Trump: is he an Authoritarian Personality?

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Trump: is he an Authoritarian Personality?

Post by Original Quill on Sun Feb 19, 2017 4:43 am

The Mind of the Authoritarian
Adrian Furnham Ph.D.

What is the nature of authoritarianism? Whence the origin of ethnocentrism?

What is it like working for an authoritarian?  What does it mean to be an authoritarian?

What kind of people accepted Nazi ideology and took part in the holocaust?

After the Second World War a group of American based social scientists, led by Theodor Adorno, posed this question.  It resulted in a book called the Authoritarian Personality, published in 1950.

Their theory focused on the individual as a cause of social evils.  Parents, they argued, bring about authoritarianism by frequently and seriously punishing and shaming their children for even minor offences.   This makes them hostile to adults and all authority figures in power.  The child does not consciously acknowledge this aggression because it simply lead to more punishment.  Also they are dependent on their parents whom they are supposed to love, which can cause great tension.

Thus, so the theory goes, those exposed to authoritarian, rather than authoritative, parenting have their repressed antagonism displaced and projected onto weaker members of society.

Authoritarians are nearly always ethnocentric in that they have a certain, simple and unshakable belief in the superiority of their own racial, cultural and ethnic group with a powerful disdain for all those in other groups.  This can easily lead to brutality, aggression and naked open prejudice.  [Muslims?  Mexicans?  Blacks?  Disabled?]

Whilst the idea took hold it has been criticized both because many other factors lead to the development of authoritarian thinking and behaviour but also because prejudiced behaviour is shaped by others for powerful situational factors. Social psychologist reject the fundamental attribution error concept of authoritarianism explaining every day prejudice. They believe group and situational factors are much more important in the development and maintenance of discrimination and prejudice.  [Alternate factors.]

Yet authoritarians have been shown to avoid situations that involve any sort of ambiguity or uncertainty, are reluctant to believe that ‘good people’ possess both good and bad attributes.  However they often appear less interested in political affairs, participate less in political and community activities, and tend to prefer strong leaders.

There are a number of well-established measures of authoritarianism; the best known (and hence the most widely used) is the California F Scale which attempts to measure prejudice, rigid thinking.  There are nine factors and statements reflecting each factor:

1. Conventionalism: rigid adherence to conventional middle-class values. (‘Obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn.’)

2. Authoritarian submission: uncritical acceptance of authority. (‘Young people sometimes get rebellious ideas, but as they grow up they ought to get over them and settle down.’)

3. Authoritarian aggression: a tendency to condemn anyone who violates conventional norms.  (‘A person who has bad manners, habits and breeding can hardly expect to get along with decent people.’)

4. Anti-intraception: rejection of weakness or sentimentality.  (‘The businessman and the manufacturer are much more important to society than the artist and professor.’)  [Making fun of disabled people.]

5. Superstition and stereotypy: belief in mystical determinants of action and rigid, categorical thinking. (‘Some day it will probably be shown that astrology can explain a lot of things.’)

6. Power and toughness: preoccupation with dominance over others.  (‘No weakness or difficulty can hold us back if we have enough willpower.’)

7. Destructiveness and cynicism: a generalized feeling of hostility and anger. (‘Human nature being what it is, there will always be war and conflict.’)

8. Projectivity: a tendency to project inner emotions and impulses outward. (‘Most people don’t realize how much our lives are controlled by plots hatched in secret places.’)

9. Sex: exaggerated concern for proper sexual conduct. (‘Homosexuals are hardly better than criminals and ought to be severely punished.’)

There are various different related concepts to that of authoritarianism.  These include conservatism, dogmatism, and ethnocentrism.  Some focus on thinking style, others on prejudice.  Most argue that this “attitudinal syndrome” rather than a personality trait, occurs for both genetic/heredity and environmental factors.  At the core of the theories is the idea of a generalized susceptibility to experience anxiety and threat when confronted by ambiguity or uncertainty.

Thus for various reasons – a person’s ability and personality, their early life and current circumstances – some people feel inferior and insecure and fearful of lack of clarity.  Therefore to avoid uncertainty authoritarians dislike anything or anybody that advocates complexity, innovation, novelty, risk or change.  They tend to dislike conflict and decision making and subjugate their personal feelings and needs to external authorise.  They obey the rules norms, conventions and more importantly insist others do too.

So conservatives and authoritarians get obsessed by ordering and controlling their internal world and external world.  They like simplistic, rigid and inflexible duties, laws, morals, obligation and rules.  This affects everything from their choice of art to how they vote.

Closed-minded, dogmatic authoritarian people are characterized by three things:

1. A strong desire to reject all ideas opposed to their own;

2. A low degree of connectedness among various beliefs;

3. Many more complex and positive ideas about things/issues they do believe in as opposed to those they don’t believe in.

It is not a matter of intelligence but open minded people do solve questions more quickly and they seem able to synthesize information more quickly into new ideas.  That is why they seem happier with novel, difficult and strange problems.  Closed-minded people tend to get aggressive or withdraw when faced by novel ideas.   [Trump aides have a problem getting him to listen to alternatives or turns in tactics.]

