The dominant personality and the F scale

The dominant personality and the F scale

Who doesn't know someone who always wants to be right? Or someone who never gives his arm to twist and everything has to be done as he or she wants? Some people in our environment have the ability to exhaust our patience. This way of being is known as dominant or authoritarian personality.

The psychologist William M. Marston, more than half a century ago, defined the dominant personality as a person who "He projects his energy to the world and uses reason to achieve his goals. He is reliable, tenacious, demanding, power oriented and can be aggressive in ways. Here are the people who like to say what the rest has to do".


  • 1 World War II
  • 2 Erich Fromm
  • 3 Theodor Ornament
  • 4 Milton Rokeach and Dogmatism
  • 5 Buddhist Psychology
  • 6 Not everything is so negative
  • 7 Final Reflection
  • 8 Bibliography

The Second World War

World War II was a turning point in the study of authoritarianism at the psychological level. Countless psychologists, sociologists, philosophers and other theorists, were amazed by the Jewish genocide by Nazism.

Specifically both authoritarian personality and those who blindly obeyed their orders caught their attention. So the study of authoritarian personality dates back to the middle of the 20th century.

What leads a person to order a massacre? What leads others to obey? We will see later that some theories postulate that an authoritarian personality not only gives orders, but also possesses a certain degree of submission.

Two authors were the referents at the beginning of the study of authoritarianism. One of them was Erich Fromm with the publication in 1941 of his book "The fear to the freedom". On the other hand, we have Theodor Ornament with the publication of the book "Authoritarian Personality" in 1950

Erich Fromm

Erich Fromm (1900-1980) argues that individual psychic consciousness is formed through historical and social facts. For his theory, he focuses on the meaning that freedom has for man. According to Fromm, "Man, the more he gains from freedom the more he loses in security".

When man tries to be free, he is invaded by great insecurity that will lead him to flee from that freedom. In this way, he explains that in the epics of crisis it is when authoritarianism has the most boom, since it is when man feels more insecure and helpless.

"The danger of the past was that men were slaves. But the danger of the future is for men to become robots."

Fromm postulates that each person uses different solutions to deal with insecurity, however, there are two that stand out: authoritarianism and automatic compliance.

  • Authoritarianism. The author defines it as a "evasion mechanism that consists in the tendency to abandon the independence of the individual self, to merge with something or someone outside of oneself, who has authority or is attributed". It is characterized by having two main forms. On the one hand it is a powerful tendency to submission and independence. That occurs as a result of the feeling of inferiority, helplessness and individual insignificance. On the other hand, these feelings of inferiority generate in the individual a tendency to subdue others.
  • Automatic compliance These feelings also influence that the individual leaves his individual self to be one of many. In this way it is identified and conformed to the majority.

Theodor Ornament

Theodor Ornament (1903-1969) was one of the first theorists to publish about authoritarianism. In 1950 Adorno and his collaborators published the book "Authoritarian Personality". They define authoritarianism as a "general tendency to place oneself in situations of dominance or submission to others as a consequence of a basic insecurity of the self".

According to Adorno and his team, social transformations occur with such rapidity that they cause lack of structuring of the individual's cognitive field. This fact would result in the appearance of anxiety and insecurity in the subject that would push him to an authoritarian attitude as a solution to this anxiety and insecurity.

The F scale and dominant personality

Adorno and his team were interested in investigating this type of personality (fascist) after the Jewish genocide and for this they developed the F scale, whose objectives were two: detect ethnocentrism Y detect the potentially fascist subject.

The F Scale would measure the authoritarianism factor in the individual and is composed of nine theoretical subvariables:

  1. Conventionalism. It consists of rigid adherence to the conventional values ​​of the middle class.
  2. Authoritarian Submission This is the attitude of submission and acceptance in an unconditional manner with respect to the moral authorities idealized by the endogroup.
  3. Authoritarian aggression. It is the tendency to seek and condemn, reject and punish individuals who violate conventional values.
  4. Anti-contraceptivity This concept is defined as the opposition to the subjective, to self-reflection and to introspection.
  5. Superstition and stereotypy. It consists in the belief in the supernatural determination of human destiny and inclination to think in rigid categories.
  6. Power and strength Concern for the domain-submission, strong-weak dimension, etc. in interpersonal relationships, identifying with the figures of power and valuing excessively strength and hardness.
  7. Destructivity and cynicism. Hostile and general vilification of humanity.
  8. Projectivity People tend to think that dangerous events occur in the world by projecting their unconscious emotional impulses abroad.
  9. Sex. Exaggerated concern about sexual aspects.

