vent hostility to one's father was the better supported explanation for observed authoritarian behaviour - particularly in South Africa.


Authoritarianism and need for achievement (n-Ach) have, without a doubt, been two of the most popular constructs in social psychology. It might be thought to be a matter of some interest, therefore, to know what the relationship between them is. The theories underlying these two constructs are, however, at least at first sight, quite disparate and it is no doubt for this reason that the relationship between the two has in fact not often been considered in the literature.

Nonetheless, there is variety of reasons for expecting a positive relationship. Both the authoritarian and the need achiever appear to be individuals who do not give their first priority to people. Both appear to have goals in which care for the happiness of their fellows does not figure. Neither is humanitarian in any sense. In fact, it is quite possible that in the "dog eat dog" world of the business community, only the authoritarian can "get on" (achieve). To seek the goal of personal success, one may have to be willing to sacrifice humane or idealistic values and be willing to trample on others. From another point of view, it may also be true that, in our society, dominance or "being boss" of others is in itself a popular form of achievement. In this case again, then, we would have authoritarian behaviour purely as an outcome of achievement motivation.

The possibility of such a relationship has been explored in the past -- but with contradictory results. Without giving any detailed reasoning, DeCharms, Morrison, Reitman & McClelland (1955) say: "The general hypothesis is that subjects with high v achievement will be more easily influenced by expert authority." With a group of 30 subjects, these authors found a correlation between v Ach (measured by a Likert scale) and various items of the California F scale with a significance at the .04 level only. For n-Ach (projectively measured) there was no relationship. On the other hand, Brown (1953) found an inverse relationship between n-Ach and authoritarianism. The picture is complicated by the later view taken by DeCharms et al. (1955) that their v Ach measure has little or no validity. Moving on, we come to the finding by Friis & Knox (1972) that need achievement (measured by a questionnaire) and adherence to authority (measured by the Borgatta (1967) scale) correlate only .059. Contradicting this, Lorr, Suziedelis & Tonesk (1973) find two positive correlations of .31 and .30 between their two authoritarianism factors and an achievement value scale. In summary, then, two studies have reported positive relationships, one has reported no relationship and a fourth has reported an inverse relationship. This quite unclear picture is made even more unclear by the fact that most of the indices used in producing the results mentioned leave much to be desired. If it is true that the Likert measure used by DeCharms et al. (1955) had no validity, it is also well-known (Weinstein, 1969; Entwisle, 1972) that projectively measured n-Ach is generally lacking in reliability. The Friis & Knox scale also has a very low reliability of only .53 and no known predictive validity. Finally, the Lorr et al. (1973) work also relies on unvalidated factors of rather eclectic composition. As with all factors, deciding what they measure is a rather impressionistic affair (For a fuller treatment of this point see Ray, 1973b). While there is therefore some support in the literature for the hypothesis put forward above, it is support that is much in need of clarification and reinforcement before any firm conclusions can be drawn.

Perhaps too, part of the clarification that is required is in fact conceptual. Authoritarianism has become a catch-all phrase for a whole host of generally undesirable attributes and there are also various proposals for how achievement motivation is made up.

In Ray (1976) it is proposed that the one basic or essential element in all concepts of authoritarianism is "the tendency or desire to impose one's own will on others". Whether such a tendency also correlates with rigidity, conservatism, dogmatism, ethnic prejudice or the tendency to behave submissively towards one's own superiors is surely an empirical matter, not a matter of definition. It is also there shown that many of these attributes do not covary in the expected way and that the F scale and related scales are almost totally insensitive to this one basic element of directiveness or dominance. Insofar as they have any power to predict behaviour at all, they show occasional low correlations with submissive behaviour only. The need for a scale which will predict this one most basic element of authoritarianism was met in Ray (1976) by the construction of the Directiveness scale. It is this scale that will be most heavily relied on in the present work. Since the F scale does not predict authoritarian behaviour, all the explanations for authoritarianism built around that scale become suspect and must in fact be regarded as at best untried theories. In fact, using the new behaviourally-relevant scale, Ray (1976) found many of these theories clearly contra-indicated. It is into this explanatory vacuum for authoritarian behaviour, then, that this present study is hopefully injected. It is proposed that achievement motivation is at least one precursor of such behaviour.

