More on authoritarians

Alert reader Butsuri points out that Bob Altemeyer’s book The Authoritarians is available online. It’s very much worth reading, perhaps even more so than Dean’s book. A few key factoids about authoritarians not covered below:

  • Though highly moralistic, they are incredibly forgiving of their leaders… which is why the Republicans have been taken over by ruthless amoral social dominators. 
  • They do poorly on tests of logic… they don’t seem to grasp errors in an argument, and seem to evaluate a conclusion based on whether they already agree with it. 
  • Without leaders, they’re rather passive. Altemeyers had a group of authoritarians play a simulation of world politics, with and without a sprinkling of social dominators. Without them, the authoritarians sat timidly in their national groups, making no attempt to deal with the problems of the world. With the dominators, the game quickly devolved into a global nuclear war. 
  • There are a couple of effective ways of reducing authoritarians’ more negative traits.
    • Greater experience. Authoritarians tend to dislike gays, for instance… unless they’ve met one. Authoritarians often live in a very provincial environment; they loosen up a fair amount if (say) they go to a large university and mix with other people.
    • Shame. Authoritarians don’t like to stray from the norm. If they learn that their attitudes are extreme, they start to moderate them.

After reading Altemeyer, I’m tending to look for these personality types all over. E.g. in the recent film The Lives of Others, which is about the East German Stasi, the main character, an emotionally frigid observer, is clearly an authoritarian; his bosses are social dominators. (Authoritarians gravitate toward the right wing, but of course in a communist state they identify with the communist authorities.)