Authoritarianism as a personality trait: Evidence from a longitudinal behavior genetic study

Steven G. Ludeke, Robert F. Krueger

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19 Scopus citations


Authoritarianism has long been conceived of as a highly stable personality trait (Adorno et al., 1950; Altemeyer, 1981), though recent accounts have argued that authoritarianism is too malleable to justify this conception. We provided a test of the trait conception of authoritarianism by measuring its stability in a community sample of twins over a 15. year period, and by identifying the source of any stability with biometric modeling. Our results showed that authoritarianism exhibited a high degree of rank-order stability (r=74). Biometric analyses indicated that this stability derived primarily from genetic influences, with changes in authoritarianism due to the unique experiences of the individual. In both of these respects, our results were highly comparable to those reported for other personality traits in previous work, indicating support for the trait conception of authoritarianism. Other results of note included a higher degree of stability among the more educated portion of the sample, supporting a hypothesis by Krosnick and Alwin (1989).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)480-484
Number of pages5
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Chris Federico and members of his lab for valuable feedback on this manuscript. Some of the data employed in this paper were collected with the financial support of the National Science Foundation in the form of SES-0721378, PI: John R. Hibbing; Co-PIs: John R. Alford, Lindon J. Eaves, Carolyn L. Funk, Peter K. Hatemi, and Kevin B. Smith, and with the cooperation of the Minnesota Twin Registry at the University of Minnesota, Robert Krueger and Matthew McGue, Directors. We would also like to thank Tom Bouchard and Katherine Corson for providing additional data for this project.


  • Authoritarianism
  • Genetics
  • Personality
  • Twin study

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