Achievement motivation, also, has been broken down in various ways. Perhaps the two most widely used subdivisions are into success-seeking versus fear of failure and into intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation (also sometimes called task versus success orientation). Furthermore there is the very potent issue of how achievement motivation should be measured -- whether projectively or by self-report questionnaire. There seems to have been developed in recent years a strong suspicion of projective measures by reasons of their characteristic unreliability. This suspicion is so strong and so widespread that it has reached the point of what can only be called derision (See Entwisle, 1972). In such circumstances, we again find ourselves in the position where much of the prior work in the field must be regarded with grave suspicion because of defects in the measuring instruments used. McClelland (19b1), for instance worked almost entirely with projective tests. His conclusions about the nature of achievement motivation must then be regarded as theoretical proposals only -- not as empirically delineated definitions. The available evidence from non-projective tests is in fact harsh on what is probably McClelland's favourite subdivision of achievement motivation -- into success-seeking versus fear of failure. McReynolds & Guevara (1967) devised separate Likert scales to measure these two concepts but found that the correlation between the two scales was limited only by the reliabilities of the two scales. It seems then that we have here a distinction without a corresponding empirical difference. In general, then, it seems safest to work with a simple but quite global and orthodox definition of achievement motivation as: "the desire or tendency to reach difficult and socially approved material goals." Whether such goals include or entail the domination of others in our society is the subject of the present study. Obviously, non-material goals and non-socially approved goals may also be objects for achievement but it seems closest to the general tenor of previous research to exclude them here. It should also be noted that whether the goal is sought for one's own satisfaction or for public acclaim is not stipulated by this definition.

Scales that fit this definition are not hard to find. The Ray-Lynn "AO" scale was written with such a definition in mind and the achievement scale of the Jackson Personality Inventory also seems quite suitable. In fact it is from the manual of this inventory that the first evidence comes in support of the relationship proposed here. This is because the same inventory also includes a "Dominance" scale which answers very closely to what has been conceived of here as the essential element in authoritarianism. On its norming sample of 1,029 males, then, the Jackson (1967) PRF showed a correlation of .34 between the two sub-scales mentioned. This is, of course, highly significant. It is the purpose of the research described hereunder to see whether a similar relationship holds in other English-speaking countries using other measuring instruments.

Study I

This study was carried out in the Sydney metropolitan area of Australia using door-to-door cluster sampling. This is the same method that is used in most British and Australian public opinion polls and it gives there generally very accurate results. The sample n planned for was 100 though in the end five of these had to be discarded due to incompleteness of answers. An n of 100 was chosen because the gains in significance beyond 100 are very small.

In addition to the Ray (1976) Directiveness scale, it was felt politic to include also some more traditional measure of authoritarianism. To this end the Ray (1972) balanced F scale (or BF scale) was used. To measure achievement motivation, a slightly-modified version of the Ray-Lynn "AO" scale (Ray, 1970, 1975) was used. In this version the scale was brought up to complete balance against acquiescent response set by deleting the six weakest items and replacing them by the first four negative items of Costello's (1967) scale I. This scale had been shown in Ray (1979) to be highly related to the Ray-Lynn scale and to have similar validity properties to it. The resultant scale was then known to be valid, balanced, reliable and widely usable.

Two short scales were also included to test neuroticism (the short form of Eysenck's Maudsley Personality Inventory) and Social Desirability (the eight strongest items of the Marlow-Crowne scale according to Greenwald & Satow (1970)}. The Neuroticism scale was included because of the assertion by Adorno et al (1950) that authoritarianism is psychopathological. This seemed a hypothesis of some interest to test on the relatively new "Directiveness" scale. It could also be true that authoritarians are neurotic but achievement-motivated people are not. If this were true, neuroticism could be acting as a suppressor variable in need of statistical removal from any observed relationships. The Social Desirability scale was included simply as a usual control.

All scales showed satisfactory reliability. The coefficients "alpha" for each scale were: Directiveness .78, Achievement Orientation .79, Neuroticism .73, Social Desirability .77, Balanced 'F' .87. The relationships prior to reversal between the positive and negative halves of the three major scales were: Directiveness -.50, AO -.54 and BF -.65.

The major findings of the study were that Achievement motivation related .331 to authoritarianism as dominance and .262 to authoritarianism as BF score. Both coefficients are significant at the < .01 level.

Other correlations of interest are a relationship of .217 (p < .05) between the Directiveness and BF scales and a relationship between Directiveness and sex (Maleness) of .234 (p < .05). This means that there is only a weak tendency for highly directive people to have authoritarian attitudes and that there is also a slightly greater likelihood of their being males rather than females.

