Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version

Personality trait defined using such terms as dogmatic, rigid, low tolerance for ambiguity , and high regard for structural hierarchy . It is considered the antithesis of egalitarianism. The term authoritarianism became one of the most famous in social psychology through a huge research effort on the part of T. W. Adorno and others (1950) after World War II that focused on explaining how the German people could have allowed and participated in the Holocaust that killed over 6 million Jews.

Efforts to explain virulent anti-Semitism focused on the concept of authoritarianism, and a measure of authoritarianism called the "F-scale" came to be perhaps the most used such instrument in all of personality research. Authoritarianism was thought to be related to general prejudice and ethnocentrism as well as to certain lifestyles and belief systems. Specifically, considerable research using the F-scale and related measures has revealed that political and social conservatives and continue

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traditionally religious people generally score relatively high on such instruments. Many, including especially Milton Rokeach (1960), criticized the concept of authoritarianism as being too limited and ideologically based. Rokeach developed a more general term—dogmatism —that he claimed encompasses authoritarians on both the left and the right of the political spectrum.

The consistent finding of a positive correlation between religiosity and authoritarianism has provoked considerable efforts at explication as well as critiques of the initial work in this area (Altemeyer 1988). The debate has contributed to the development of general notions of intrinsic versus extrinsic religiosity and of such concepts as "religious maturity." Leak and Randall (1995) have shown, for instance, that although authoritarianism is positively correlated with traditional measures of religiosity, it is inversely related to a number of measures of "religious maturity." Such findings offer some solace to religionists and demand further research on the troubling relationship between religiousness and authoritarianism.

See also Ethnocentrism, Faith Development, Fundamentalism, Intrinsic-Extrinsic Religion, Milton Rokeach

James T. Richardson


T. W. Adorno et al., The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper, 1950)

B. Altemeyer, Enemies of Freedom (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1988)

B. Altemeyer and B. Hunsberger, "Authoritarianism, Religious Fundamentalism, Quest, and Prejudice," International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 2(1992):113-133

G. Leak and B. Randall, "Clarification of the Link Between Right-wing Authoritarianism and Religiousness," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 34(1995):245-252

M. Rokeach, The Open and Closed Mind (New York: Basic Books, 1960)

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