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Sean Harrington Email

I have just read 'The Authoritarians"  and found it fascinating, particularly in the correlation between RWA and children being taught to fear the world. I am from England, where the Daily Mail is very successful in pandering to its readers' fear of absolutely everything.

Lots of people over the past few years have commented on how university students here seem to have become much more conformist. I wonder if this is connected to their having been ferried to school in cars by their mothers, rather than walking to school as everyone of my generation did.

When I was a child I not only walked to school but made friends with the woodmen who managed the woods by my house. Nowadays, because of the exaggerated fear of paedophiles that dominates this country and leads to the school run, I would not be allowed to do this and the woodmen would be  too scared to talk to me.

I've always thought this was unhealthy; now I can think of more insidious results.

Mark McKay Email

I'd love to hear your comments on the Penn State student riots in support of disgraced coach Jerry Sandusky.  This seems like a perfect illustration of your work.  I've read your book, but still have a hard time trying to put myself in the shoes of folks who would do that.

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Clay Cockcroft 


I have a much better understanding now of how uber-conservatives  could push such obviously flawed agendas without regard to the long term consequences said agenda will have on themselves. 

Thank you

Bill Michtom 

"Democrats took the heat for  trying to  stop a recession  that the 
Republicans had largely caused by deregulating the banking system."

But, one of the biggest contributions to banking deregulation was the elimination of Glass-Steagall by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, encouraged by the Clinton regime and signed into law by Clinton after an overwhelming vote in favor by both Rs and Ds.

Steve Fox 

Dr. Bob...
I finished listening to the audio book of The Authoritarians on my drive home the other night.  As I listened to the hope in your voice, on the day after Obama's election, my eyes began to well up (not a good idea, on the drive home), and the one thought, screaming through my head, as you said "2012 is a long time off, in a galaxy far, far away",  was "Damn, he fooled you, just like he fooled the rest of us."  He's Bush in sheep's clothing.  I'm assuming you've already been recommended Lobaczewski's "Political Ponerology"...that was the first thing that popped into my head when you described the "double-high's"...psychopaths.

Gary Wiliiams Email


"Today’s American right doesn't believe in correcting market failures; it believes that there are no market failures, that unregulated capitalism is always right. Faced with evidence that market prices are, in fact, wrong, they simply attack the science.

What this tells us is that we are not actually having a debate about economics. Our free-market advocates aren't actually operating from a model of how the economy works; they’re operating from some combination of knee-jerk defense of the haves against the rest and mystical faith that self-interest always leads to the common good."   


---  Paul Krugman (Nobel Prize-winning economist (2008) and frequent contributor to the NY Times and other major news media).


I thought that quote showed a remarkable concurrence with what Dr. Bob Altemeyer and many other social scientists kept finding over the decades ever since the Nuremberg Trials revealed how susceptible to propaganda and rhetoric some were, and most disturbingly, how willing to do great violence to both strangers and neighbors alike it appeared the more conservative members of a given society tended to be when compared to other socio-political sub-groups.


The Authoritarians was completely fascinating as was postscript on 2008 election and comments on the tea party movement. I read them all twice. (separated by few months) Then I read the first two chapters of Sex and Youth. Believe it or not I was quite pleased that you went into detail about how the sex survey was conducted. Ever since I took an entry level probability and statistics course I've been a bit skeptical of the accuracy of surveys, especially those which tend to grab headlines. I wish more people would be skeptical of these surveys because I'm convinced that too many people thoroughly believe too many things which just ain't true. (and I'm not just talking about those high RWAs) Kudos to you for being very rigorous in your craft AND explaining to your readers your methodology. One more thing, you score an A++ for making an otherwise boring subject exceptionally interesting and humorous.

Rick Emmet Email

Dr. Bob,
I too just read "The Psychopath Test" and was wondering about the correlation of psychopaths and RWA, SDs and DHs. But my question is, what is the difference between methodologies used to study these populations? It seems to me that Hare and others are using empirical evidence (and is therefore more subjective) while you have used scientific evidence. Has anyone ever cross tested your findings with brain studies, looking at the lymbatic and nervous systems?

