Altemeyer: Suppose you were applying for a leadership position in a right-wing religious/political movement--a movement hell-bent on gaining total power so it could impose its beliefs and rules of conduct on everyone forever. (I realize this may not be your No. 1 career choice, but work with me a bit here.) As part of your application you’re asked to take an aptitude test. Indicate whether you dislike, or favor, the sentiments below on a -4 to +4 basis.
This country would be better off if we cared less about how equal all people are. Some groups of people are simply not the equals of others.
Some people are just more worthy than others.
These items are from the Social Dominance Orientation scale, and if you want the job of Dictator For Life you’ll agree with them, coming out foursquare against equality. In turn, you will disagree with:
If people were treated more equally, we would have fewer problems in this country.
We should try to treat one another as equals as much as possible.
Increased social equality.
Felicia Pratto of the University of Connecticut and Jim Sidanius at UCLA presented the test in 1994 as a measure of belief in social inequality.1 Whereupon Sam McFarland at the University of Western Kentucky used their scale and twenty-one others in a magnificent “pitting experiment”aimed at finding the best predictors of prejudice. He discovered that only two of the 22 tests he threw “into the pit” to fight it out could predict prejudice at all well: the Social Dominance Orientation scale, and the RWA scale.
I repeated McFarland’s experiment and got the same results. Generally, the Social Dominance scale predicted such unfairness better than the RWA scale did, and so gets the silver medal in the Prejudice Olympics over the bronze medal I awarded the RWA scale in chapter 1. Furthermore I found that these two scales could, between them, explain most of the prejudice my subjects revealed against racial minorities, women, homosexuals, and so on. Furthermore furthermore, social dominance scores and RWA scale scores correlated only weakly with each other--about .20. This “Lite” correlation has a ton of significance that we shall deal with later. But in the first instance it meant persons who scored highly on the social dominance test were seldom high RWAs, and high RWAs were almost never social dominators.
That’s why the two tests could predict so much together: each was identifying a different clump of prejudiced persons--sort of like, “You round up the folks in the white sheets over there, and I’ll get the pious bigots over here.” So it looks like most really prejudiced people come in just two flavors: social dominators and high RWAs. Since dominators long to control others and be authoritarian dictators, and high RWAs yearn to follow such leaders, most social prejudice was therefore connected to authoritarianism.2 It was one of those discoveries, thanks to Sam McFarland, that happen now and then in science when a great deal of This, That and the Next Thing suddenly boils down to something very simple. Most social prejudice is linked to authoritarianism; it’s found in one kind of authoritarian, or its counterpart.