What Does It Mean To Have An Authoritarian Personality?
The word “authoritarian” has sometimes been used to describe politics or parenting styles. Authoritarian parenting describes a parent who holds rigid ideals and structures and demands that children in the home follow those structures and embody those ideals. Authoritarian personalities are similar. People embodying authoritarian personalities often have high standards for themselves and others and expect those standards to be met at every opportunity. To understand what it means to have this personality type, looking at examples of the traits can be helpful.
Authoritarianism: Roots and current expressions
The theories surrounding authoritarianism have roots in the 1950s when mental health professionals and researchers sought to understand more about what leads people to commit atrocities and what markers indicate the presence of personality traits that can be measured and identified as possible links to violence, abuse of power, war, and lawlessness.
At its outset, research into authoritarianism was measured according to the “F scale,” also called the fascist scale. It comprised nine specific traits that could measure the likelihood of an individual leaning toward fascism or totalitarian behavior. Although the work was, in its time, considered a unique work, much of its methodology has been criticized, and its conclusions have not been found to have a scientific base. The way traits were evaluated and measured was one cause of this conclusion. The “F scale” is conducted via question-and-answer format. It does not cross-reference other known indicators of psychopathic or potentially harmful traits, making it easy to “fool” the test.
Currently, the original work delving into authoritarianism, titled “The Authoritarian Personality,” which was released in 1950, is regarded as an essential peek into the fusion of psychology and political ideology. However, it may not be entirely reliable either. Current research into authoritarian personality types and what they might yield focuses on the personality traits that have consistently been tied to law-breaking behavior, such as rigidity and lack of empathy.
Commonalities among authoritarian personalities
Although the original theories surrounding authoritarian personalities are not considered the final say on the subject, there may be interest in investigating these personality traits and how they can influence behavior. Current evaluations of authoritarian personalities often focus on several components, including the following.
Strict adherence to conventional values
Conventional values are often aligned with specific political ideologies and socioeconomic backgrounds. However, conventional values vary from place to place. For this reason, the rigidity of adherence to those values makes an individual an authoritarian personality rather than the values themselves. From culture to culture, conventional values differ, which means that from culture to culture, authoritarian personalities differ.
Deference toward those considered authority figures
Deference toward authority figures is another trait found in authoritarian personalities. Deference often means accepting the mandates or decrees of people in authority without question. This trait can be problematic if the authority figure suggests illegal, unhealthy, or inappropriate practices or ideals. This trait may be common in some people living in dictatorships.
Insistence on obedience from people of “lower” status
Authoritarian personalities often create hierarchies wherein they and those like them are at the top, and anyone who disagrees with their way of life or ideas is at the bottom. People with these personality types may believe they “deserve” obedience from people they consider beneath them.
Hostility toward people from different belief systems or backgrounds
In addition to demanding obedience, authoritarian personalities may demonstrate hostility toward people from other backgrounds or belief systems. Hostility can come in the form of physical violence, including bullying and mocking.
These traits are linked to authoritarian personalities and may point to the likelihood of an individual engaging in unhealthy behaviors with others, including bullying and demeaning. Authoritarian personality traits do not always precede these behaviors, but some practitioners have found identifying these traits helpful in predicting or explaining behavior.
If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788. You can also use the online chat.
Criticisms of the authoritarian theory
It may seem that psychology professionals unanimously support authoritarian personalities and that this personality can unequivocally point to people who might become problematic with the law. However, this may not be the case, as there is some debate about the validity of the authoritarian personality as it was initially developed. Far from personality traits, these are responses to different occurrences throughout an individual’s life.
Criticisms of the theory have also focused on the political leanings of the original work and its series of questions. Authoritarian traits can be found in people from all political backgrounds and leanings. Still, the book primarily focuses on the traits that might be found in someone of a specific political persuasion. By only highlighting that political party and its traits, the original does not acknowledge the possibility of problematic or potentially hazardous traits in other political ideologies—a suggestion unsupported by up-to-date psychological research.
Criticisms of the original body of work have also pointed to the ease of “fooling” the test or answering in a way that sways your results. Because the personality measurements ask questions directly and without examples, responders may easily deduce what each question aims to uncover. By asking questions plainly and without examples, you may not receive an unbiased and honest result. Accurate tests more often utilize examples in their questioning process to obscure the purpose of the question and procure a more honest answer from the individual answering the questions.
The future of authoritarian personality research
Presently, authoritarian personality research deviates from the heavily political framing of the original research. Instead, it focuses on identifying traits and patterns that can be seen in people from all walks of life from the time people are young. These traits have been linked to a greater likelihood of mental illnesses like antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), which may predict the likelihood of certain behaviors more accurately than outdated tools like the F scale.
Modern personality evaluation and typing are used less to classify individuals to isolate “problematic” people and instead as a means of learning more about how people function and their primary motivations. Authoritarian typing was unique in its time but is now used more to identify similar traits within a more significant subset of people who do not offer empathy or tolerance for opinions that deviate from their own. Typing someone as “authoritarian” may not yield definitive ties to certain political parties or social values. Instead, it offers insight into how individuals might respond to the world around them.
