Success and failure as determinants of level of authoritarianism



Various authors have argued that the more threatening an individual's environment is, the more authoritarian he is likely to be. This hypothesis was investigated in two separate experiments. In both, Ss were pretested for authoritarianism and then were exposed to one of two conditions. In the first condition, Ss were threatened by failure at two experimental tasks; in the second, they were presumably encouraged by success at these tasks. In both studies, failure increased and success decreased the Ss' levels of authoritarianism. In both studies, these changes in authoritarianism were greater for individuals who attributed their performance to internal causes. In addition, data from the second investigation indicated that these manipulations affected Ss' tendencies to conform to the judgments of an authority figure. The findings appear to support the contention that personality is an open system.