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The F scale: the measurement test of fascism

The F scale: the measurement test of fascism

March 26, 2024

Everyone and every one of us are unique beings, who will live different lives and experience different situations. Also the way we see and interpret the world, and how we relate to the environment, is distinctive of each person. The same applies to our opinions and attitudes towards different areas and situations in life.

All this has an enormous interest for sciences such as psychology, which throughout its history has been generating a large number of instruments and methods in order to measure and assess the existence of personality traits and the tendency to believe and value reality in certain ways. There are a large number of them, some of them serving to assess the degree of predisposition towards a particular personality type or trait. An example of the latter is The F scale, by Theodor Adorno , which aims to measure the predisposition to fascism and authoritarianism.


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The F scale of fascism

It is known as scale F an instrument of evaluation of human personality created with the aim of generating a method that would allow to assess the existence of what he called an authoritarian personality or, rather, the tendency or predisposition to fascism (coming from the F of the scale of this word).

This scale was born in 1947 by Adorno, Levinson, Frenkel-Brunswik and Sanford, after the end of World War II and having to live a long time in exile. The scale aims to value the presence of a personality that allows predicting fascist tendencies from the measurement of prejudices and opinions contrary to democracy, seeking to assess the existence of an authoritarian personality.


Specifically, the test measures the existence of rigid adherence to the values ​​of the middle class, the tendency to reject and aggression towards those opposed to conventional values, the harshness and the preoccupation with power and domination, superstition, contrariety in the face of emotive or subjective and ascription to a rigid rationality, cynicism, predisposition to consider the projection of impulses as a cause of situations of danger, the rejection of divergent sexuality, the idealization of one's own group of belonging and authority and submission to norms generated by this .

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The authoritarian personality

The creation of the F scale starts from the consideration of the existence of an authoritarian personality, a theory defended among others by Adorno, which can generate a trend towards fascism .


This author considered that social attitudes and ideologies formed part of the personality to some extent, something that in the case of fascism could explain a type of personality tending to conservatism, exaltation to the ingroup, aggression and rejection towards unconventional values. So, although something cultural the emergence of attitudes such as fascism or democracy would be products of a personality type .

The author, with an orientation of psychoanalytic character, considered that the authoritarian personality is the product of an unconscious repression that is intended to be resolved through intolerance. The authoritarian subject presents an extreme attitude derived from the outward projection of his own internal conflicts. For this philosopher, authoritarianism would be linked to neuroticism and to a childhood being dominated .

Throughout his childhood, the subject has been subjected to a superego has not allowed the ego (drives, desires and impulses) of the child itself to develop normally, this being insecure and requiring a superego to guide their behavior. This will cause them to generate attitudes of domination and hostility to what the subject considers outside his group of belonging .

The characteristics of an authoritarian person are resentment, conventionalism, authoritarianism, rebellion and psychopathic aggressiveness, tendency to the compulsivity of intolerant and maniacal habits and manipulation of reality in pursuit of developing a dictatorial stance .

A scientifically debatable scale

Although the scale aims to offer a valid measurement instrument, the fact is that scientifically it suffers from a series of characteristics that have made it the object of a wide variety of criticisms.

First of all, it highlights the fact that taking into account the bases from which it was elaborated, it is pathologizing a concrete type of something that is not based on something psychiatric but in a kind of concrete political attitude or ideology. It also highlights the fact that the political opinion of a person can be highly modifiable, something that does not seem to take into account.

Also, another reason for criticism is the fact that the items of the test were not previously tested , and that there are certain prejudices in its formulation that reduce its validity and objectivity. The items are not mutually exclusive either, something that hinders the interpretation of the test and can either inflate or devalue their results. Likewise, its elaboration was subsidized by the American Jewish Committee, something that does not stop being an element that implies the existence of a conflict of interest.

Another criticism is that the interviewer can use the results in a discriminatory way, being an instrument with a certain burden of blame and criminalization of the evaluated depending on their results . Thus, the evaluator is not totally partial during his passage.

A final criticism is made taking into account that the scale only value the authoritarianism linked to right-wing political conservatism, not valuing the option of authoritarianism by leftist groups.

Bibliographic references:

Adorno, T. W .; Frenkel-Brunswik, E .; Levinson, D.J. & Sanford, N.R. (2006). The Authoritarian Personality (Preface, Introduction and Conclusions). EMPIRIA Journal of Methodology of Social Sciences, 12 :. 155-200. National University of Distance Education. Madrid Spain.


MW vs the F Scale (March 2024).


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