Authoritarianism is also part of a core of potential traits ascribed to parents. This core comprises four parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and uninvolved (or neglectful). Like the current iteration of authoritarian personality typing systems, this system is utilized to understand and guide parenting practices and habits. Authoritarian parents focus on obedience, strict adherence to a specific set of values, and a clear hierarchy within the home.
Researching authoritarianism in these ways has allowed researchers and mental health professionals to move past the narrow scope of initial authoritarian personality research and develop a more extensive understanding of the different habits and traits that define this personality type.
While the origins of authoritarian personality testing may be contradictory, some people may be uncomfortable when they find themselves or someone close to them exhibiting traits identified as authoritarian. Rigidity is one of the most significant factors considered to be a part of authoritarian personalities, and people who hold rigid beliefs leading to stereotyping and prejudice may benefit from mental health intervention to learn empathy and broaden the scope of their understanding of themselves and others.
If you want to enlist therapy for yourself or a loved one exhibiting authoritarian traits, you might be more comfortable with an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. With the same licensing and practice requirements as standard in-office therapy, online therapists provide mental health services from the comfort of your home (or another remote location). In addition, you can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions with your provider.
Online cognitive-behavioral therapy may be effective at helping individuals recognize thoughts, process them, and find new ways of expressing them. A therapist may be able to help you develop your sense of empathy, evaluate your subscription to the belief that you (or someone close to you) are superior to others, and explore other interpersonal habits. Studies also back up the effectiveness of online CBT, showcasing it can be effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression for a wide range of clients, with results similar to in-person studies.
What is the authoritarian personality?
Typically, the term authoritarian personality is used to describe an individual with a general tendency to respect people in positions of power or authority. People with the authoritarian personality type often exhibit strong allegiance to authority figures, work to uphold the status quo, and display low self-esteem. The term authoritarian personality may also describe someone who displays authoritarian attitudes, themselves desiring power and resisting input from others.
Early authoritarianism research conducted by Theodor Adorno and his colleagues led to the development of the theory of the authoritarian personality type. Their findings were published in a book titled The Authoritarian Personality, which—among other things—included a scale for assessing the fascist tendencies of an individual. This research, however, has been the subject of extensive debate over the years, and many have suggested that the study’s methods were flawed.
What is authoritarian personality describe and evaluate?
The "authoritarian personality" is a psychological concept associated with traits like obedience to authority, rigid thinking, and adherence to traditional norms. Originating from Adorno's work, it highlights tendencies toward ethnocentrism and hostility. Critics argue it oversimplifies personality, may have cultural biases, and raises concerns about political implications. Despite its contribution to understanding personality, the construct is controversial and subject to ongoing scrutiny.
What is the best definition of authoritarian?
The word authoritarian is an adjective referring to the tendency to demand submission from others or to yield to those who are in positions of power. It can be used to characterize individuals, governments, businesses, and other organizations.
What are the advantages of authoritarian personality?
The personality characteristics associated with an authoritarian personality may help an individual thrive in highly structured environments, which can lead to success in various arenas. It is also thought that such attitudes can provide a sense of meaning and purpose to the life of an authoritarian person. According to an article published by the Society of Personality and Social Psychology, people with an authoritarian personality may experience a sense of coherence and significance within hierarchical systems.
How do you deal with an authoritarian personality?
If you frequently interact with someone who has an authoritarian personality, it can help to understand their motivations and avoid taking their words and actions personally. A person’s historical background often explains their authoritarian tendencies. Someone with such personality traits may have been raised by authoritarian parents; or they may have grown up in an organization in which submission and obedience were valued (e.g., military school). Authoritarian views can become deeply ingrained in an individual, making it hard for them to operate in a more democratic, egalitarian system.
It can help to avoid challenging an individual with an authoritarian personality. While you may not agree with their methods, allowing them to feel in control can foster more constructive interactions. If you’re having a disagreement with an authoritarian, stay calm and avoid utilizing the same aggression they’re displaying, which can lead to the debate persisting.
What is an example of authoritarian?
An example of an authoritarian is a leader who expects strict obedience and doesn't allow questioning of their decisions.
What is an example of authoritarian leadership style?
A common example of an authoritarian leadership style is a dictatorship. In this form of government, decisions are typically made by one individual (or group), whose power is absolute. Often, such governments restrict the freedoms of their populace in various ways. They may, for example, limit the right to free press in order to quell dissent.
What are 2 important characteristics of authoritarianism?
Two primary characteristics of authoritarianism are concentrated power and aggression. In an authoritarian system, power is held by either one person or a small group of people. Authoritarians typically do not allow input from others, choosing instead to consolidate power and prevent democratic means of decision-making. Such domination usually occurs through authoritarian aggression, which is meant to quash dissent and foster obedience.
Is authoritarian positive or negative?
Authoritarianism can be seen as negative because it involves a leader or system demanding strict obedience without much room for questioning or individual freedom.
What describes an authoritarian leader?
Authoritarian leaders generally desire complete authority and obedience. They typically favor centralized, consolidated power structures. Authoritarian leaders often exhibit aggressive behavior in order to control those around them. They are thought to be high in social dominance orientation, a personality trait that measures how much an individual values a hierarchy in which their social group dominates other social groups.
- Previous Article
- Next Article