The three correlations with Neuroticism were Directiveness -.177, "AO" -.356 and "BF" -.109. The first is significant at the < .05 level on a one-tailed test only and indicates that behavioural authoritarians are slightly less neurotic than others (cf. Martin & Ray, 1972). Similarly, people with high achievement motivation are less neurotic, only much more markedly so. The -.356 is of significance at the < .005 level. Authoritarianism of attitudes is not significantly related to neuroticism, though the correlation is in the opposite direction to that inferred from Adorno et al (1950). A partial correlation to remove the common influence of low neuroticism from the relationship between directiveness and achievement motivation reduced the coefficient from .331 to .291 - which is still significant at the < .01 level.

The correlation between the AO scale and social desirability was non-significant at .062. The correlations between the SD scale and the two authoritarianism scales were similar to those observed in Ray (1976) - a correlation of -.252 for Directiveness and .209 for 'BF'.

One methodological question that does arise in the present study which has not so far been alluded to concerns the Rosenthal effect. The present author had a hand in the construction of all three of the major scales used. Could he have built his expectations into them? On a priori grounds there is some reason to expect not: The Ray-Lynn "AO" scale had its items almost entirely written by Richard Lynn and the items finally used from his item pool were simply those that empirically correlated most highly with the scale total. See Ray (1975). The balanced F scale had no items whatever written by the present author and the selection of what items were used was again based simply on maximizing empirical correlations. See Ray (1972). The Directiveness scale did have half of its items written by the present author but the other half were written by students.

Nonetheless this does seem an occasion when some empirical form of structure analysis should be applied to all the items of the battery. Do empirical factors emerge which correspond to the scales and concepts originally used? If so, do they relate to one another in the same way as the a priori scales?

The structure analytic method chosen was cluster analysis rather than factor analysis. This was for the reasons set out at some length in Ray (1973b). The particular method chosen to carry out the cluster analysis was one due to McQuitty (1961).

The second order clusters which emerged well justified by their clarity the decision to use cluster analysis. There clearly emerged an F scale factor, a Directiveness scale factor, a social desirability factor and a bipolar achievement motivation /neuroticism factor. The first had 25 F scale items, 5 achievement motivation items and 7 Directiveness items. The second had 14 Directiveness items and 5 Achievement motivation items. The third had all eight Social Desirability items plus 4 Directiveness items. The fourth had 18 Achievement motivation items, one directiveness item and all six Neuroticism items reverse-scored. The implication of the bipolarity in this final cluster is that high achievement motivation goes with low Neuroticism.

The correlations between these empirical clusters were very similar to the correlations between the original scales. The achievement motivation cluster correlated significantly with both the Directiveness cluster (r = .367) and the F scale cluster (r = .210). The F and Directiveness clusters themselves correlated .253.

Interesting or even impressive though this confirmation may be, it does contain some element of artifact still. A small number of items that are one day said to measure achievement motivation are now being used to measure the two forms of authoritarianism. No wonder the two forms of authoritarianism are shown to relate to the remaining achievement motivation items!

To overcome this objection, an even more rigorous test of the relationships involved was carried out. In this procedure, all items whatever which had "migrated" from their original scales in the course of cluster analysis were "purged" or eliminated from further consideration. This left scales which were composed of items which could be demonstrated to belong only there and not somewhere else. The scales so produced were obviously shorter but did not show any reductions in reliability. Coefficients "alpha" for the various scales were "AO" .79, "BF" .87 and Directiveness .78. The correlations with the AO scale were: Directiveness .249, BF .221. The BF and Directiveness scales themselves correlated .193. Against the critical value of .200 for the correlation at the .05 level of probability, it may be seen that both forms of authoritarianism still relate significantly to achievement motivation even though they themselves are not significantly related.

As final form of data summary, some simple multiple regression analyses were also carried out. There were attempts to predict reported authoritarian behaviour (Directiveness score) based on firstly the original scales, secondly the empirical clusters and thirdly the "purged" scales. In both cases, demographic variables were also included. The multiple Rs obtained on the three occasions were respectively .52, .55 and .47. All associated 'F' ratios were significant at the < .05 level. Table 1 gives further details.



