It is noted that the authoritarian personality theory of Adorno et al is now
seldom referred to in race relations research and that the scale used to operationalize
the theory (the F scale) is a very poor measure of what it purports to measure (Right-wing
authoritarianism). The F scale does have many correlates, however, and the work of Pflaum
is referred to support the contention that the F scale in fact taps an old-fashioned
orientation. A large correlational study by Kline & Cooper is reinterpreted in this
light and it is shown that when pejorative assumptions are discarded, the old-fashioned
person would appear to have many potentially admirable characteristics. The new
understanding of what the F scale measures is also shown to be helpful in making sense of
the findings from many other studies.
What the 'F' scale measures
Although devised as a means of explaining racism, the authoritarian
personality theory of Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson & Sanford (1950) is now
little used for that purpose. Current research into race relations or intergroup relations
tends to give it at best token mention (e.g. Doise, 1985; Cobas, 1986; Sniderman &
Tetlock, 1986; Brewer & Kramer, 1985; Messick & Mackie, 1989). This seems to be
because group loyalty is now generally seen as a universal human attribute rather than as
an attribute of deviants only. In the words of one elementary textbook writer,
ethnocentrism and stereotyping are "universal ineradicable psychological
processes" (Brown, 1986. See also Tajfel & Fraser, 1978). Another reason for
disregarding the Adorno et al work is that its chief measuring instrument (the F scale)
and key to the theory has been repeatedly shown as invalid. It does not predict
authoritarian behavior (Titus & Hollander, 1957; Titus, 1968; Altemeyer, 1981; Ray
& Lovejoy, 1983) and it is a poor predictor of political Rightism. In general
population samples, many Leftist voters get high scores on it (Hanson, 1975; Ray, 1973b,
1983c, 1984 & 1985a).
Although this is a considerable record of failure, it only tells
part of the story. The other side is of course the fact that vast numbers of articles have
been published wherein the F scale has been shown to have significant relationships with
other variables. The F scale may not measure what it purports to measure but it does
measure something that seems to have an effect on many other variables. But what could
this be? If the scale does not measure what it was devised to measure, is it likely that
it adventitiously measures something else? If it does not measure authoritarianism or
political conservatism, what could it measure that would produce the relationships
We do of course have Gabennesch's (1972) suggestion that a high F
score represents narrowness of world-view and a narrow breadth of perspective but this
would seem to come rather close to equating authoritarianism with lack of education and
the correlations between F scale score and education are not generally high and have even
been on some occasions non-significant (See Table 1 in Ray, 1983a and also the -.047
correlation discussed under a later heading in this paper). There may therefore be some
tendency for F scale scorers to be as Gabennesch characterizes them but that is surely not
the whole of what the F scale measures.
Aside from the Gabennesch work, however, no systematic investigation
of alternatives to authoritarianism as an explanation of what the F scale measures appears
to have been so far attempted in the literature (though I have mentioned in passing the
proposal to be explored here on a number of previous occasions. See e.g. Ray, 1983c, 1987
and 1988), but there is fortunately on record one finding that gives a very strong clue
about what the answer might be. Pflaum (1964) showed that a parallel form of the 'F' scale
could be produced from collections of myths and superstitions that had been popular in the
1920's. Now this is very strong data indeed. If Pflaum had simply shown that the 'F' scale
correlated with assent to popular myths and superstitions of the past, that could simply
be written off as just another interesting finding of uncertain implication. The
correlations Pflaum found, however, were so high that they enabled claims that a parallel
form of the 'F' scale had been found. Pflaum has therefore made an explicit discovery
about what the F scale consists of. It is a collection of old-fashioned myths and
superstitions or statements that strongly resemble them. Hartmann (1977) described the 'F'
scale as a collection of "Victorian" values (no doubt Biedemeyer values in the
German case) so the culture that produced 'F' scale type sentiments may go back even
earlier than the 1920's. At any event, it is clear that the attitudes expressed in the 'F'
scale were old-fashioned even when the 'F' scale was compiled. How much more old-fashioned
they must be today! That they are is also shown by the fact that the F scale always seems
to correlate with age (e.g. Meloen, Hagendoorn, Raaijmakers & Visser, 1988). Older
people tend to get higher scores on it.
