Authoritarian Personality Theory

Authoritarian personality, doesn’t it brings in a lot of names from the global leadership list in your mind?

People with authoritarian personalities cast menacing shadows over the lives of so many people. It is not only about famous political leaders of the world. But they are everywhere around us. Maybe many of us even don’t know about their authoritarian personalities. The only way to recognize them is by seeing them while using or abusing their power. These people have prejudice, cynicism, intolerance, and double standards. They always feel a need to dominate others.

In this article, our focus would be to discuss people with such a personality. Do you know that there is a theory about such individuals too. This theory highlights the reasons and the ways through which these people use their authority. So, just be ready to learn more about such people. We are sure that after reading this article, you’ll be in a better position to identify people with authoritarian personalities around you. Not only this, you’ll also have a better idea about the reasons because of which they are like this.

Authoritarian Personality Definition:

An oppressive or strict behavior of an individual towards their subordinates is authoritarian behavior. You can define Authoritarian Personality as a person with a dominating style attitude towards others. Most of the people with such personalities do not accept the opinion of others. Mostly, they don’t like any interference in their work. For them, their opinion is the best. And it should be implemented in letter and spirit.

Authoritarian Personality Theory:

Till mid of the 20th-century authoritarian theory was influential. This theory explains the mass appeal of ethnocentrism and fascism. The authoritarian personality theory was initially launched by Adorno and his colleagues in year 1950.

But this theory was challenged and modified many times. Authoritarian personality theory was composed of a set of psychological syndromes. These syndromes include superstition, power and toughness, conventionalism, authoritarian aggression and authoritarian submission. Moreover, stereotype, destructiveness, anti-interception, projectivity, and cynicism were a few other issues that actually lead to the creation of authoritarian personality according to this theory.

Authoritarian Theory by Adorno:

Adorno explains the following elements in a personality with authoritarianism:

  • Personality gets preoccupied with sex and violence.
  • Shows a strong need for robust leadership with uncompromising power.
  • Display aggression towards people with different views and towards those who never subscribe to their conventional thinking.
  • To acknowledge the authority they show respect for submission.
  • They blindly follow the conventional ways towards right and wrong.
  • Always discourage creativity and rarely trust others with decisions and tasks.

F-Scale Test:

Adorno and his associates designed significant as well as problematic F-scale tests to measure fascist and authoritarian tendencies in the general population.

According to Adorno, some people show more intolerance and prejudice than others and these tendencies foster acceptability to authoritarian beliefs. 30 questions were the part of the test. These questions ask a person how much a person agreed or disagreed with the given statements in that test.

Authoritarian personality and obedience:

The authoritarian personality theory was extracted from psychoanalysis. And it was assumed that such a personality originates when a person interacts with authoritarian figures since their childhood.

It shows that if children were treated strictly by their parents or teachers, then there is a higher chance that these children hold the tendencies of hostility and aggression towards authority figures. The cross-cultural studies also confirm that authoritarian disposition in children is the result of authoritarian parenting. Sigmund Freud showed this angle of the personality. His contribution became the part of ‘authoritarian personality theory.

The term ”authoritarian personality” though, implies a controlling or dominating personality. But these personalities are so much conflicted because they want power on one hand and on the other side they are also very willing to follow and obey the authority.

Actually, the inner aggression and hostility developed towards authority figures during childhood develop into psychological conflicts that could not show explicitly. That is why the inner defense mechanism transforms it into a socially acceptable form. This transformation generates strict adherence to get power and rule others. The authoritarian personality sees a clear difference between the strong and weak.

Modifications in authoritarian theory:

The basic theory by Adorno initiated a series of discussions, criticism, and studies. However, it had to go under modifications a lot of times.

Initially, it was about a personality dependent on psychological syndromes. Later on, it was idealized as social attitudes and ideology, which is also known as right-wing authoritarianism (RWA). Just recently, this theory has been modified. Now it is the response pattern towards external threats. In 1998 Altemeyer reduced the authoritarianism into only three components:

  • Authoritarian submission
  • Authoritarian aggression
  • Conventionalism associated with authoritarian personality

Whitely also used this theory for the prediction of political behaviors and attitudes. It was back in 1999.

Goods and bad about authoritarian personality:

Although, the authoritarian personality word sounds quite negative there are certain situations where it can be beneficial too.


  • It is so impactful when there is a need to take an instant decision without consulting a large number of people
  • For some projects that require strong leadership, authoritarian personality is the best option. It helps in accomplishing tasks efficiently and within time
  • In addition, the authoritarian personality is highly effective in small groups where strong and influential leadership is lacking
  • In situations with great pressure and stress, such as during war or military conflicts an authoritarian personality is in need to lead the group members and for taking complex decisions


The authoritarian personality is always viewed as bossy, dictatorial, and controlling and in many cases it becomes problematic.

  • People with authoritarian personalities never belief in consultation and group discussions and that is why they have a lack of creative solutions and decreases group input ultimately results in poor group performance.
  • Authoritarian person impairs the morale of their team as a leader and this generates feelings of anxiety and frustration in-group members and they become stifled and dissatisfied.


The authoritarian personality is like another personality style that comes with benefits and weaknesses also. Four different types of structuralism social interactions of humans exists. These include authority ranking, equality matching, market pricing, and communal sharing and these forms exist in all societies.

Moreover, you can investigate this type of personality by social interaction and personality (trait) perspectives. However, there is no specific measure to judge or find these people. You’ll have to be subjective while discussing them. No one can decide either the authoritarian personality is helpful or harmful for society. Authoritarian personality does have some pitfalls potentially. But he/she usually learns to use the elements of this personality style wisely.

What is your opinion about today’s article? Please share your views in the comments section.

Log Kya Kahein Gay: Log Kya Kahein Gay provides a platform to discuss ideas and opinions about the culture and social ethics of our society.
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