& Vetter (1989) report research from Germany that suggests a
link between the coronary-prone personality and racism.
Their work does, however,
have many problematical features. The question is therefore re-examined
cross-culturally using a scale of aggressive dominance to index
the Coronary-prone personality and scales of racism of a more plausible
kind than that used by Grossarth-Maticek et al. Four random community
samples were taken -- from Los Angeles in the U.S.A., the Australian
State of New South Wales, Bloemfontein in South Africa and Munich
in West Germany. In the German sample only it was found that racists
did tend to have personalities characterized by aggressive dominance.
The connection between aggressive dominance and Nazism is noted.
& Vetter (1989) report a curious study of middle-aged West German
males wherein a form of psychological training designed to ward
off heart and other diseases was found to reduce racism among those
trained. This must seem a rather remarkable link between apparently
very disparate phenomena so it surely invites closer examination.
On closer examination,
something that quite stands out is the peculiar way in which racism
was measured. The instrument used consisted of eight statements,
all of which expressed extreme, sweeping and rather paranoid negative
judgments of various groups, only four of which were racially denominated.
This impression of extremity and eccentricity is confirmed when
one uses the frequencies of agreement reported for each item to
calculate how often people agreed, on average, with each statement.
It turns out that only about 5% of the respondents agreed with any
given item. What was measured, therefore seems to have been some
sort of eccentricity rather than anything else.
Racism, by contrast,
now seems to be generally viewed by psychologists as comprising
"universal ineradicable psychological processes" (Brown,
1986. See also Tajfel & Fraser, 1978). Racism, then, can hardly
be equated with what Grossarth-Maticek et al measured.To do so would
be to equate a 5% minority phenomenon with a universal one.
There are also many other problems with the Grossarth-Maticek et
al study. Perhaps they should be briefly listed: No reliability
or validity figures are given for the prejudice scale but given
the extremely skewed distribution of the responses it seems highly
probable that both are negligible. Correlations between the personality
scales and the prejudice scale are not given. This appears to be
a consequence of the strange distribution of "prejudice".
In order to produce a somewhat more normal distribution for analysis,
the authors categorized anybody who agreed with even one "prejudiced"
statement as a racist. They then also categorized each person in
their sample into one of four personality "types" on the
basis of some other scales that also seem to be unique to Grossarth-
Maticek. The frequency of prejudiced people within each personality
type was then given and shown to be different.
People of an "unstressed"
type were less likely to be "prejudiced". Again, however,
the highly skewed nature of the data would suggest that this relationship
would be shown to be negligible if it were presented in correlational
The assumption that
a person is "prejudiced" if he agrees with just one eccentric
statement of outgroup hostility is an extraordinarily incautious
one. The whole reason why psychologists use multi-item scales is
that they deem judgments based on single questions to be unsafe.
Only when respondents have agreed with several statements expressing
(say) racism would one normally feel able to categorize them in
One reason for this
caution is that it is well-recognized that people may agree with
statements for various "extraneous" reasons --reasons
unconnected with what the psychologist wants to measure. One of
these reasons is a general tendency to say "Yes" in preference
to any other response. This is the well-known problem of "acquiescent
bias". Grossarth-Maticek et al dismiss this problem on the
grounds that a 1949 study by Eysenck and Crown showed no acquiescence
factor in a balanced Anti-Semitism scale. This however ignores what
is very much the problem with acquiescent bias -- its unpredictability
(Ray, 1983 & 1985). Sometimes acquiescence will "strike"
a scale and sometimes it will not and even the most "obvious"
predictions of when this will or will not occur can be falsified.
The only way to ensure that it does not distort responses, therefore,
is to control for it in advance by using balanced scales (scales
with an equal mix of "For" and "Against" items).
This Grossarth-Maticek et al failed to do. Many of Grossarth-Maticek's
"racists" could therefore have just been nice guys who
were disposed to agree with the interviewer.
Do the Grossarth-Maticek
results mean anything at all, then? Perhaps. Given the nature of
the items in the "Prejudice" scale, and the lack of validity
evidence for them, it seems quite reasonable to label them as measuring
"hostility" as much as anything else. We know, however,
that hostility/aggression seems to be the main psychological precursor
of coronary heart disease (Diamond, 1982). If the course of disease-averting
training devised by Grossarth-Maticek was competently designed (and
there is some suggestion that it did get some favourable results),
it should therefore tend to reduce hostility/aggression (or at least
the expression of it). So the Grossarth-Maticek findings reduce
to saying that a course of training designed to reduce hostility/aggression
did in fact reduce the expression of at least one sort of it. This
is, of course, a much less exciting finding than the one we started
out with. It is, however, a very parsimonious explanation of the
Being clever about the
interpretation of other people's results is, however, never very
persuasive of itself. It may raise doubts but it can hardly answer
questions. Clearly, the issues raised by Grossarth-Maticek should
not just be dismissed. They deserve independent re-examination.