Chris Perks 

I was reading a book review about "The Psychopath Test" by Jon Ronson, which referred to the work of Canadian psycholigist Robert Hare.  It says that he is the author of the "Psychpathy Checklist Revised (PVL-R)".
My question is, is there a correlation in these profiling tests between pschopaths and RWAs, SDs. or DHs?  Are we talking about the same segment of the population?
I have read all of your material I can, and still wonder what the percentages among the general population are.  I think 20-25% RWAs, 5% SDs and DHs?


Over the past few years I've become something of a connoisseur of paranoid conspiracism, e.g. "birthers", 9/11 "truthers", Alex Jones-style "the NWO is coming" believers... you probably get the picture. In that time I've noticed that proponents of PCTs often seem to have quite the authoritarian mindset.

It's not hard to imagine how the conspiracist worldview, which *requires* an unshakeable belief in an Evil Other who poses an Imminent Threat and must be Rooted Out would be attractive to the authoritarian follower personality, but rather than create just-so stories that might be constructed from my own prejudices I'm curious if anyone has examined the possible connection empirically.

Unfortunately, being no scholar I have neither the resources nor the skills to look into the question by myself.

Do you know if anyone has checked for a correlation between high RWA scores and belief in conspiracy theories, and if so what results they obtained?

Joy Herr-Cardillo 

I found your book (and the addenda) fascinating.  As a lawyer who often appears before authoritarian thinking judges, I am interested in the challenge of how one goes about persuading such folks to change their point of view.  If logical arguments aren't effective (which is our principal tool of trade) is there a better strategy to use when presenting our legal arguments?  I've read a bit about "motivated reasoning" in the hope of using that research toward the same end. It's very disheartening (although enlightening) to realize that mustering evidence or data to support an argument can actually further entrench the opposite conclusion.  Any suggestions or further reading you can recommend in this regard?  

Joseph Waters 


I liked your comment about the movie, There Will Be Blood. That movie was actually based on a book by Upton Sinclair called simply, Oil! Yes, that's the same Upton Sinclair who wrote The Jungle. Even more than George Orwell, Sinclair was very didactic in his writing, but it's all brilliant. The movie is vastly different from the book, but if you liked the movie, I think you will really enjoy the book. Unfortunately, the Hollywood producers had to take the Socialism out of the story; that kind of message is far too dangerous from an elite, ruling class perspective. Enjoy the read!

bob altemeyer Email

I shall again only address the points where I think I have something useful to say. If I am skipping something you think I should address, please say so.

To Michael R.- Thanks. Sorry the scientific write-up in my 1996 book was brain-warping. You have to go to graduate school and have your brain warped in just the right way to know what that all meant.

To Matthew- It seems clear that social networking played a big role in building the revolutionary movement in Egypt. But different groups were involved, some on the "religious right" and others on the "freedom-for-all left," and lots of others much more difficult to classify. I don't think the supporters of the regime, if that's who you meant by "the RWAs," fell like dominoes when it became clear the protest was going to last and perhaps even win. Mubarak supporters hung in there a long time and did their best, through the secret police and open attacks on protesters in the squares, to crush the revolution.

To Simon H. I try to stay at least 2000 miles away from generalizations that begin, "There are two types of people in the world..." As I said several times in the book, Low RWAs and High RWAs are not types, and the things they believe and do overlap to a considerable extent, and most people can be powerfully affected by the situation they are in, no matter their underlying personality.

To Palin Power- Pull the other one.

To Asteroid Miner - High RWAs would be terrified if it turned out there was no God because most of them (in the samples I studied) based their whole lives around the belief that there is a God, and they knew exactly what this God wanted, and God was definitely on their side, and was going to reward them with an eternity of happiness after they died. That's a lot to lose ..

I would be opposed in principle to making all high school students take the MMPI, or any other psychological test, especially for screening purposes so society could identify the "X's" among us. Beyond the principle of the thing, the Sociopathy Scale on the MMPI would make many mistakes in identifying "sociopathic individuals" and would be extremely unfair. (So would the RWA scale for identifying authoritarian followers.)

Asteroid Miner 

I would like to hear/read more on why RWAs are afraid of there not being a god.   How could they care?
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