F-scale (personality test)

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The California F-scale is a 1947 personality test, designed by German Californian Theodor W. Adorno and others to measure the "authoritarian personality".[1] The "F" stands for "fascist". The F-scale measures responses on several different components of authoritarianism, such as conventionalism, authoritarian aggression, superstition and stereotypy, power and "toughness", destructiveness and cynicism, projectivity, and sex. Scores acquired from the F-scale could be directly associated with background components, educational level, and intellectual capacity.[2] It is an indirect type of test that ensures the result would not be due to the individual's fake responses; this is possible because the purpose of the measurement and which attitude is being measured are initially concealed from the participants.[3] The existence of this correlation could possibly affect the way in which the F-scale accurately measures the authoritarian personality syndrome.[2] The F-scale has two principal purposes: it aims to measure prejudice and anti-democratic tendencies at the personality level.[3]

The purpose of the F-scale is to measure an antidemocratic personality structure, usually defined by authoritarianism. A score of above 80 on the F-scale test indicates that the subject may be suffering from severe psychopathology. Patients who suffer from repeated episodes of disorders usually get a higher F-scale score than those who have acute disorders. Research has not found any correlation between F-scale scores and educational level.[citation needed]

The scale specifically examines the following personality dimensions:

  • Conventionalism: conformity to the traditional societal norms and values of the middle class
  • Authoritarian submission: a passive notion towards adhering to conventional norms and values
  • Authoritarian aggression: punishing and condemning individuals who don't adhere to conventional values
  • Religion and Ethics
  • Superstition and Stereotypy
  • Power and "Toughness"
  • Anti-intraception: "rejection of all inwardness, of the subjective, the imaginative, the tender-minded, and of self-criticism"
  • Destructiveness and Cynicism: generalized hostility, vilification of the human
  • Projectivity: the disposition to believe that wild and dangerous things go on in the world; the projection outwards of unconscious emotional impulses
  • Sex: exaggerated concern with sexual "goings-on"

F-scale tests measure not only the subject's overall level of stress but also their willingness to cooperate in the testing process.[4]

Early research[edit]

Research in the late 1960s focused on police and the detection of authoritarianism.

Doubt about its indirect measure[edit]

According to data presented by Baljeet Ahmed Muhammad, a hypothesis was formed proposing that brighter people are capable of penetrating the significance of the F-scale, helping them react in a more "suitable" fashion. Hence, because the F-scale can be faked, it cannot be considered as an indirect measure.[3] In the course of the Minnesota Adoption Study it was found that "the F-scale scores were negatively correlated with WAIS vocabulary [an IQ test] (−0.42) and showed the same pattern of family correlations".[5]


The scale has attracted a great deal of criticism, since it is ideological and associates societal processes with personality characteristics.[6]

Among the criticisms of the F-scale is its sensitivity to respondents with acquiescent response styles due to being worded so that agreement always indicated an authoritarian response. A number of related scales such as the Wilson–Patterson Conservatism Scale and the Balanced F-scale have been created in an attempt to fix the shortcomings of the F-scale. Bob Altemeyer's Right-wing authoritarianism Scale is the most frequently used, contemporary descendant of the F-scale.[citation needed]

Another criticism of the test is the assumption that users with a high score are unsophisticated and may lack social intelligence. According to Kelman and Barclay (1963), the experience of the participant is reflected on the test score; i.e., they may not be able to see the obvious pattern and motives recurring in the test and be ignorant of it.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Codevilla, Angelo M. (2010). "America's Ruling Class -- And the Perils of Revolution". The American Spectator. Archived from the original on 2012-12-07.
  2. ^ a b Kelman, Herbert C.; Barclay, Janet (1963). "The F scale as a measure of breadth of perspective". The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. 67 (6): 608–15. doi:10.1037/h0048738. PMID 14084770.
  3. ^ a b c Cohn, Thomas S. (1952). "Is the F scale indirect?". The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. 47 (3): 732. doi:10.1037/h0062297. PMID 12980781.
  4. ^ Cukrowicz, Kelly C.; Reardon, Maureen Lyons; Donohue, Keith F.; Joiner, Thomas E. (2004). "MMPI-2 F Scale as a Predictor of Acute Versus Chronic Disorder Classification". Assessment. 11 (2): 145–51. doi:10.1177/1073191104264961. PMID 15171462. S2CID 39247232.
  5. ^ Scarr, Sandra; Weinberg, Richard A. (1983). "The Minnesota Adoption Studies: Genetic Differences and Malleability". Child Development. 54 (2): 260–267. doi:10.2307/1129689. JSTOR 1129689. PMID 6872626.
  6. ^ Spielberger, Charles (2004). Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology. pp. 251–5. doi:10.1016/B0-12-657410-3/00028-3. ISBN 978-0-12-657410-4.

Further reading[edit]