Authoritarian personality syndrome, as defined below by Bobby Azarian, PhD, Psychology Today, is being increasingly witnessed in our country’s social and political scene:
Authoritarian personality syndrome—a well-studied and globally-prevalent condition—is a state of mind that is characterized by belief in total and complete obedience to one’s authority. Those with the syndrome often display aggression toward outgroup members, submissiveness to authority, resistance to new experiences, and a rigid hierarchical view of society. The syndrome is often triggered by fear, making it easy for leaders who exaggerate threat or fear monger to gain their allegiance.
According to Eric Maisel, PhD (Psychology Today), “In the authoritarian literature, there is a sharp distinction made between authoritarian leaders and authoritarian followers. Both are authoritarians, but they have their significant differences. One major difference is that authoritarian followers, for all their hatred, belligerence, and aggressiveness, are also highly submissive, easily cowed by authority, and cowardly.”
Of course, the same individual can be both leader and follower, e.g, an authoritarian parent who also has had such a parent or an authoritarian political leader who admires and enables other authoritarian world leaders.
Authoritarians on all levels and in all types of positions in life can be expected to exhibit many or all of the following 30 traits, states Maisel in a series of posts on Psychology Today.
- Punishment and Cruelty
- Violence, Aggression, and Assaultive Behavior
- Threats and Scare Tactics
- Quixotic, Unclear Rules
- Paranoia and Enemies’ Lists
- Truth Held as Enemy
- Shaming Efforts, Derision, and Ridicule
- Rigidity and Obsession with Control
- Intrusiveness (“combine a need to control with a desire to shame and humiliate”)
- Unacknowledged Anxiety
- Religious Fervor and Religious Cover
- Superstitions and Mythic Determination
- Anti-Intellectualism and Anti-Rationalism
- Demands and Coercion
- Need for Domination
- Prejudice and Bigotry
- Lack of Conscience and Absence of Guilt
- Lack of Compassion and Empathy
- Conventionalism and Concerns with Social Status
- Submissiveness and Cowardice
- Preoccupation with Sex and Promiscuity
- Loyalty Demands
- Narcissism and Superficial Charm
- Consistent Authoritarianism
Authoritarian submission: a high degree of submissiveness to authorities perceived to be legitimate.
Authoritarian aggression: a general aggressiveness directed at deviants, outgroups, and those designated to be targets by established authorities.
Conventionalism: a high degree of adherence to traditions and social norms that are seen as endorsed by society and the established authorities. This includes a belief that adherence to these norms should be mandated across a society.
Altemeyer’s “Right-Wing Authoritarianism Scale,” found at Open Psychometrics, takes only a few minutes to complete.
But what about Left-Wing Authoritarianism? There’s not nearly as much mention of this in the literature. Psychologist Lucian Gideon Conway and his research associates adapted Altemeyer’s work toward trying to measure it (PsyPost) but haven’t quite gotten there yet:
‘We aren’t claiming definitively that left-wingers are just as likely as right-wingers to be authoritarian in all (or even most) contexts, or that left-wing authoritarians are just the same as right-wing authoritarians in every regard (in fact, I’m pretty sure they aren’t, and we’re doing some work on that).’
‘There are good reasons to think authoritarianism aligns more with right-wing than left-wing ideology, and we are interested in those reasons, too. The point is, it is a further question to better define the similarities and differences in right-wing and left-wing authoritarianism.’