October 05, 2010
Remind You of Anybody?

This is from The Authoritarians, by Bob Altemeyer:

But research reveals that authoritarian followers drive through life under the influence of impaired thinking a lot more than most people do, exhibiting sloppy reasoning, highly compartmentalized beliefs, double standards, hypocrisy, self-blindness, a profound ethnocentrism, and — to top it all off a ferocious dogmatism that makes it unlikely anyone could ever change their minds with evidence or logic. These seven deadly shortfalls of authoritarian thinking eminently qualify them to follow a wouldbe dictator. As Hitler is reported to have said, “What good fortune for those in power that people do not think…”

Intrigued, I gave the inferences test that Mary Wegmann had used to two large samples of students at my university. In both studies high Right Wing Authoritarians went down in flames more than others did. They particularly had trouble figuring out that an inference or deduction was wrong. To illustrate, suppose they had gotten the following syllogism:


All fish live in the sea.
Sharks live in the sea..
Therefore, sharks are fish.

The conclusion does not follow, but high RWAs would be more likely to say the reasoning is correct than most people would. If you ask them why it seems right, they would likely tell you, “Because sharks are fish.” In other words, they thought the reasoning was sound because they agreed with the last statement. If the conclusion is right, they figure, then the reasoning must have been right.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at October 05, 2010 06:00 PM
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