Another piece of work which supports this interpretation of the F
scale is the finding by Alwin (1988) to the effect that the ideals for child behavior in
the U.S.A. have changed a lot since the 1920's. In the 20's conformity and obedience to
authority were what was expected of children. In present times, however, this is replaced
by values directed toward the child being more autonomous. So what do we find in the F
scale? About a third of the items stress the importance of authority in general and
several specifically advocate obedience to authority by young people -- exactly what we
would expect of a scale embodying 1920's values. Putting it another way, the pro-authority
content of the F scale is an important part of its "old-fashionedness".
Koomen (1972) has also documented (for both Germany and the United
States) the authoritarian nature of child-rearing practices in the 1920's and 1930's. In
short, a high 'F' scorer is not a Fascist but rather someone who is still lost in the
culture of the pre-war era. He or she tends to be "old-fashioned". Since
Hitler's Nazism did strongly tend to romanticize the past and perhaps took some of its
values from the past, some understanding of how the two variables got mixed up would seem
possible. Adorno et al heard various expressions of attitude from various sources in
California that sounded to them like what they had heard from Hitler. They mistakenly
assumed that the old-fashioned people who uttered these statements must also be like
Hitler. They did, of course attempt to substantiate their suspicions empirically but their
methods for doing so have long ago been shown as prejudging the question (Christie &
Jahoda, 1954; McKinney, 1973; Ray, 1973a). In other words, the "authoritarian"
was essentially a case of mistaken identity -- unless, of course, someone wishes to
propose that all old-fashioned people are Nazis.
Surely, however, no-one would propose that all old-fashioned people
are Nazis. Nor is it clear, in fact, that the Nazis were old-fashioned. They may have
romanticized the past but their military doctrine and technology, for instance, were very
advanced for the times -- as their several years of initial military success showed
(Dupuy, 1986). In the non-military sphere, too, many Nazi preoccupations seem even today
to be startlingly modern -- beliefs in whole-grain bread, holistic medicine, ecology etc.
(Proctor, 1988). Proctor (1988) also points out that even Nazi ideas of racial hygiene
were and are essentially "normal" science in the Kuhnian sense. Nazism and being
old-fashioned are, then, clearly far from being one and the same. What being old-fashioned
implies, then, must be studied in its own right. The problem of value-judgments At this
point it would be easy to conduct some new research with the F scale that was guided by
this new understanding of what it measures. Given the vast volume of extant research with
the 'F' scale, however, this would surely be a wasteful strategy. Could not one or many of
the existing studies of the scale be re-used to give us any information we need? It is
proposed here that such re-interpretation can usefully be done and some attempts at it by
way of example will be made. Before this can be done, however, a very important caveat has
to be entered. It needs to be pointed out that the implications of 'F' scale research have
never really been straightforward and that interpretation has always been needed before
any conclusions were drawn.
This can perhaps best be seen if it is realized that (Brown, 1965)
the origin of the authoritarian personality concept lies not with Adorno et al (1950) but
rather with the Nazi psychologist Jaensch (1938) -- who appears to have initiated the
suggestion that variables from the psychology of perception could be used to index or
explain personality. His 'J Type' (later called "authoritarian") had strong,
clear, unambiguous perceptions and Jaensch presented this as being obviously desirable.