CO = Correlations using the original scale; CP = correlations using the purged scale. Both vectors of correlations are followed by the relevant vector of beta weights

Variable .....................Mean.........SD........CO......Beta.....CP........Beta

Achiev. Motivation......62.074......9.183.... .331.... .282.... .261..... .162
Social Desirability.......16.011......4.495....-.252....-.310...-.154.....-.234
Balanced 'F'................72.179....14.295.... .217.... .214.... .196..... .175
Sex (F = 1; M = 2)........1.547....... .500.... .234.... .150.... .195..... .109
Age...............................2.474......1.201.... .068.....-.013... .080.....-.021
Education.....................3.126...... .866.....-.015....-.014....-.038....-.038
Occupation...................1.789...... .410.....-.095....-.060....-.129....-.093
Political Preference......3.074...... .959.....-.008....-.110....-.008....-.080

Study II

Study II is little more than an addendum to Study I. It employed the same questionnaire as Study I but applied it to a group comprising all but two of the Royal Australian Navy officer trainees enrolled for courses at the University of New South Wales. These comprised only 41 subjects in all. The interest was to see if the relationships observed earlier would hold up when investigated on an institutionally authoritarian sample. They clearly did. The correlations between the AO scale and the two authoritarianism scales were: Directiveness .573 and "BF" .265. The scale correlating most highly with neuroticism was the BF scale. The correlation -- at -.256 -- was just significant on a one-tailed test but in the opposite direction to that generally expected from Adorno et al (1950). Among potential Navy Officers, to be low on authoritarian attitudes is -- not surprisingly -- a sign of neuroticism. Study II also offered further important validation to the Directiveness scale in that scores by these subjects were -- as predicted -- significantly higher than those obtained in Study I. The means (S.D.s in brackets) for the two groups were: Study I 54.88 (8.79), Study II 59.63 (6.68). The t for this comparison is 2.94, which is significant at the < .005 level.

Study III

In this study a sample was taken of people in and around the London metropolitan area of England. Again cluster sampling was used but this time non-students were used as interviewers. This eliminated the previous problem of middle-class over-representation and also led to the full target n of 100 being achieved. To economize on interview time, both the Ray-Lynn "AO" scale and the Directiveness scale were on this occasion used in shortened forms. The items of each are given in the appendix. For the same reason, it was also not possible to include any version of the F scale. The reliabilities observed were .66 for the Directiveness scale and .73 for the AO scale. This does represent a drop but such a drop is a normal outcome of using shortened scales. The correlation between them however was quite similar to that previously observed in Australia and the U.S.A. - .395. Again the theory stands supported.

Study IV

This study was identical to the preceding one except in that it was carried out in the Strathclyde region, centred on the city of Glasgow, Scotland. Glasgow is a depressed industrial city and the Strathclyde region contains half of Scotland's population. Unlike London, which has very low unemployment by current standards, Glasgow has chronically high unemployment. To check on the traditional claims that Scots and English are very different people, a small body of items on current social issues were included in both the Glasgow and London questionnaires. On no less than eight out of eleven of these there was a significant difference between the two cities. That the two samples were similarly drawn, however, was shown by the fact that there were no significant differences on demographic variables.

The reliabilities observed for the two scales were .71 for Directiveness and .72 for the AO scale. At .489 the correlation between them was the highest yet observed. On four quite different national populations, then, the postulated relationship has now been observed.

A more elaborate analysis of the results for Studies III and IV could be carried out along the lines of that done for Study I but it was felt that this would be supererogatory in view of the similarity of the overall relationship.

Study V

In this study it was desired to return to the relatively unexpected finding that achievement motivation was related not only to authoritarianism of behaviour or personality as measured by the Directiveness scale but was also related to authoritarianism of attitudes as measured by the balanced F scale (see Study I). This was seen as surprising because Ray (1976) and Heaven (1977) had both found that the two sorts of authoritarianism themselves were unrelated. By contrast, the correlation between the two was, at .217, significant in Study I above. Since many correlations with the F scale vary widely from study to study, however, it was felt of interest to see if further confirmation of the relationship between authoritarian attitudes and achievement motivation could be found. It was found that an examination of this could be made by a re-analysis of the data collected for Ray (1973a). It is this re-analysis that is reported here as Study V.