Adorno and his team wanted to show that the authoritative personality was closely related to "the kind of approach and perspective that a subject can take in a wide variety of fields of life, from the most intimate aspects of family and sexual adaptation, through personal relationships with people in general, to religious, political and social ideas ".

Adorno's methods and investigations were soon debated, but without a doubt, he set a precedent in the study of authoritarian personality that continues today.

Milton Rokeach and Dogmatism

According Rokeach (1918-1988) the individual's behavior is guided by a single belief system and "holds his self esteem from a hierarchical organization of beliefs, attitudes and values, which are functionally interconnected ".

The author also maintains that "Beliefs are the statements that people make about themselves and the world, whether general or specific, and are arranged within that system in terms of their centrality and importance for self-esteem.".

The belief system is divided into two, those that form the nucleus and are immutable or very difficult to change, and those peripheral beliefs that are unimportant. Rokeach argues that The more closed the cognitive system of the subject, the more likely the appearance of authoritarianism and intolerance.

Thus, the higher the level of dogmatism, the greater the admiration for the authority figure. However, fear is also greater, so hatred will grow towards opposing authority figures and admiration for related authority (Feldman, 2003).

Rokeach's theory sheds light on the political fanaticism that we can see in our day and the rejection of political groups without knowing anything about them. If we identify with an X ideology and our cognitive system is very closed, everything that represents the Y ideology will be rejected, criticized and even hated.

Buddhist Psychology

The buddhist psychology provides personal and profound theories about the individual that can explain the dominant behavior. The concept of I, the one of the expectations and of the acceptance, just like him clinging to these three concepts.

The I corresponds to the identity we establish from birth to the present. It is about our name, nationality, education, beliefs. All we are is our self. According to Buddhism, our Self changes continuously, however, we need to hold on to a fixed identity to feel safe.

The greater the clinging to an invariable identity, the less our cognitive flexibility will be. We will be less open to change. Our expectations of how things should be is fixed and if they do not go as we hope we suffer, and even get angry.

We usually expect our partner to be more or less equal over time, but if little by little it is changing we can think that something bad has happened, that it is no longer the same. However, nothing bad has happened, just the I evolves. An open self is more subject to change and to enrich itself with experience and learning.

Expectations and Acceptance

Accepting that some aspects of life are uncontrollable by us will help us to be more flexible. We cannot control everything, therefore internalizing this fact makes us less authoritarian. We all have acquaintances for whom things must be in a concrete way, and if not, anger arises automatically.

An authoritarian personality does not tolerate changes well or anything that comes out of their belief system. It endangers his I, his identity, and his expectations are not fulfilled. That is why it is so important to be open to life without clinging to an invariable identity. If we internalize that we are changing beings and there is nothing wrong with it we would all be happier and tolerant.

Not everything is so negative

Although the dominant personality is coated with negativism, social psychology has proven that in exceptional moments it can be useful. Within Leadership styles we found a style that is known as "autocratic style". What does it consist of?

It's about a unidirectional leadership style in which the leader or boss makes all the decisions without taking into account the workers. No one discusses their opinions or guidelines. It is a form of tax leadership where all the guidelines are marked by the leader.

This leadership style has two very specific main advantages. On the one hand, it serves to make decisions when the situation is out of control and there is a need to act quickly. On the other hand, it eliminates the tendency of some workers to relax in their workplace.

However, and despite the benefits it may have, it does not mean that the leader must necessarily have a dominant personality. I could simply adopt a punctual role to solve an unforeseen event. As If the leader has an authoritarian personality, in the medium and long term there are more disadvantages than advantages.

Final reflection

As we can see, both the theories of modern western psychology and Buddhist psychology agree that at the base of the dominant personality lies an inflexible belief system. In the same way it is also observed that the individual has a Low self-esteem that you need to hold on to a solid identity to feel safe.


  • Adorno, T., Frenkel-Brunsk, E., Levinson, D. and Nevitt Sandford R. (2006). The authoritarian personality. Empiria, Journal of Social Science Methodology, 12, 155-200.
  • Etchezahar, E., Jaume, L., Biglieri, J and Cernove, N. (2013) Dogmatism: closed belief system, authoritarianism and intolerance. Research Yearbook, 20, 207-210.
  • Ovejero Bernal, A. (1982). Authoritarianism: psychological approach. The Basilisk, 13,40-44.
  • Rokeach, M. (1952). Dogmatism and opinionation on the left and on the right. American Psychologist, 7, 310.