Home > social psychology > The Authoritarians – Bob Altemeyer

The Authoritarians – Bob Altemeyer

November 20, 2009

I’ve been paying attention to Politics (with a big ‘P’) here in the USA for the last several years.

One thing that absolutely stunned me was the 2004 re-election of George W Bush. Why would someone who had taken us into 2 voluntary wars (one of which was most certainly under false pretenses), lined the pockets of his cronies, been responsible for torture on a wide scale, exported more jobs than any previous President, kept us out of participation in the International Criminal Court and backed out of his obligations under the Kyoto Protocol be considered to be re-election material? Oh, and he increased our indebtedness to other nations by more than all Presidents of the USA before him combined.

It’s not about a partisan view, it’s about the logic. Why didn’t people see him as a failure?

Well, I’ve never had any serious social psychology training, and my self-education is not much more than Thomas Harris’ book – I’m OK, You’re OK.

I was poking around the web today, and latched onto a pdf book by Bob Altemeyer, a social psychologist from the University of Manitoba (a self-deferential guy) called ‘The Authoritarians’. Get the download here.

I was blown away with his science and his analysis.

Many people, especially if you are one of the ‘RWA’s, will be put off by some of his terminology (‘RWA’ – right wing authoritarian, could hardly be a worse description for what he means it to be, which is, I think, ‘someone who accepts authoritarian control by writ’). Yet, it explains perfectly the phenomenon of why (seasonal reference alert) turkeys are easily persuaded to vote for Thanksgiving.

The initial quiz, I’m convinced, is his (tongue in cheek) attempt to try out another social science experiment. Leave a comment if you think that’s true.

Read it, it’s very digestible, and the facts are relegated to the notes, so you ‘RWA’s won’t have to worry your little heads about ‘the Science’.

Categories: social psychology
  1. prehistoricminiman
    February 11, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    That is a pretty simplistic explanation of that book. Theres subdivisions beneath the “RWA” moniker…basically “Single Highs” and “Double Highs.” Single-Highs are basically authoritarian followers, while Double -highs are the sometimes conscience-lacking authoritarian “leaders.”
    Dean goes into this in great detail in his book “Conservatives Without Conscience.”

  2. S.
    February 16, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Thanks for the clarification. I’m sure that clears up the confusion.

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