The 'J Type' became, then, the Nazi ideal. Perhaps rather surprisingly, the group of
Left-wing Jewish psychologists (Adorno et al, 1950) who first undertook the task of
explaining Nazi-type character in the post-war era, appear to have accepted the Nazi
theory with little change. They adopted the judgments of their oppressors (or would-be
oppressors). Cf Bettelheim (1943). The main (inevitable?) amendment they made to the
theory was to reverse the value judgments. Tolerance of ambiguity became desirable where
it previously had been seen as undesirable. The seeking of a simple conceptual world
Yet can it coherently be suspect? Ever since Einstein first
attempted it, the Holy Grail of modern physics has been the search for a "unified
field theory" -- i.e. a simple explanation which integrates the explanation of all
the forces in the universe into a single theory. Physicists want to simplify their
conceptual world. Yet on a strict application of the Adorno et al account are not Einstein
and all his successors simply showing their personal inadequacy by their search for
simplicity? That is surely obvious nonsense. The truth, of course, is that both the desire
for simplicity and tolerance of ambiguity can be adaptive from time to time and from
circumstance to circumstance. We cannot oversimplify by saying that one or the other is
overall more valuable, adaptive or praiseworthy. Welsh (1981) recognizes this when he
systematically presents preference for structure and order as merely an alternative to its
opposite rather than as some sort of inferior orientation.
With the need for caution about value-judgments in mind, we may then
perhaps look at a recent large study by Kline & Cooper (1984). In this study a large
number of possible correlates of the 'F' scale were surveyed. The relationships observed
should, then, tell us something about the current correlates of being old-fashioned. While
being old-fashioned could be formally defined as: "Having attitudes, values, outlooks
and practices characteristic of the past" or some such, this does not tell us much
about just what those attitudes, values and practices actually are at the present time.
The Kline & Cooper study should help us to find out. It should help give us an
operational definition of "old-fashioned". To begin, we might perhaps look at
what Kline & Cooper themselves thought that they had found. They claimed that their
results showed that "authoritarians" are conscientious, conventional,
conservative, and controlled, with high will-power. They also found that
"authoritarians" were "anal" and low scorers on Eysenck's 'P' scale.
The pejorative tone of this description may be noted.
Since we now know that the study of high 'F' scale scorers is not
synonymous with the study of political villains, however, any pejorative preconceptions
concerning what was found may be set aside. Instead, it seems reasonable to say that Kline
& Cooper showed that old-fashioned people at the present time are especially
"nice" to others (i.e. low scorers on the Eysenck "P" scale),
forceful, conscientious, conservative and inclined to perfectionism with good
self-control. It will be noted that this description is not notably pejorative and may
even be slightly laudatory. What was presented by Kline & Cooper (1984) as confirming
the Adorno et al theory need bear no such interpretation at all. It is, however,
interesting information about old-fashioned people.
An example of where the Kline & Cooper findings need
reinterpretation is in the case of the Freudian term "anal". While there may be
some justification for using such an offensive label with clinical populations, it is
surely much less suitable for use and potentially misleading with normal populations. The
scale used to measure this attribute is now out of print and Kline did not respond to a
request for a copy of it so one cannot be absolutely sure what it measures but the
proposal above that it be said to measure "perfectionism" is unlikely to be too
wide of the mark. Such a label would at least contain a better balance between positive
and negative connotations. People such as scientists may be in considerable need of the
tendency to give obsessive attention to detail. Such attention may even be needed for
scientific progress. To characterize it in uniformly pejorative ways is surely therefore
One finding that even Kline & Cooper saw a need to reinterpret
was their finding that "authoritarians" were especially low scorers on the
Eysenck 'P' scale. The simplest interpretation of this finding is that
"authoritarians" are especially sane. Such a conclusion is, of course, very
upsetting to the Adorno et al theory. What the Eysenck 'P' scale measures, however, is not
at all obvious. Despite the name it is not simply a measure of Psychoticism and Eysenck
himself proposes that in normal populations the scale measures
"tough-mindedness" (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1976). The scale is, however, a
factor analytic product and, like most such, can be interpreted in a variety of ways. In
the present context the alternative might be considered that the 'P' scale measures
whether or not people are "nice" to one-another. Thus Kline & Cooper appear
to have found that old-fashioned people are "nicer" than other people. Since it
appears to be a common occurrence today that people look back to the past as a time of
greater civility, this would be an eminently understandable finding. The new understanding
of what the 'F' scale measures turns a troublesome finding into something much more easily
The other Kline & Cooper variables that have been renamed need
no elaborate explanation. Kline & Cooper rely heavily in their work on the Cattell
"16PF" and the naming of those scales has always been to some extent
problematical. The fact that Cattell himself had to invent or disinter many words to name
his scales ("surgency", "rhathymia" etc.) is fairly clear evidence of
that. There certainly need to be no pejorative assumptions concerning their implications.
