Perceived Authoritarianism in Self and Others by Male College Students and Police Officers


Requests for reprints should be sent to Roland Süter, Department of Psychology, Montclair State College, Upper Montclair, New Jersey 07043.


This study tested 62 police officers and 62 college males on their own authoritarianism and their estimates of the authoritarian beliefs of the other group. College students perceived police officers as much more authoritarian than the officers represented themselves as being (p < .0001). Officers were accurate in their estimations of students' authoritarianism, and there was no difference between officers and students in their characterizations of their own authoritarianism. The differences between these findings and those in much of the literature (especially that from the early 1970s) may be due to differences in police experience: Many of the officers in this sample had some college and thus direct experience with students. It may also be that officers are now being specifically chosen on the basis of less authoritarian attitudes. The results imply that rather than focusing on changing the attitudes of officers, police departments desiring better public relations might do well to concentrate on correcting public opinion.