It is hard to find words to thank you! As you may guess, I came across your work from reading John Dean's book (Conservatives without Conscience). Once in a while I find a book that puts down explicitly many of the thinks I discuss in private (mostly with my wife), and when it happens I feel hopeful, redeemed and, to tell you the truth, more than a little concerned. I wish more people were aware of what modern science can tell us about irrational human behaviors, and what biological science and history can tell us about the dangers posed by those irrational behaviors in a society that is many orders of magnitude more complex than what our ancestors had to face.
Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you so much for making this work available free of charge, and chapeau for making it so wonderfully readable without any loss of rigour. I only wish it were available in every language on the planet, and that more people would read this than listen to Faux "news" or their national equivalent - or who read (carefully selected and approved extracts from) the bible, koran, torah or any other such stories. Thank you.
Read it, loved it - passing it along. Thank you.
I first heard of your work when I happened to hear John Dean talking about it with someone (Olberman?) on MSNBC one late night last year. I got his book and devoured it and felt such a relief - it explained in so many ways why the world is like this and why I cannot seem to get some of my friends to understand reality. I gave an RWA follower friend of mine your name and told her to google you after she said she was "horrified" by the election results, then I took my advice and googled you, too and found the book and read it (at work online). I just ordered 10 copies for people I know who are not RWAs and for a few who are (though they will not likely read it). The most fascinating thing in the book to me was the game where the RWAs destroyed the world and the nonRWAs got along pretty well and worked together. The other was their poor ability to process information; witness the discord over Benghazi, etc. Just read about the Tea Party as well, though the Republicans co-opted them efficiently.
You are a hero! Thank goodness you didn't waste your life pretending to shock people or getting them to focus better on their putting! I honestly think you should win a Nobel Prize (for Peace or research).
Thank you so much for your work on authoritarianism. I have an advanced degree in history and political science and currently work in academia. So I naturally looked towards per-reviewed scholarship (instead of of talk radio or blogs) for answer. I was born and raised (and currently live) in a very red 'conservative' area. I have firsthand experience in viewing the mindset of the religious right. It was refreshing to read your piece The Authoritarians. I very much enjoy the readable narrative crafted around fact based, qualitative research (especially since I am so piss poor at statistical analysis). I only wish higher education, science, and academia in general were more valued in this country.
All the best,
So refreshing to read research with a good sense of humor worked in -- this is not a trivial task for most people. You'll have to laugh, then, to know that the first two chapters gave me great insight into my devoutly Catholic, Republican mother-in-law. I usually avoid most discussions with her (and other high-RWAs) because the discussions are never based on solid evidence, nor are they looking for any. Your research (and explanation of) has me thinking about new ways to work with these sort of people; my first inclination is to try to expose them to new situations as much as possible (show them a different 'normal'). The anti-high-RWA reflex comes out strongly in your writing and, if I were to edit the manuscript, I would urge a more sympathetic view of these people; many of them deserve apology because they have been simply brainwashed. It is difficult for the average non-psychologist, low-RWA individual to know how to help the high-RWAs overcome a brainwashing. Though you offer good advice in the last chapter, there needs to be real acknowledgement by anti-high-RWA individuals that the problem is likely to run deep and that we should tread carefully and thoughtfully and, sometimes, not even tread at all. (I must especially heed this advice when dealing with my in-laws.) If you would swallow a second critique of your otherwise wonderful presentation, please accept the following. Modern society, including our churches and religions, has all but abolished spirituality. The idea of seeking spiritual connections should not be the baby thrown out with the bath water. Consider the ideas of the Liberal Quakers who live daily lives based on spiritual disciplines while their attendance includes agnostics and atheists. It's true that these individuals would likely not score highly on your RWA scale, but your rhetoric makes it sound as though belief in anything spiritual is just silly and illogical. Yet, this is more of a societal prejudice than anything else (e.g., read Your Eternal Self). I was raised to believe that any situation which does not allow me to question things is the wrong situation, and I often find that to be especially true for modern secularism. My fear is that many people would confuse your ideas as an apology for modern secularism.
Many thanks for this book!
I found it very enlightening, in a worrying kind of way. It will also save me an immense amount of time - trying to reason with people who have unreasonable views.
The ostensible deference to others' beliefs that I was taught as a child, a basic kind of politeness ("It's not polite to discuss sex, politics, or religion.") probably used to be a good idea to get along with people. It appears that in more recent times these inhibitions have been dropped, possibly because one is exposed to so much ranting in the media.
My husband and I are cruising sailors in Canada and the U.S. We meet all kinds of people on a regular basis. It is fascinating. Hilary Clinton's much mocked "vast right-wing conspiracy" has been proven to be real, in my opinion.
Ground-breaking work! Essential to understanding the modern world.
I make extensive use of Professor Altemeyer's work in my political blogging. See http://www.heraldtimesonline.com/profile/index.php?id=340
"I JUST TOLD THE TRUTH AND THEY THOUGHT IT WAS HELL."
(President Truman, Look Magazine, 4/3/1956)
Jesus reserved his greatest contempt in public discourse for the Fundamentalists of his day. I think that is a fine example to follow. Fundamentalism, a variant of authoritarianism, is found in most religions and political parties. Fundamentalists tend to show racist and misogynist streaks. All are liars. Most are cowards/bullies. The rest are too stupid to be cowards. Taliban is a classic expression of Islamic fundamentalism, and its goals are very similar to Christian fundamentalism – total control of all others at any cost.
