Authoritarian Personality

A personality pattern described as authoritarian personality, as described in the 1950 book of the same name, grew out of a study of anti-Semitism.

Theodor Adorno (1903–69) led a team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, to determine whether there was a correlation between anti-Semitism and personality traits. Although the original focus of his research had been the identification of an anti-Semitic personality, the scope was widened from anti-Semitic to Fascist, then to authoritarian. The study revealed that people who are prejudiced against one ethnic or racial group are likely to be biased against others as well.

The major determining factor in the formation of an authoritarian personality was shown to be a pattern of strict and rigid parenting. Authoritarian parents instill obedience through physical punishment and harsh verbal discipline. Little praise or affection is expressed by authoritarian parents, and they discourage independence. Instead, a child's behavior is expected to meet a particular set standard. These parents demand obedience to themselves and to all persons of higher status. When they reach adulthood, children raised with this personality structure may discharge the hostility they have accumulated from their harsh upbringing against those they perceive to be of lower status. They typically form negative stereotypes of others and discriminate against or overtly persecute them. These adults may be projecting their own weaknesses and fears onto the groups they denigrate as inferior. Other traits associated with this personality type are dependence on authority and rigid rules, conformity to group values, admiration of powerful figures, compulsions, concreteness, and intolerance of ambiguity.

See also Passive-aggressive personality ; Personality ; Personality development ; Prejudice and discrimination .



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