The scales used were the original form of the Ray-Lynn AO scale and the "AA" or "attitude to authority" scale (Ray, 1971). This latter scale was one specifically developed to overcome many of the faults of the F scale. Not only is it completely balanced against acquiescent response set but it also endeavours to steer clear of the psychodynamic assumptions and inbuilt correlation with conservatism that are characteristic of the F scale. Additionally, it has a stronger relationship to behaviour though in fact it is the submissiveness side of the authoritarianism melange that it taps. To the extent that it has any relation to behaviour at all, this is also true of the F scale (See Titus, 1968). In spite of their conceptual differences, the AA and balanced F scales do, as would be expected, correlate substantially (Ray, 1971).

As described in Ray (1973a), the sample was a community one with an n of 70. The correlation between the two scales was .392 (p < .01). It appears then that authoritarian attitudes also go with achievement motivation. It is interesting, however, that this study also made available peer ratings of each subject in the survey and against the two general ratings "authoritarian in attitudes" and "authoritarian in behaviour", the AA scale correlated respectively .321 and .239. Unfortunately the terms of these ratings are a little vague and the raters could have used submissiveness, dominance or both as evidence of authoritarian behaviour. It might be suggested, however, that the AA scale was sensitive on this occasion to directive behaviour and that this is what accounts for the correlation with achievement motivation.

Study VI

Since the excursion into use of the AA scale seemed to have raised at least as many questions as it answered, it was felt desirable in this study to return to the BF scale. It was felt that the relationship between this scale and achievement motivation might be further elucidated if achievement motivation were itself broken down into more molecular components. The components so chosen were intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. Unlike the breakdown into fear of failure versus success-seeking (see McReynolds & Guevara, 1967), the breakdown into intrinsic versus extrinsic achievement motivation is fairly well attested to in the literature based on non-projective tests. Both Costello (1967) and Featherman (1971) have shown that separate measures of these components do in fact correlate very little. The scales adopted to measure these two components were those produced in Ray (1977). These had been factorially produced and validated on Australian data and were hence more suitable to Australian use than better-known ones of overseas origin.

These two scales were then included with the BF scale in a commercial poll carried out by an Australian market research organization. The poll was a mail survey with over 4,600 respondents from all Australian states and localities. The sample used was in fact a sample of a sample. It was comprised of people contacted and previously surveyed for the purposes of the Morgan Gallup poll and was hence based on a cluster sample of stratified Commonwealth electoral sub-divisions.

The BF scale was used in a shortened form but the reliability observed was still .80. The reliability of the Task orientation (intrinsic) scale was .86 and the reliability of the Success orientation (extrinsic) scale was .76. Neither achievement motivation scale showed any meaningful correlation with the BF scale. The coefficients obtained were .055 and .066. The task and success orientation scales themselves correlated .463 - confirming that although there might be two factors of achievement motivation, it is still realistic to speak of a single overall trait. This finding is despite the origin of the two scales in two almost orthogonal clusters.

Study VII

In this study it was desired to check the conclusions so far on a population more like that used by Adorno et al (1950) in their seminal work on authoritarianism. Their work was of course carried out in California, and, within the United States, Californians have something of a reputation for oddity. What is true of California need not be equally true elsewhere. A random cluster sample of the greater Los Angeles area was therefore drawn and 101 Californians were thus interviewed. Again they received short forms of the Ray (1976) Directiveness scale, the Ray-Lynn "AO" scale (Ray, 1970, 1975 & 1979) and the balanced "F" scale (Ray, 1972). Achievement motivation was found to correlate .465 with Directiveness and -.009 with scores on the balanced F scale. The former is of course highly significant and the latter is non-significant.

The results of this study do then leave the relationship between achievement motivation and authoritarian personality uncontroversial but make any connection between achievement motivation and authoritarian attitudes highly questionable.

Study VIII

One further country with particular claims to attention from authoritarianism researchers seemed to be the Republic of South Africa. As a country notorious for authoritarianism in its political life, South Africa seemed, in fact, something of a test case. If achievement motivation is the cause of authoritarian acts, achievement motivation ought to be at an all-time high in this country. A clearly falsifiable prediction in the best tradition of the hypothetico-deductive method seemed possible.

A random cluster sample of 100 whites in the Johannesburg Greater Metropolitan Area was therefore contacted on their doorsteps by the researcher personally. They received a test battery virtually identical to that used in the previous study.