It is in the end all a matter of interpretation and no-one can be dogmatic either way.
It seems at least possible, however, that being old-fashioned could
be quite creditable. Old-fashioned people do not sound very difficult to live with. Being
conscientious and self-controlled could be overdone but surely many of modern society's
ills (e.g. violent crime, welfare cheating) would seem to stem from a deficiency in such
Reinterpreting other studies
It seems of interest to note that similar reinterpretation exercises
performed with other sets of data available in the literature also yield improved
insights. Maier & Lavrakas (1984), for instance, found a relationship between 'F'
scale score and sex-typed body ideals. This suggests that it is old-fashioned to idealize
a muscular physique among males. Since human muscle has been supplanted by machines in so
many ways since the Second World war, this finding would seem an expected one. If muscle
is less important, it should be less idealized. What seems at first like an obscure
finding about authoritarianism becomes instead a readily understandable finding about what
has become old-fashioned.
Similarly, Kelley (1985) found that high 'F' scorers tended more
than others to dislike being shown pictures of masturbation. An elaborate interpretation
of this finding in terms of the psychodynamic processes described by Adorno et al is, of
course, possible but a much more straightforward interpretation is that sexual prudery is
old-fashioned. Given the great liberalization of sexual attitudes since "the
Pill", this too fits in well with what is already known. Fisher et al (1988) also
report prudery among high F scorers. The finding by Larsen, Reed & Hoffman (1980) to
the effect that high F scorers (old-fashioned people) dislike homosexuals is, of course,
also similarly explained. Homosexuals were once so disfavoured that homosexuality was
almost universally illegal. Now they are generally tolerated and may even be accepted. So
it is old-fashioned nowadays to decry homosexuality -- which the Larsen, Reed &
Hoffman data confirm.
One study with the F scale that seems of considerable potential
importance is one by Mercer & Kohn (1980). These authors relate
"authoritarianism" to adolescent drug abuse. They find that young adolescents
with high F scores are less likely to take recreational drugs. As this seems a clear
instance of "authoritarianism" being highly adaptive it must have been something
of a bitter pill for anyone accepting the Adorno et al (1950) view of authoritarianism as
being highly maladaptive. As it is, however, the finding simply shows that it is a mainly
modern phenomenon to make regular use of illicit drugs.
Since drug abuse does appear to have spiralled in recent years, this
is an eminently understandable finding. We may however regret that it is now old-fashioned
to make no use of recreational drugs. Perhaps a final study that should be reinterpreted
here is one by Siegel & Mitchell (1979). These authors did at least use a form of the
F scale that was balanced against acquiescent bias. These authors conducted a mock-jury
study in which the effect of juror authoritarianism (among other things) on final verdict
The findings include many complicated interactions so are not easy
to summarize and a further complication is that much that was true for males was not true
for females and vice versa but some effects can nonetheless be descried.