There are many questionnaires that try to assess dogmatism.  These are statements from them:

In this complicated world of ours the only way we can know what’s going on is to rely on leaders or experts who can be trusted.  [And not 'fake news'.]

My blood boils whenever a person stubbornly refused to admit he’s wrong.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are for the truth and those who are against the truth.  [Listen to me, not fake news.]

Most people just don’t know what’s good for them.  [I'll tell you.]

Of all the different philosophies which exist in this world there is probably only one which is correct.  [Mine.]

Most of the ideas which get printed nowadays aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.  [Fake news.]

The latest work in this area is exclusively on Right-Wing Authoritariasm (RWA) because it is recognised that left wing people like Stalinists and Trotskyists can equally be authoritarian.

The idea is that RWA is made of up three attitudinal and behavioural clusters.  The first is total submission to established authorities; the second generalized aggression to all “enemies” of those authorities and the third blind adherence to established social norms and conventions. So those with strong RWA beliefs are absolutists, bullies, dogmatists, hypocrites and zealots.  They are enthusiastic advocates of punishment of all kinds and dubious about liberals and libertarianism.  They are uncritical of all they stand for being at times inconsistent and holding contradictory ideas.  These are noticeable open to criticism of holding double standards but simultaneously self-righteous and not at all humble or self-critical.

Authoritarians are found in all walks of life, though they do get attracted to jobs and religions that concur with their particular value. They can be very intolerant and particularly malicious to those who they see as outsiders.

Adrian Furnham, Ph.D., was educated at the London School of Economics where he obtained a distinction in an MSc Econ., and at Oxford University where he completed a doctorate (D.Phil) in 1981. He has subsequently earned a D.Sc (1991) and D.Litt (1995) degree. Previously a lecturer in Psychology at Pembroke College, Oxford, he has been  a professor of psychology at University College London since 1992.

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Re: Trump: is he an Authoritarian Personality?

Post by Ben Mothafuckin' Reilly on Sun Feb 19, 2017 5:03 am

I think Trump is, and I think I just realized something else. We talk all the time about the many similarities between fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Christianity, but I think the reason the fundamentalists don't see the similarities is because they have that authoritarian tendency to think "I'm right, if you disagree you're wrong" and that their own culture is superior.

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Re: Trump: is he an Authoritarian Personality?

Post by Raggamuffin on Sun Feb 19, 2017 5:07 am

Please correct the thread title. rabbit

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Re: Trump: is he an Authoritarian Personality?

Post by Raggamuffin on Sun Feb 19, 2017 5:09 am

Cheers!

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Re: Trump: is he an Authoritarian Personality?

Post by WhoseYourWolfie on Sun Feb 19, 2017 5:12 am

Ben Reilly wrote:
I think Trump is, and I think I just realized something else. We talk all the time about the many similarities between fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Christianity, but I think the reason the fundamentalists don't see the similarities is because they have that authoritarian tendency to think "I'm right, if you disagree you're wrong" and that their own culture is superior.

Smile

I would extend that notion to the,fundi's and zealots in all religious groups --  Not just Christians and Muslims, but also Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Taoists and Confucists --  as well as those who turn their politics or personal philosophies into a kind of religious entity...

Only have to look at certain more extreme militia, enviro', vegan or racist/anti-immigration nutters -- who will scream and rant that their solution is the only way to save the future of mankind or the planet or civilisation as we know it..


Last edited by WhoseYourWolfie on Sun Feb 19, 2017 5:17 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Trump: is he an Authoritarian Personality?

Post by Raggamuffin on Sun Feb 19, 2017 5:15 am

I don't think that authoritarian tendencies are confined to those who have religious faith.

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Re: Trump: is he an Authoritarian Personality?

Post by Ben Mothafuckin' Reilly on Sun Feb 19, 2017 5:19 am

Raggamuffin wrote:I don't think that authoritarian tendencies are confined to those who have religious faith.

I don't think anybody said that. And you're welcome for the title correction Smile

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Re: Trump: is he an Authoritarian Personality?

Post by Original Quill on Sun Feb 19, 2017 11:08 am

What's wrong with the title?

From what I remember of the Adorno (Berkeley) study, it spoke about two elements of authoritarianism: 1) the authorian personality; and 2) the submissive personality.  Both were involved the same pathology.

We have discussed with respect to the conservative personality, and I believe there may be some overlap.  That is, I think there is a strong strain of authoritarianism in conservatism.

Submissive personalities are merely authoritarian personalities from below.  That is, an authoritarian person, when confronting a superior, becomes extremely submissive.  Then he will turn around and become highly authoritarian toward anyone beneath him.  It's the same person...just two different situations.

I personally witnessed this over and over when I taught at police academies in New York City and Arizona.  Cops I knew to be aggressive, became unnecessarily deferential when confronting me.  They reflected the power I had by almost reversing their attitudes.  We saw this twice, that I recall, during the Trump campaign.  One, when he went to Mexico City and met with Presidente Enrique Peña Nieto. Trump was almost bowing.  Two, when he went to a Detroit African American church and had to be admonished not to campaign. His response was almost boot licking. On both occasions you could see his submissive side come out.

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