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Individual Differences in Ideological Attitudes and Prejudice

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Individual Differences in Ideological Attitudes and Prejudice

Can we predict someone's behaviour based on their personality? We know individuals vary in how they respond to authority or whether they are likely to be hostile toward other groups or not. After all, even in the famous Milgram experiment, not all participants gave in to the pressure to obey.

How do individual differences affect behaviour?

So, what makes us respond differently despite being in the same situation? We'll explore evidence for personality correlates of obedience and prejudice. Psychologists have identified personality traits that might explain individual differences in obedience and prejudice.

Individual differences in obedience

There are a few specific aspects of personality that affect obedience. Let's explore those key features.

Authoritarian personality

The authoritarian personality dimension, proposed by Adorno (1950), is characterised by strong loyalty toward one's group and obedience to authority. It is also associated with negative attitudes towards other groups. Adorno theorised that individuals develop authoritarian personality traits due to difficult experiences of harsh parenting and conditional love.

Individuals who score high on this dimension tend to be afraid of appearing weak and direct their anger and frustration toward social groups with less power than them. The authoritarian personality was measured with the F-scale (Fascist-scale), which examined traits like adherence to norms, punishing individuals who don't adhere, toughness, hostility, and threat perceptions.

The Milgram shock experiment (1963) recap

Milgram examined if participants would obey authority when told to execute cruel and dangerous acts.

  • Participants were told they were participating in a study of learning, and their role as a teacher was to administer electric shocks to a learner if they made a mistake.
  • The learners were actors and didn't suffer any harm, but participants were unaware of that.
  • Participants administered shocks with an intensity ranging from 15V to the maximum 450V. They knew 450V was a severe and dangerous shock.
  • The experimenter (an authority figure in this situation) asked participants to continue increasing the voltage of shocks up until 450V, despite seeing the learner's pain.
  • 65 percent of participants continued administering shocks until the highest voltage level.

Authoritarian personality and obedience in the Milgram experiment

Elms and Milgram (1966) tested differences among participants that continued following orders and others that refused to obey. Adorno's F-scale was administered to 20 participants that obeyed the original Milgram experiment and 20 that refused. Participants were also asked questions about their relationship with their parents and their perceptions of the experimenter in the Milgram experiment.

It was found that participants who obeyed did score higher on the authoritarian personality measure, had distant fathers, and admired the authority in the Milgram experiment. The findings were in line with Adorno's predictions. However, it's important to remember that results from this study were correlational and relied on self-reports which are not always reliable.

Ideological attitudes and prejudice

The dual-process model of ideology and prejudice (Duckitt, 2009) argues that ideological attitudes (Right-Wing authoritarianism and social dominance theory) mediate the relationship between personality traits and prejudice. According to this prediction, certain personality traits predict developing attitudes that can result in prejudice.

Individual Differences in Ideological Attitudes and Prejudice, Formation of prejudice based on dual process model,StudySmarterFormation of prejudice based on the dual-process model, StudySmarter Originals, Alicja Blaszkiewicz

The Big Five model of personality

The Big Five model of personality consists of five personality dimensions: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (OCEAN).

  • A person leaning towards high neuroticism can be characterised by being self-critical, disliking themselves, and frequently experiencing mood swings, depression or feelings of panic.
  • The extraversion dimension reflects how energetic and sociable an individual is.
  • Openness to experience is characterised by an interest in different ideas, curiosity, imagination and sensitivity to art.
  • Agreeableness is associated with tendermindedness, altruism, care, tolerance, and consideration of others.
  • Conscientiousness relates to self-discipline, dutifulness, efficiency, productivity and a sense of competence and responsibility.

Individual Differences in Ideological Attitudes and Prejudice, Formation of prejudice, Measuring conscientiousness based on the big five inventory,StudySmarter

Measuring conscientiousness based on the Big Five Inventory, StudySmarter Originals, Alicja Blaszkiewicz

Right-wing authoritarianism (RWA)

Bob Altemeyer (1988) built on the work of Adorno and introduced the idea of the right-wing authoritarianism personality dimension, which was theorised to be associated with stronger prejudice. This personality trait is thought to develop when individuals internalise the idea that the world is dangerous.

Right-wing authoritarianism is characterised by rigid thinking, intolerance toward other worldviews, and perceptions of other groups as a threat.

Social dominance orientation (SDO)

Felicia Pratto (1994) proposed a personality dimension characterised by a pursuit of dominance and a preference for hierarchy. Social dominance orientation (SDO) is thought to develop following competition experiences over scarce resources.

Individuals high in the social dominance orientation tend to seek superiority over others and believe that the world is a competitive place where only the strongest can survive.