The facts of the case presented to the jurors were that a drug
pusher had been caught "red-handed" by the police. The results showed that males
scoring high on the F scale were more certain of the defendant's guilt than were high F
females. Since it was hard in the circumstances for certainty not to be high, this seems
to mean that the high F (but not low F) females were influenced by compassion in their
judgments. Old-fashioned women were more compassionate than their men? It seems
reasonable. It was further found that high F scorers were more punitive to a person of low
moral character than to a person of generally high character. Low F scorers did not
differentiate in terms of character. This suggests that it is modern to ignore morality
and character. As this is an age where all values are challenged that would seem to fit in
with what we know of modern times. It was also found that high F males rated the defendant
as less honest. This suggests that it is modern to see drug-dealing as honest. Drugs
certainly do seem to have much more acceptance now than they once did so this makes good
sense of the findings.
South African data
One study that needs only minor elaboration is the work of Duckitt
(1983) in South Africa. Duckitt found that authoritarian personality, social class and
various demographic variables were poor predictors of F scale score but that being of an
Afrikaner or English-speaking background had a big effect. As the Afrikaners, with their
strict Calvinistic Protestantism, are a notably old-fashioned group in all sorts of ways,
their high F scores represent good confirmation for the present theory.
It will be noted that all the studies that have been reinterpreted
above were published in the ten-year period from 1979 to 1988. Others could have been
mentioned and there certainly is a host of earlier studies (e.g. Garcia & Griffitt
(1978) but it is hoped that enough has been said to show how they too could be
reinterpreted should the need arise.
Racial attitudes and the F scale
What about the relationship between the 'F' scale and racial
attitudes? Is that now to be challenged too? Not at all. The prediction of expressed
racial attitudes provided by the 'F' scale is surely one of the most frequently replicated
findings in the whole of psychology (though there have been odd exceptions e.g. McAbee
& Cafferty, 1982). Hardly a year goes by without it being rediscovered and those who
make the rediscovery tend to present it as important support for the Adorno et al theory
(e.g. Meloen et al, 1988). It is of course nothing of the kind. It simply shows that it is
now old-fashioned to make public avowals of racial sentiment. Such avowals were common and
respectable before World War II but once the horror of Hitler's genocide attempt became
known, they rapidly became very un-respectable. Nowadays, if you are going to support
racist policies, it helps to be living in the past.
If writers such as Meloen et al (1988) believe that it is the
pro-authority content of the 'F' scale that enables its prediction of racial attitudes,
what do they make of the finding by Heaven (1983) to the effect that a scale with equal
numbers of pro-authority and anti-authority items (scored so that assent to any item
earned a high score) also gave a highly significant prediction of racial attitudes? If it
is pro-authority content that predicts racial attitudes, should not the scale's
anti-authority items have cancelled that out and caused the scale overall not to correlate
with racial attitudes? How, then, do we explain Heaven's finding? Why did he score his
pro-and anti-authority items the same anyway? He did so because he was measuring
acquiescent response bias according to a schema that has often been advocated by the
present writer (e.g. Ray, 1983b) and which has recently been supported by Davison &
Srichantra (1988). Authors such as Meloen et al who use one-way worded versions of the 'F'
scale ignore a great deal of evidence (e.g. Roberts, Forthofer & Fabrega, 1976; Ray
& Pratt, 1979; Ray, 1983b & 1985b; Vagt & Wendt, 1978; Peabody, 1966; Jackson,
1967; Campbell, Siegman & Rees, 1967; Milbrath, 1962) to the effect that acquiescence
can be a seriously distorting influence and can have correlates of its own. In Heaven's
study the pro- and anti-authority items, far from being responded to in opposite ways,
were in fact uncorrelated. The scale lacked meaningful internal consistency.
