In this dissertation I address two topics concerning authoritarianism: (1) the role of self-report bias in the assessment of the correlates of authoritarianism, and (2) the question of whether authoritarianism is appropriately conceptualized as a personality trait. I addressed the first topic in Studies 1 and 2. Study 1 used two samples to highlight the role of the individual's perceptions of trait desirability in predicting bias in that individual's self-reports. The individual's views of the desirability of a trait were shown to be an effective predictor of variance that remained in self-report for that trait after the variance shared with peer-reported and/or objectively-assessed levels of that trait have been removed, indicating that people were more prone to exaggerate their levels of a trait when they personally viewed that trait as desirable. In a direct comparison against socially desirable responding measures, which identify individuals who claim exaggerated levels of general patterns of traits, individual perceptions of the desirability of traits were found to predict equal or greater amounts of bias in self-report measures, depending on the trait. As previous studies had reported that authoritarians scored highly on measures of socially desirable responding, Study 2 applied the concepts of Study 1 to identify whether and how authoritarians exaggerate trait levels in self-reports. I found that authoritarians and nonauthoritarians were prone to distinct patterns of exaggerations in self-reports, where these exaggerations were explained by the different views of trait desirability held by authoritarians versus nonauthoritarians. There is thus nothing about authoritarianism per se that was connected to a tendency to misrepresent one's true trait levels; rather, its connection with exaggeration in self-reports derived from its association with perceptions of trait desirability. In Study 3, I addressed recent challenges to the original "trait" conception of authoritarianism in a longitudinal twin study. I found that, consistent with the results observed for other personality traits, authoritarianism was highly stable over time, and this stability was influenced primarily by genetic factors.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2013. Major: Psychology. Advisor: Colin DeYoung. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 95 pages.
Authoritarianism and Personality: Conceptual Issues and the Role of Biased Responding.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.