Individual Differences in Ideological Attitudes and Prejudice, Social dominance orientation ,StudySmarterSocial dominance orientation is characterised by a preference for hierarchy and seeking superiority, pixabay.com

Ideological attitudes and prejudice: Cohrs et al. 2012 - summary

Cohrs et al. (2012) focused on assessing the relationship between personality traits, ideological attitudes, and prejudice. They also wanted to see if self-reported participant responses would be similar to responses describing participants from their peers. Two studies were conducted:

  1. Study one: Personality, attitudes and prejudice were assessed based on self-report and one peer-report measure.
  2. Study two: Data from two peer raters was used.

They found self and peer assessments to be similar. Only RWA predicted prejudice, while SDO didn't and some personality traits correlated directly with prejudice.

Cohrs et al. 2012 - Method

Across both studies, the sample consisted of 517 participants, all German, heterosexual, and able-bodied. Previous studies investigating the effects of personality on prejudice mainly relied on self-report methods with low reliability. To address this issue, Cohrs et al. (2012) added a peer report method to their study design. They used self-report measures identifying the Big Five personality dimensions using ranked scales.

For RWA, the researchers used a 12-item questionnaire, and for SDOO, a shortened version of the scale. The participants also had a separate set of questionnaires for their peers to complete. Scores on measures of the Big Five personality dimensions, SDO and RWA were correlated with prejudice measures. Three measures of prejudice were used: a measure of prejudice toward homosexuals, people with disabilities, and foreigners.

Prejudice is a sensitive topic; it is perceived as negative and harmful. Therefore, when individuals are asked to rate their levels of prejudice, they might knowingly or unknowingly underestimate their prejudice to appear more favourable before others and themselves. That is why self-report measures are prone to social desirability.

Cohrs et al. 2012 - Findings

Overall, self-reported and peer-reported data were similar, but social desirability appeared to be reduced when data from two peers was used. Only RWA mediated the relationship between personality and prejudice. This research supports findings in previous areas of research on the topic. Certain traits predicted ideological attitudes:

  • Low openness to experience and high conscientiousness predicted RWA.
  • Low agreeableness predicted SDO.

Only the RWA predicted prejudice, while SDO didn't.

  • Some traits predicted prejudice directly, not just through attitudes.

Low agreeableness and low openness to experience predicted prejudice directly.

Cohrs et al. 2012 - Evaluation

StrengthsLimitations
Greater reliability compared to previous experiments since researchers collected data from both the participant and their acquaintances and ensured anonymity when collecting the data. The findings might not be generalisable to the population outside of Germany.
Acquaintances can also be biased in their assessment of prejudice and personality. Cohrs et al. attempted to subvert this in their second study by using two peers, but as participants decide on the peer, it does not fully remove this issue.
A standardised procedure was used, which allows replicability and increases reliability.Findings are correlational; we can't conclude that personality causes attitudes or prejudice. There may be many other factors influencing prejudice, personality and attitudes.

An interesting opposing view is that those who identify as left-wing are flexible in their thinking, but this may not be the case. Peter Ditto et al. (2017) refuted this. They found that the accusation of partisan bias (a belief the media favours a specific political opinion or your political party is a victim of media bias) was unfounded for both left-wingers and right-wingers; they are both equally as rigid in their beliefs. Left-wing and right-wing individuals are equally likely to fall into partisan bias issues.

Individual Differences in Ideological Attitudes and Prejudice - Key takeaways

  • The authoritarian Personality dimension, proposed by Adorno (1950), is characterised by strong loyalty towards one's group and obedience to authority.
  • Elms and Milgram (1966) found people who obeyed cruel orders from an authority in the Milgram experiment had high scores on an Authoritarian Personality measure.
  • According to the dual-process model of prejudice, certain personality traits predict developing attitudes that can result in prejudice.
  • Bob Altemeyer (1988) introduced the right-wing authoritarianism personality dimension characterised by intolerance toward other worldviews and perceptions of other groups as a threat.
  • Felicia Pratto (1994) proposed a personality dimension known as social dominance orientation (SDO), characterised by a pursuit of dominance and a preference for hierarchy.

Frequently Asked Questions about Individual Differences in Ideological Attitudes and Prejudice

Only right-wing authoritarianism predicted prejudice, while social dominance orientation didn't. Agreeableness and openness to experience correlated negatively with prejudice. Conscientiousness correlated positively with prejudice (mediated by RWA). 

Cohrs revealed that prejudice and ideological attitudes are different concepts. Ideological attitudes like right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation don't always lead to prejudice. 

Right-wing authoritarianism is correlated with prejudice. However, social dominance orientation isn't.

People with low openness to experience and high conscientiousness are more likely to hold right-wing authoritarianism attitudes, which predict prejudice. Some personality traits (agreeableness, openness to experience) predict prejudice directly. 