Scores on it, therefore, simply measure acquiescence. Respondents
got a high score for "Yes", regardless of the meaning of the item. Heaven
showed, in other words, that scores on a scale of acquiescent bias predict scores on a
balanced scale of racial attitudes. Both old-fashionedness and carelessness (if that is
what underlies acquiescent bias) predict racial attitudes. Not all the prediction of
racial attitudes given by the 'F' scale is the outcome of its one-way-worded form,
however. This is shown by the fact that successfully balanced forms of the 'F' scale (i.e.
forms where the pro-authority and anti-authority items do correlate significantly
negatively and are scored oppositely) also predict racial attitudes. The correlations with
racial attitudes shown by balanced scales are, however, much lower than those reported by
Adorno et al (Ray, 1980). In other words, the original 'F' scale has a particularly high
correlation with racial attitudes because it taps two important sources of expressed
racial attitudes -- carelessness about what you say and an old-fashioned orientation.
Controlling out the carelessness does however still leave a good measure of old-fashioned
attributes and this too predicts racial attitudes -- though not as strongly as a measure
that adds in other predictors as well.
It may also be worth noting at this point that knowing predictors of
avowed racial dislikes may tell us nothing about the predictors of actual racism or racist
behavior (La Piere, 1934; Crosby, Bromley & Saxe, 1980; Rule, Haley & McCormack,
1971). One study that may reflect this is by Stephan & Rosenfield (1978). As we have
seen, "authoritarian" attitudes generally predict anti-black attitudes.
Stephan & Rosenfield (1978), however, found that schoolchildren
who had been subjected to "authoritarian" child-rearing practices tended to show
(r = .33. See Table 2) the greatest increases in inter-ethnic contact after a
desegregation program came into force. This is clearly troubling. It is so contrary to
expectation that even the authors of the study seemed not to notice the sign of the
correlation. When I wrote to one of them about it, he acknowledged the anomaly but could
offer no explanation for it. We have however noticed some tendency in the studies so far
reviewed for old-fashioned people to be "nicer" towards others in various ways.
Could it be that this "niceness" was a stronger determinant of actions towards
minorities than was the evaluative judgments held concerning those minorities? Was
old-fashioned courtesy more significant than old-fashioned openness about racial
judgments? In the absence of other explanations, it seems worth considering.
Another study that bears on the attitude/behaviour distinction is by
Katz & Benjamin (1960). These authors noted that very little had been done to find out
how high F scorers actually behaved towards blacks and set out to remedy the deficit. They
conducted a small group study in which various tasks had to be carried out co-operatively.
Each group had two blacks and two whites and the whites were one high and one low scorer
on the F scale. It was found that the high F whites (the "authoritarians")
accepted black suggestions more and that, presumably as a consequence, the blacks were
more assertive and more co-operative back. The high F whites also changed their behaviour
more than low scorers in order to accommodate situational changes brought about by the
experimenters. They were in a word, more flexible. The negroes saw the low F scorers as
less co-operative. Katz & Benjamin made an attempt to explain away these results but
it is surely clear that the results are the exact reverse of what the Adorno et al theory
would predict. The results are, however, very much in accord with the Stephan &
Rosenfield (1978) results mentioned above and can be explained in a similar way. Once
again we see evidence for the "niceness" of old-fashioned people. As the thing
that we most reliably know about high F scorers is that they are more ready to avow
racially negative attitudes this work also highlights yet again the folly of inferring
behaviour from attitudes (Cf. La Piere, 1934; Crosby, Bromley & Saxe, 1980; Rule,
Haley & McCormack, 1971).
Old-fashioned orientation in the general population
The research so far discussed has shown the explanatory power of the
new conceptualization of what the 'F' scale measures but only the research by Heaven
(1983) was based on general population sampling. As is often the case in psychology,
students were the predominant source of the data analyzed. This is not entirely
satisfactory (Sears, 1982).
The picture of the old-fashioned person that we derive from (say)
Kline & Cooper (1984) may not be accurate as a description of old-fashioned people in
the population at large. A general population survey that used a successful balanced form
of the 'F' scale will therefore be described. The correlates of old-fashionedness will
thus be studied with no influence from acquiescent response bias present. The study has
previously been described in Study II, Ch. 43 of Ray (1974) and Ray (1973b) -- where
fuller details may be found. Briefly, however, it was a random doorstep survey of the
Australian city of Sydney. N = 118. The Balanced 'F' (BF) scale showed that old-fashioned
people tended to be older (r = .218), in humbler occupations (-.304), were equally likely
to be male or female (.031), could have any level of education (-.047), were equally
likely to vote Leftist or Rightist (.097), might or might not be alienated (-.020) and
tended to accept that aggression was inevitable in life (.254).
