How much do you agree with the following statements?
People can be divided into two distinct classes - the
weak and the strong.
Some people are born with the urge to jump from high places.
No weakness or difficulty can hold us back if we have enough
Most of our social problems would be solved if we could
somehow get rid of the immoral, crooked and feeble-minded people.
The statements you just read are a part of one of the most
infamous psychological scales of the 20th century - Theodor Adorno's F-scale.
The F stood for Fascist - and the test was meant to help identify how racism
develops in people.
In 1950, Harper and Row published a book that had all the
earmarks of a blockbuster in the field of psychology. The Authoritarian Personality
was an attempt by a group of researchers to explain the conditions that allowed
Nazi-ism to gain a foothold in Europe. The researchers, led by Theodor Adorno
and Max Horkheimer, used various psychological scales to attempt to explain
racism and the atmosphere that led to the slaughter of six million Jews and
others in psychological terms. The book weighed in at a hefty near-1000 pages,
and included contributions from a number of social psychologists who helped
to correlate and analyze the data collected.
Almost from the start, The Authoritarian Personality engendered
heated controversy. By 1955, the book and its theory had been vilified and torn
down by many critics as propaganda masquerading as poor science. The most notorious
part of the book - and the most enduring - is the infamous Adorno F-scale (F
for Fascist), which purported to measure Fascist tendencies by evaluating responses
to a series of weighted questions. The F-scale was only one of the research
instruments used by the group, but it is the one that has endured the longest.
According to Adorno's theory, the elements of the Authoritarian
personality type are:
Blind allegiance to conventional beliefs about right and
Respect for submission to acknowledged authority
Belief in aggression toward those who do not subscribe
to conventional thinking, or who are different
A negative view of people in general - i.e. the belief
that people would all lie, cheat or steal if given the opportunity
A need for strong leadership which displays uncompromising
A belief in simple answers and polemics - i.e. The media
controls us all or The source of all our problems is the loss of morals these
Resistance to creative, dangerous ideas. A black
and white worldview.
A tendency to project one's own feelings of inadequacy,
rage and fear onto a scapegoated group
A preoccupation with violence and sex
To measure these things in subjects, Adorno devised a test
that asked them to state how much they agreed with particular statements. Each
statement was correlated to one of the above elements. For example:
Q. The businessman and the manufacturer are more important
to our country than artists and writers. (Distrust of artists and writers)
Q. Every person should have complete faith in a supernatural being whose
decisions he obeys without question. (Submission to established authority)
Q. An insult to our honor should always be punished. (aggression toward
those who harbor unconventional thinking)
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