I think the "apostle" Paul was a murderous Fundamentalist and the world would have been a much better place, had he and Stephen been in opposite positions in Acts 7. Paul provided the theology that drove the Inquisition and other evils of the church. The karma of Paul’s sexual dysfunction is present in the theology and culture of today’s authoritarian and fundamentalist churches. How much more sexual misconduct and misogyny will be effected before the root cause of this evil is eliminated? The leaders of authoritarian churches -- those who define theology, culture and collective psychology -- are directly responsible for centuries of murder and child rape. By definition, this conspiracy is a crime against humanity. Justice, resolution and atonement require accountability at the top, instead of just blame at the bottom. But, I doubt that a certain bishop in Rome is ready to repent from the evils of authoritarianism.
Authoritarianism is the dynamic that drove mass suicide at Jonestown. Were the people who freely joined the Peoples Temple less culpable for the murder of those children than Jim Jones? Does the same standard apply to the evils of other authoritarian churches? It's past time to connect the dots. I think that the books of Paul deserve the same repudiation as the book of Leviticus. Both codify and advocate authoritarianism, which is the source of much large-scale evil. In politics, less developed examples of authoritarianism include McCarthyism and Falwell-Gingrich-Limbaugh-Fox-ism. Look around; we have our local varieties too. They have existed in every period of history.
For many years it was a mystery to me how individuals and groups could behave this way. Left unchecked, they will literally murder people who do not share their values or traits. Extreme examples include the Inquisition and Nazism. I have learned that their psychology is based on authoritarianism.
Amazingly, authoritarianism is a self-imposed and a grass-roots movement. It is not imposed from above. It is characterized by authoritarian submission, fear, self-righteousness, hostility, lack of critical thinking, identification of "our biggest problem," compartmentalized thinking, double standards, group empowerment, dogmatism, ethnocentrism, and prejudice. (Have you witnessed this in the HTO community?) For a scholarly exposé on authoritarianism by Professor of Psychology Bob Altemeyer, visit http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ . There are several free publications on this University of Manitoba web site.
This was a great read! I loved that it was a light book without the footnotes, but I could go and read the numbers if I wanted to.
I didn't learn much about authoritarianism until university (aside from Milgram's experiments, of course, but I don't think my parents used the word "authoritarianism" when they told us about those.) So because I took very few courses in the humanities, I don't know much about this. I have a question: do people who are familiar with the theory of what authoritarianism is score lower on the RWA scale because they recognise the scale and want to look good, because they have actually been able to recognise and change authoritarian behaviours/thought patterns, or because they were low-RWA types to begin with, as high-RWA individuals aren't interested in learning about it?
One of the most important books I have ever read in my life. I finished it with a dramatically improved understanding -- not only of recent events in America, but of human nature overall. I highly recommend devoting the time it takes to read it.
Your psychological analyses made it starkly clear to me as to what major mental deficiencies exist with a large proportion of the US population, the dangers to democracy involved and the near impossibility of correction through debate. I now understand why it has been impossible to reach these personality types through one-on-one logical demonstration. I can now add this new understanding to those of the documentaries "Inside Job" and "Burzynski the Movie" .
I am so glad that I came across this site from a link in "feet2thefire". I have never seen a more accurate analysis based upon my experience. These should be required reading starting in high school.
P.S. I also bought the book.
Great read! I had observed (and been frustrated by) many of the attributes you discussed in your book. Frustrated to the point that I even started a blog in which I could rail against specific instances/examples of them in the wild. I'm going to have to rethink that now. Until I read The Authoritarians, I just thought that people were just being deliberately childishly obtuse. Now I understand that trying to engage those people rationally would be about as successful as King Cnut was at keeping the tide at bay. I'm also a lot more scared now than I was . . .
Thank you, Dr. Bob, for writing this book . . . It's filled in some blanks for me as well as ringing alarm bells.
I know I'm late to the party, but kudos to Prof. Altemeyer for his terrific book, "The Authoritarians." Not only filled with unique insights, but I was pleasantly surprised at the natural, casual tone, the Professor's ability to explain complex subjects simply, and most especially, the humor, throughout the book. Many thanks!
Dr. Altemeyer, I'd like to thank you for your work on authoritarianism and, in particular, for writing The Authoritarians as a free ebook. Ever since I first discovered your work, I've had one question I've not been able to satisfactorily answer: "How do people end up authoritarians or non-authoritarians? What is the etiology of authoritarianism?"
The closest I've come to a reasonable explanation is through the work of Richard Ryan and Edward Deci of the University of Rochester on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. My conclusions are that authoritarians are likely low in intrinsic motivation and high in extrinsic while non-authoritarians are (closer to) the opposite.
From there I've focused on child-rearing styles that influence the type of motivation. (Obviously, there is a genetic component in here but then, parenting styles are largely an outcome of the parent's own genetic traits. Or so I am assuming.)
I'm wondering what, if anything, you have discovered as to what affects whether a person becomes an authoritarian (either follower or leader as even leaders generally follow someone) or a non-authoritarian. I'll be very grateful of anything you have to contribute to a cogent answer to these questions.
I have just downloaded your book and will be reading it as soon as I finish "It's Worse Than You Think."
I've just read you comment regarding the Tea-Party -- Keli Carender caught my eye, as I live in the Seattle area. I caught the article about her in the NY Times back in the day and since she's a local I did a bit of research.
Don't be fooled - the Tea Party is anything but a grass roots movement. Sure they've tapped the grass roots, but that's not where it began. This was organized long before Obama was even sworn in. Those who feel the need to be ruled by the authoritarians - the followers - are just the suckers they've pulled into the movement - the ones who have no desire to think, only be told what to do.