There were other correlations with political conservatism (.519),
social conservatism (.717), moral conservatism (.580), attitude to authority (.539) and
Dogmatism (.617) but one must ask to what degree these might be artifactual. Adorno et al
used many items that express admiration of authority in their scale so the correlation
between the BF scale and the AA (attitude to authority) scale is obviously artifactual.
Clearly, the BF scale must to some degree measure (at least verbal) acceptance of some
kinds of authority as well as old-fashioned orientation. Interestingly, however, the AA
scale does not predict racism (Ray, 1984) so the pro-authority aspect of the 'F' scale is
not what leads it to predict racism. This is, of course, the exact reverse of what Adorno
et al thought.
It should be noted that the sort of attitude to authority measured
by the 'F' scale does not appear to have behavioral implications. Both the original 'F'
scale and the BF scale do not appear to predict any sort of authoritarian behavior (Titus,
1968; Ray & Lovejoy, 1983). The attitude to authority component of what the 'F' scale
measures should not therefore be a serious confound when the scale is being used to
measure old-fashioned orientation.
In the light of the fact that the BF scale does not predict general
population vote (a finding also common with the original form of the 'F' scale. See
Hanson, 1975), the correlations with the conservatism scales also begin to look suspect.
Is being old-fashioned necessarily to be conservative? Certainly in one respect it is not.
The BF scale correlated only .102 (N.S.) with the scale of economic conservatism.
Lipset (1959 & 1960) has, however, claimed that conservatism on economic questions
(redistribution of the wealth etc.) is differently determined from conservatism in other
areas so this might not be an important exception. See also Felling & Peters (1986)
and Himmelweit, Humphreys, Jaeger & Katz (1981 pp. 138/9). It has been shown (Ray,
1973a) that acceptance of conventional authority has always been an important part of
conservative ideology so perhaps any scale that measures acceptance of authority is also
thereby measuring acceptance of conservative philosophy. Certainly, the AA scale also
correlated highly with the conservatism scales. Would a scale of old-fashioned outlook
that did not include pro-authority items also predict conservatism of ideology? Only
further research could tell.
The implications of the correlation between the BF and BD (balanced
Dogmatism) scale are also not as clear as they might at first seem. What the Rokeach
(1960) Dogmatism scale measures (if anything) is very much open to question (Ray, 1979)
but perhaps it too might be substantially old-fashioned to modern ears.
That there may be a variety of scales that to different degrees
express an old-fashioned orientation is perhaps also suggested by a study in which Ray
(1985c) looked at the demographic correlates of a variety of measures of conservatism and
related concepts. Some of these measures correlated little with age of the respondent and
some correlated strongly. The scale that showed the strongest correlation (.51) with age
was derived primarily from the Eysenck (1954) 'R' scale and the Lentz et al (1935) C-R
scale. The composition of both scales was influenced by pre-World War II issues so this is
not inherently surprising. It does however help to explain findings such as De Man's
(1985). De Man found that high scorers on the Eysenck 'R' scale
("conservatives") perceived their parents as less permissive and more
controlling. In other words, permissiveness is modern. Once again a finding of some
apparent theoretical interest turns out to be in fact much more mundane.
An objection to the present account
As was mentioned at the outset of this paper, the idea that the F
scale measures an old-fashioned outlook rather than authoritarianism has previously been
mentioned in passing in the literature even if it has not been given the thorough
examination attempted here. For this reason, there is already one objection to the idea in
print. This is in the form of a short paper by Kelley (1989) responding to my critique
(see also above) of an earlier paper by her (Kelley, 1985). If the strength of a theory
can be gauged by the weakness of the objections to it, however, the present theory must be
a very strong one. Kelley touches on a number of areas wherein she believes that the data
supports the F scale as measuring authoritarianism but does so in a very selective manner.
