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The California F-scale is a 1947 personality test, designed by Theodor W. Adorno and others to measure the authoritarian personality. The "F" stands for "fascist". The F-scale measures responses on several different components of authoritarianism, such as conventionalism, authoritarian aggression, anti-intraception, 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. 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. The existence of this correlation could possibly affect the way in which the F-scale accurately measures the authoritarian personality syndrome. The F-Test has two principal purposes: it aims to measure prejudice and anti-democratic tendencies at the personality level.
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. Besides, people who have a high F-scale score mostly likely have a lower educational level. 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;
- Power and "toughness";
- Destructiveness and cynicism;
- Anti-intraception; and
F-scale tests measure not only the subject's overall level of stress but also his or her willingness to cooperate in the testing process.
Research in the late 1960s focused on police and the detection of authoritarianism.
Doubt about its indirect measureEdit
According to data presented by Levinson, 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.
The scale has attracted a great deal of criticism, since it is ideological and associates societal processes with personality characteristics.
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.
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.
- (1989). Pitfalls in Using the F Scale to Measure Authoritarianism in Accounting Research. Behavioral Research in Accounting 1: 182–92.
- The F-scale instrument in an online interactive form (accessed 9 February 2013)]
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