The correlation observed between the achievement motivation scale and authoritarian personality was .305. The correlation of the "AO" scale and authoritarian attitudes (Balanced F scale) was .005. Only the first of the two is, of course, significant. Thus far, then, the results very much mirror those obtained in California. The mean score obtained by this sample on the "AO" scale, however, was 35.20 (4.74 S.D.). This compares with 33.83 (5.27) for California, 31.44 (5.83) for Australia (Study I), 32.45 (5.70) for England and 31.33 (5.64) for Scotland. Clearly, South Africans were the most highly achievement motivated of the five samples. The 't' for the comparison between the Californians and the South Africans (1,92) was significant on a one-tailed test only but when compared with the English (and a fortiori the Scots and the Australians) the South Africans obtained scores that were significantly higher at less than the .01 level (two-tailed). The 't' was 3.69. Since America's history of authoritarian treatment of blacks is well-known, greater similarity of their results to those of the South Africans was of course to be expected on the present hypothesis.

As far as authoritarian attitudes are concerned, the present study again failed to show any connection with achievement motivation. In general, then, we must conclude that any such relationship is at best evanescent.


The above studies allow the conclusion that when behaviourally valid and reliable scales of authoritarianism and achievement motivation are used, the two correlate substantially, significantly and reliably across cultures. It is also shown that there is on some occasion a relationship between achievement motivation and more traditional measures of authoritarian attitudes. This relationship however is not reliable from sample to sample and probably tells us more about the uncertain implications of F scale type items to people than it does about the real world. The fact is that on the largest sample employed -- of over 4,600 people -- such a relationship disappeared entirely. Against this, however, must be set the fact that a mail survey is generally less representative than a door-to-door survey. Study VI also had the useful function of giving some confirmation to the implicit assumption in the five previous studies that achievement motivation could validly be measured as a single global entity.

The correlations above between achievement motivation and behaviour inventories of authoritarianism are high enough on at least some occasions to suggest that in everyday life when we encounter someone who tends to behave in an authoritarian way, we should entertain the hypothesis that he does so, not because he is in any way psychologically sick (the consistently negative correlations with neuroticism effectively counterindicate that) but because he is achievement motivated.

In saying this, one is, of course, making a causal inference from correlational data. Such inferences concerning the direction of causation can only be justified on the basis of theory. The very basic theory being appealed to here then is that motivation should precede behaviour. In part at least however this is a rather verbal distinction and any theory claiming to show that authoritarianism also causes achievement motivation could not be entirely ruled out of court. It is of course customary at the present time to say that although causal theories cannot be tested by correlational data, causal models can be. The mechanism proposed for this is causal path analysis in one of its many forms. If this claim does seem meaningful, the beta weights from the regression analyses reported in Table 1 could be used as path coefficients.

This paper then comprises a further step in the program suggested in Ray (1976a). In that paper, grounds were given for believing that when authoritarianism is measured by instruments that are valid in predicting actual behaviour, none of the things are true of authoritarians that Adorno et al (1950) and their successors assert. We were left at the conclusion of that paper with no surviving explanation for authoritarianism. New explanations seemed called for. At least one such explanation has now been provided. Authoritarianism of behaviour may often be in our society an expression of achievement motivation. We manage and downgrade others in order to promote ourselves.

That this explanation extends even to an explanation of the institutional authoritarianism of South Africa is perhaps the most surprising outcome of the present paper. South Africa's authoritarian institutions are more readily seen as a response by whites to the stress of being outnumbered 4 to 1 by a less developed people. Authoritarianism as a response to stress has been studied at some length by Sales (1972 & 1973). Interestingly, the psychological differences shown among South Africans do not extend to their having a more authoritarian personality (Ray, 1980). As far as personality is concerned, it is achievement motivation, not authoritarianism that gives rise to South African authoritarian practices. It is now a commonplace that a direct relationship between attitudes and behaviour is too much to expect. The present results suggest that a direct relationship between personality and the type of social institution chosen may also be too simplistic. The behaviour of dominating others may not necessarily stem from wanting to dominate others. It may simply be a means to an end -- an end of material achievement.

On this account, then, rather than being the twisted souls that a psychodynamic theory of prejudice would lead us to expect, South Africans may in fact be just the sort of person that American businessmen most admire -- hard-driving, go-getting people who know the value of a dollar. Many people around the world are paying McClelland and others good money to become the sort of people that South Africans tend to be already (McClelland, 1976). Far from being twisted deviants, South Africans may be indistinguishable from the All-American boy.