Other studies in the areas she explores that conflict with her conception of what the F
scale measures are simply ignored. It would seem that the many authors who have questioned
the validity of the F scale (e.g. Christie & Jahoda, 1954; McKinney, 1973; Altemeyer,
1981) wrote in vain as far as Kelley is concerned.
For instance, she mentions that some high F scorers have been found
to prefer conservative political candidates and that some neo-Nazis and John Birchers have
been found to have high F scores but she ignores the fact mentioned above to the effect
that many people in the general population have high F scores and that even people who
vote for Leftist candidates often have high F scores (Hanson, 1975; Ray, 1973, 1983c and
1984). Old-fashioned people in the general population (and even to some extent among
students) simply have a variety of political orientations. They are certainly not all
Rightists and, in at least some general population samples, they are not even
predominantly Rightists. Furthermore, even if high F scale scorers in the general
population were predominantly Rightist voters, that would hardly suffice as a
demonstration that the F scale measured authoritarianism.
One would have thought that no-one now would need to have pointed
out to them that both Leftists and Rightists on the world scene can be either
authoritarian or non-authoritarian. It apparently suits Kelley's politics to see a vote
for Lyndon Baines Johnson as pro-authoritarian but the fact of the matter is that
President Johnson was the popular and democratically elected leader of one of the world's
most democratic countries who relinquished power at a constitutionally proper time. An
admiration of Mao, Castro or the pre-Gorbachev Soviet system, on the other hand would be
rather more clearly pro-authoritarian.
Kelley (1989) goes on to point out that in her earlier study
(Kelley, 1985) high F scorers were not particularly prudish in responding to erotica
except that they showed a greater dislike of being shown pictures of "same-sex
masturbation" than did low scorers. Kelley fairly reasonably explains the general
lack of prudishness in this area on the part of high F scorers by proposing that erotica
and masturbation are as old as the hills and that the culture of the past also therefore
featured them. What she fails to explain, however, is the one exception she found. She
fails to explain that her high F scorers were more prudish in responding to pictures of
"same-sex masturbation". Finding an explanation for it in terms of the present
theory, however, is not at all difficult. One simply has to associate "same-sex
masturbation" with homosexuality to make the connection. As has already been
mentioned, homosexuality has only recently gained some degree of social acceptability so
anything associated with it in people's minds should be disliked by old-fashioned people.
Kelley's work does nothing, therefore, to upset the present account of what the F scale
A great deal of data has been surveyed and the inevitable
complexities have arisen but throughout it all, it has been obvious that a view of the 'F'
scale as primarily a measure of old-fashioned orientation has considerable explanatory
force. It may be, of course, that having an "old-fashioned orientation" is not
the most ultimately accurate way of characterizing high F scale scorers. That they could
also fairly reasonably be characterized by related descriptions such as "cultural
traditionalists" or "cultural conservatives" is admitted. "Old
fashioned" would, however seem to be a simpler characterization so is perhaps to be
preferred under the principle of parsimony. The many correlates of the scale also suggest
that this orientation is an important one for study. There must be a great range in the
degree to which and the rate at which people absorb what is new so the variable may be one
of the more important for understanding individuals. Now that it is clear that we have at
least one measure of it, there will hopefully be much future research in the field.
Future researchers should however take care to use only balanced
forms of the 'F' scale (e.g. Ray, 1972). Most of the existing literature is based on
one-way worded versions of the scale and is, as such, generally unrewarding to attempt to
interpret. Any given correlation could be due either to the old-fashioned character of the
items or to their direction of wording. Research of such uncertain implication hardly
seems worth doing.
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