Final Individual Differences in Ideological Attitudes and Prejudice Quiz

Question

How was the Authoritarian personality measures? 

Show answer

Answer

The Authoritarian Personality was measured with the F-scale (Fascist-scale). 

Show question

Question

What did the dual process model of prejudice predict? 

Show answer

Answer

The dual process model predicted that ideological attitudes (Right Wing Authoritarianism and Social Dominance Theory) mediate the relationship between personality traits and prejudice. 

  • Personality traits --> ideological attitudes --> prejudice.

Show question

Question

What is Right Wing Authoritarianism? 


Show answer

Answer

Right Wing Authoritarianism is characterised by rigid thinking, intolerance toward other worldviews and perceptions of other groups as a threat and develops when individuals internalise the idea that the world is a dangerous place.   

Show question

Question

What was the aim of the study of Cohrs et al. 2012? 


Show answer

Answer

  • The focus of Cohrs et al. (2012) was to assess the relationship between personality traits, ideological attitudes and prejudice. 
  • They also wanted to see if self-reported participant responses will be similar to responses describing participants from their peers.  

Show question

Question

Outline limitations of Cohrs et al. 2012. 


Show answer

Answer

  • The findings might not be generalisable to the population outside of Germany.
  • Acquaintances can also be biased in their assessment of prejudice and personality.
  • Findings are correlational.

Show question

Question

What is Conscientiousness according to the Big Five personality model? 


Show answer

Answer

Conscientiousness relates to self-discipline, dutifulness, efficiency, productivity and a sense of competence and responsibility. 

Show question

Question

What is Social Dominance Orientation? 


Show answer

Answer

Social Dominance Orientation is characterised by a pursuit of dominance and a preference for hierarchy. 

Individuals high in the Social Dominance Orientation tend to seek superiority over others and hold strong beliefs that the world is a competitive place where only the strongest can survive. 

Show question

Question

What is the Authoritarian Personality? 


Show answer

Answer

The authoritarian Personality dimension, proposed by Adorno (1950), is characterised by strong loyalty towards one's group and obedience to authority. It is also associated with negative attitudes towards other groups.  

Show question

Question

Who developed the Authoritarian Personality dimension? 


Show answer

Answer

Felicia Pratto (1994)  

Show question

Question

What were the findings of Cohrs et al. 2012? 


Show answer

Answer

  • Self-reported and peer-reported data was similar but when data from 2 peers was used, social desirability appeared to be reduced.
  • Only RWA mediated the relationship between personality and prejudice. 
  • Agreeableness and Openness to Experience correlated negatively with prejudice. Conscientiousness correlated positively with prejudice (mediated by RWA).   

Show question

Question

Outline strengths of Cohrs et al. 2012. 


Show answer

Answer

- Researchers collected data from both the participant and their acquaintances and ensured anonymity when collecting the data.  

A standardised procedure was used, which allows replicability and increases reliability.

Show question

Question

How does the Authoritarian Personality develop according to Adorno? 


Show answer

Answer

Adorno theorised that individuals develop Authoritarian Personality traits due to difficult experiences of harsh parenting and conditional love.  

Show question

Question

What does Openness to Experience refer to according to the Big Five personality model? 


Show answer

Answer

Openness to Experience is characterised by an interest in different ideas, curiosity, imagination and sensitivity to art. 

Show question

Question

How does the Big Five personality model characterise Agreeableness? 


Show answer

Answer

Agreeableness is associated with tendermindedness, altruism, being caring, tolerant and considerate of others. 

Show question

Question

How did Elms and Milgram (1966) test the differences between participants that continued to obey or refused to obey in the original Milgram experiment? 


Show answer

Answer

  • Adorno's F-scale was administered to 20 participants that obeyed in the original Milgram experiment and 20 that refused. 
  • Participants were also asked questions about their relationship with their parents and their perceptions of the experimenter in the Milgram experiment.

Show question

Question

What were the findings of the Elms and Milgram (1966) study on the differences between participants that continued to obey and ones that refused to obey in the Milgram experiment?   


Show answer

Answer

Elms and Milgram (1966) found that participants who obeyed did score higher on the Authoritarian Personality measure, had distant fathers and admired the authority in the Milgram experiment. The findings were in line with Adorno's predictions.  

Show question

Question

What was the sample in the Cohrs et al. 2012 study? 


Show answer

Answer

The sample consisted of 517 participants of German nationality, that were all heterosexual and able-bodied.   

Show question

Question

How did Cohrs et al. 2012 measure personality and attitudes? 


Show answer

Answer

Personality attitudes was measured using questionnaires. 

In the first study, questionnaires were filled by the participant and one of their acquaintances, while in the second study data from 2 acquaintances were used in addition to self-reported data.

Show question

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