All this, then, leads us back to the complex relationship that exists between attitudes, personality, motivation and environment. In the South African environment, although achievement motivation does lead to authoritarian interpersonal behaviour in general, the higher general levels of achievement motivation do not lead to higher general levels of authoritarian interpersonal behaviour because the authoritarian preferences of achievement motivated people are realized in an institutional rather than an interpersonal way. You do not have to work yourself at putting people in the place you prefer for them if the government is willing to do it for you. But the government in turn is only prepared to make this effort if it sees much larger issues at stake than the prosperity of a few. It is only where the very survival of the few seems threatened by the many that the repression of the many by the few is attempted. It can be seen then that a combination of psychological and sociological variables is needed if the South African situation is to be explained. What the present paper has suggested is that the particular variables required for this explanation may be rather different from the conceptions of the past.

It is proposed, then, that an important part of the enforced role differentiation between blacks and whites in South African society may be traceable to the high levels of achievement motivation among the whites. Without a strong motive to achieve, South African whites might never have developed any dispute with the blacks. Nor is the assumption of black-white differences of this kind entirely theoretical. In a study of differences between white and coloured employees using an only slightly modified version of the Ray-Lynn "AO" scale, Beezhold (1975) reported differences in the expected direction between the two groups that give rise to a 't' of 4.10 with 713 degrees of freedom (p <.001). Coloureds are of course only half African in origin so it is the direction of the difference rather than its magnitude that is of interest here. Strongly motivated people dominating more weakly motivated people would seem to have some validity as a description of the South African scene.

Both by way of correlations between scales and by way of the mean differences in motivation between societies, then, it has now been shown that if we see a person behaving in an authoritarian way, he may well be doing so simply out of a desire to achieve. It may well be that instead of being the sort of irrationally motivated person Adorno et al (1950) describe, the person who behaves in an authoritarian way towards others may instead simply be one of those go-getting people whom our society only faintly deplores and often admires. Authoritarianism may be only one step along the road to achievement. The desire to achieve does perhaps seem a more creditable motive than the desire to vent repressed hostility to one's father.


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

ATKINSON, J. W.: An introduction to motivation Princeton, N. J. : Van Nostrand, 1964.

BEEZHOLD, M. A.: A study of job orientation and motivation in different groups of white and coloured employees. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Stellenbosch, 1975.

BORGATTA, E. F.: The work components study: A set of measures for work motivation. J. Psychological Studies 1967, 16, 1-11.

BROWN, R. W.: A determinant of the relationship between rigidity and authoritarianism. J. Abnorm. Soc. Psych. 1953, 48, 469-4-76.

COSTELLO, C. A.: Two scales to measure achievement motivation. J. Psych, 1967, 66, 231-235.

DE CHARMS, R., MORRISON, H. W., REITMAN, R. 8G MCCLELLAND, D. C.: Behavioural correlates of directly and indirectly measured achievement motivation. In D. C. McClelland (Ed.) Studies in motivation. N.Y. : Appleton Century, 1955.

ENTWISLE, D. R.: To dispel fantasies about fantasy-based measures of achievement motivation. Psych. Bull. 1972, 77, 377-391.

FEATHERMAN, D. L.: The socio-economic achievement of white religio-ethnic sub-groups: Social and psychological explanations. Amer. Sociolog. Rev. 1971, 36, 207-222.

FRIIS, R. H. & KNOX, A. B.: A validity study of scales to measure need achievement, need affiliation, impulsiveness and intellectuality. Ed. Psych. Meas 1972, 32, 147-154.

GREENWALD, H. J. & SATOW, Y.: A short social desirability scale. Psych. Reports . 1970, 27,131-135.

HEAVEN, P. C. L.: Do authoritarians hold authoritarian attitudes? The case of South Africa. Journal of Psychology 1977, 95, 169-171.

JACKSON, D. N.: Personality research form manual. N.Y.: Research Psychologists Press, 1967.

LORR, M., SUZIEDELIS, A. & TONESK, X.: The structure of values: Conceptions of the desirable. J. Res. Pers. 1973, 7, 139-147.

MCCLELLAND, D. C.: Power is the great motivator. Harvard Business Review 1976, March-April, 100-110.

MARTIN. J. & RAY, J. J.: Anti-authoritarianism: An indicator of pathology Aust. J. Psychology, 1972, 24, 13-18.

MCREYNOLDS, P. & GUEVARA, C.: Attitudes of schizophrenics and normals towards success and failure. J. Abnorm. Soc. Psychol 1967, 72, 303-310.

