Bob Altemeyer Interview

Check out a Bob Altemeyer interview, podcasted here. If you don’t know who Altemeyer is, learn about him here. The interview takes a few minutes to get past the introductory material, but for connoisseurs of right wing psychology, it’s well worth the wait, to hear one of the world’s experts. Altemeyer covers a fair amount of ground in this 102 minute interview, but of interest to me were his thoughts on authoritarian followers (as opposed to leaders). Some takeaways:

Authoritarian followers:

  1. Lack critical thinking skills. If they like an argument’s conclusion, it doesn’t matter how stupid or flawed the reasoning was to arrive at it. This is also why logic doesn’t work with them.
  2. Have highly compartimentalized thinking. This means they often hold opposite or inconsistent views. For example, they may support democracy and freedom of speech, but also believe that rabble rousing leftists should be locked up. They will pull out whatever argument is needed given the current circumstance, seemingly unaware that they expressed the opposite position only minutes ago. They are easily prone to hypocrisy because of this. This comes through as a marked lack of fairness.

Altemeyer claims that his surveys of authoritarianism among college students show that it varies according to the times. Students scored low in the early 1970s, and high in the mid 1980s. The average score has been at a midpoint between these extremes for the last five or ten years. In students, the level of authoritarianism diminishes a bit as the student is exposed to the broader world. By contrast, parenting can increase a person’s level of authoritarianism.

It’s interesting to me, that most right wingers I know, have little interest in traveling outside the United States, desiring the least amount of exposure to people who are different than them. The converse is true for the most liberal people I know – they love foreign travel. And this is precisely what helps an authoritarian become less so.

13 thoughts on “Bob Altemeyer Interview

  1. Pingback: The Authoritarians « cannablog

  2. Then there’s the “what planet do these people live on?” factor. Read this (scroll down past the ads) and remind yourself it is not a satire.

  3. We need to stop using the term’s “Republican” and “Conservative.”
    Just substitute the word “lemming.”
    Ask you lemming co-worker’s, “Are a a leader lemming, or just a follower?”

    ‘Nuff said!

  4. The “blogsforbush” thing is interesting in the context of this authoritarian thread. Bush cites Lennon (communist authoritarian) and Hitler (fascist authoritarian) as evils that we need to get behind Bush (neocon authoritarian) to prevent occurring again. Thereby causing them to occur again. I’m in a loop, here.

  5. “The converse is true for the most liberal people I know – they love foreign travel. And this is precisely what helps an authoritarian become less so.”

    For this reason alone (among many) I have advocated mandatory military service or some sort of peace corp service, as long as it is outside our borders.

    Interfacing with diverse cultures not only broadens ones life-view but also helps one value the culture one comes from. It is a win-win for any culture and/or society.

  6. The non-critical thinking – boy, is that right on – people I’ve known are extremely fearful. One guy I know comes unglued when the death penalty issue is challenged because he actually believes that if the guy on death row isn’t dead he’ll get out and my guy will end up murdered. Another guy has a house full of guns – in drawers, closets, you name it. Gay marriage literally threatens all marriages. Abortion means they could have been aborted – that one’s a doozy. Foreigners are frightening because they’re foreigners. Endless examples and they all boil down to fear.

  7. It’s not just travel outside of the United States. I believe travel to the 3rd World is a much more transformative, liberalizing experience than the sidewalk cafes of Paris. Not that those sidewalk cafes aren’t fun, it’s just that if you’re going to make that step outside of the US, then take one more.

    By the way, this is all a roundabout way of talking about American exceptionalism. The current 150 yr anniversary issue of Atlantic has some interesting treatises on the American Idea by a very wide range of current American writers.


    Ladies and gentlemen ! Do you know that Mikhail Kryzhanovsky,
    KGB superspy, the author of the “White House Special Handbook
    or How to Rule the World in the 21st Century” is the US president
    de facto ? Do you know that our great presidents, Clinton and now
    – Bush, rule America in strict accordance to his instructions ?
    Open GOOGLE – great surprise for all of us !

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