McQUITTY, L. C.: Elementary factor analysis. Psych. Reports 1961, 9, 71-75.

RAY, J.J. (1970) Christianism.... The Protestant ethic among unbelievers. J. Christian Education, 13, 169-176.

RAY, J.J. (1971) An "Attitude to Authority" scale. Australian Psychologist, 6, 31-50.

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

RAY, J.J. (1973a) Task orientation and interaction orientation scales. Personnel Psychology 26, 61-73.

RAY, J.J. (1973b) Factor analysis and attitude scales. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Sociology 9(3), 11-13.

RAY, J.J. (1974) Conservatism as heresy Sydney: A.N.Z. Book Co.

RAY, J.J. (1975) A behavior inventory to measure achievement motivation. J. Social Psychology 95, 135-136.

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

RAY, J.J. (1980a) The comparative validity of Likert, projective and forced-choice indices of achievement motivation. J. Social Psychology, 111, 63-72.

RAY, J.J. (1980b) Authoritarianism in California 30 years later -- with some cross-cultural comparisons. Journal of Social Psychology, 111, 9-17.

SALES, S. M.: Authoritarianism. Psychology Today 1972, 6, 94ff.

SALES, S. M.: Threat as a factor in authoritarianism. J. Personality & Social Psychol. 1973, 28, 44-57.

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

WEINSTEIN, M. S.: Achievement motivation and risk preference. J. Pers. & Social Psychol. 1969, 13, 153-172.


The items of the short form of the Ray-Lynn AO scale. Response options are "yes" (scored 3), "?" (scored 2), "No" (scored 1). Items marked "R" are to be reverse-scored (e.g. "1" becomes "3") before addition to get the overall score.

1. Is being comfortable more important to you than getting ahead? R
2. Are you satisfied to be no better than most other people at your job? R
3. Do you like to make improvement to the way the organization you belong to functions?
4. Do you take trouble to cultivate people who may be useful to you in your career?
5. Do you get restless and annoyed when you feel you are wasting time?
6. Have you always worked hard in order to be among the best in your own line? (school, organization, profession).
7. Would you prefer to work with a congenial but incompetent partner rather than with a difficult but highly competent one? R
8. Do you tend to plan ahead for your job or career?
9. Is "getting on in life" important to you?
10. Are you an ambitious person?
11. Are you inclined to read of the successes of other rather than do the work of making yourself a success? R
12. Would you describe yourself as being lazy? R
13. Will days often go by without your having done a thing? R
14. Are you inclined to take life as it comes without much planning?


The items of the Directiveness scale. Short form only as used in Study III and Study IV. See Ray (1976) for full-length form. Response is "Yes" (scored 3) "?" (scored 2) "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?


*This chapter was written especially for the volume.


Later articles by J.J. Ray relevant to the matters discussed above are as under:

Ray, J.J. (1984) The reliability of short social desirability scales. Journal of Social Psychology, 123, 133-134.

Ray, J.J. (1984) Achievement motivation as a source of racism, conservatism and authoritarianism. Journal of Social Psychology 123, 21-28

Ray, J.J. (Unpublished) Perceptions of the authoritarian as achievement-motivated

It may also be worth noting that later work by Burger (1985) also found similar results. He found that a "desirability of for control" scale predicted various measures of achievement motivation among a group of students.

Reference Burger, J.M. (1985) Desire for control and achievement-related behaviors. J. Personality & Social Psychology, 48 (6), 1520-1533.

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 and 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.

Go to Index page for this site

Go to John Ray's "Tongue Tied" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Dissecting Leftism" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Australian Politics" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Gun Watch" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Education Watch" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Socialized Medicine" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Political Correctness Watch" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Greenie Watch" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Food & Health Skeptic" blog (Backup here)
Go to John Ray's "Leftists as Elitists" blog (Not now regularly updated -- Backup here)
Go to John Ray's "Marx & Engels in their own words" blog (Not now regularly updated -- Backup here)
Go to John Ray's "A scripture blog" (Not now regularly updated -- Backup here)
Go to John Ray's recipe blog (Not now regularly updated -- Backup here or or here)

Go to John Ray's Main academic menu
Go to Menu of recent writings
Go to John Ray's basic home page
Go to John Ray's pictorial Home Page (Backup here)
Go to Selected pictures from John Ray's blogs (Backup here)
Go to Another picture page (Best with broadband)