Some attempt at that is presented below.
Given the obvious psychometric
failures of Grossarth-Maticek's "Prejudice" scale, the
prospect of using any of Grossarth-Maticek's scales was not inviting.
Instead, it seemed important to measure personality by using well-validated
and reliable balanced scales with a proven relationship to the incidence
of coronary heart disease (CHD).
The scale that springs
to mind in this connection is obviously the Jenkins Activity Survey
(JAS) of Jenkins, Zyzanski & Rosenman (1979). This survey provides
a measure of an overall "A-B" variable plus measures of
three sub-factors, including a sub-factor of Speed and Impatience.
Despite its being widely used, however, the JAS is almost as uninviting
as the Grossarth-Maticek scales if one has regard to the literature
on the subject.
For a start, the Speed
and Impatience aspect seems to be much stressed in descriptions
of what constitutes "A-B". Yet the Test Manual for the
JAS (Jenkins, Zyzanski & Rosenman, 1979) shows that the Speed
and Impatience factor does not predict CHD incidence in the studies
surveyed. Moreover, even the overall "A-B" measure is
not a very good predictor of CHD. It has been shown that a better
prediction is obtained by using a measure of aggressive dominance
(Ray & Simons, 1982; Ray, 1984 & 1986) and that "A-B"
predicts CHD only insofar as it measures aggressive dominance (Ray,
1986). Other commentaries on the inadequacy of "A-B" and
the JAS are legion but perhaps papers by Linden (1987), Myrtek &
Greenlee (1984), Hansson, Hogan, Johnson & Schroeder (1983),
Davis & Cowles (1985), Ray & Bozek (1980) and Booth-Kewley
& Friedman (1987) could be specifically referred to. In the
circumstances it was decided that the scale of aggressive dominance
(the "Directiveness" scale) used in Ray (1984 & 1986)
should be preferred to the JAS. The scale has not only had extensive
validation as a measure of what it purports to measure (e.g. Ray,
1976 & 1981b; Ray & Lovejoy, 1988; Heaven, 1984; Rigby,
1984) but it has also, as mentioned, been shown as a superior predictor
of CHD. The first question of interest, then, is whether this scale
predicts racism. If it does, it might then be of interest to see
if treatments designed to reduce aggressive dominance also reduce
the incidence of CHD.
As it happens, the present
author is in a particularly good position to examine the correlation
between the Directiveness scale and racism. He has done many surveys
using the Directiveness scale and such surveys have also on several
occasions included measures of racism. A large archive of information
is therefore readily available to give the question thorough and
This survey used a random
doorstep sample of 100 people living in the Greater Los Angeles
area of California in the U.S.A. Fuller methodological details are
available in Ray (1980b). A balanced scale of attitudes to blacks
was included along with the Mark III form (Ray, 1980b) of the Directiveness
The attitude to blacks
scale was adapted from the Attitude to Aborigines scale of Ray (1976)
and has been validated by Heaven & Moerdyk (1977). On the present
occasion it showed a reliability (alpha) of .88. Its positive and
negative halves correlated .60. Its 14 items were scored from 5
(Strongly Agree) to 1 (Strongly Disagree) with a "?" midpoint
of 3. The mean score on the scale was 36.46 (S.D. 9.11), which compares
to a scale midpoint score of 42 (14 multiplied by an item midpoint
score of 3). Four items showed above-midpoint scores and ten items
showed below-midpoint scores. The scale did, then, distribute the
respondents well and showed that they tended to reject racist sentiments
to the extent of showing a mean score about two thirds of an S.D.
below the scale midpoint. The Directiveness scale showed a reliability
(alpha) of .73 and the two scales correlated -.024 (N.S.). Aggressive
dominance, then, did not correlate with racism.
This study used a random
mail-out sample of 172 adult Australians. The sampling frame was
the electoral rolls (voter registration lists) for the Australian
State (comparable to an American State or a German Land) of New
South Wales. Fuller methodological details are available in Ray
(1981a). The scale of racism used was similar to that in Study I
but referred to "Aborigines" rather than "Blacks".
Aborigines are Australia's native blacks. The scale reliability
(alpha) was .85 and the mean score was 37.94 (S.D. 8.62). Again
the mean score for four items was above the midpoint with ten items
below. The mean scale score was, however, a little closer to the
scale midpoint so again the items distributed the subjects well.
The reliability (alpha) of the Directiveness scale was .78 and the
two scales correlated -.102 (N.S.). Again, racists showed no significant
sign of being aggressively dominant.
This study used a random
doorstep sample of the Munich conurbation in West Germany. N = 136.
Fuller methodological details are available in Ray & Kiefl (1984).
All scales were administered in German and the scale of racism on
this occasion referred to Gastarbeiter (guest-workers from generally
Mediterranean countries) as these seem to represent the biggest
"ethnic" issue in Germany today. The ten item scale showed
a reliability of .75, with a mean of 31.84 (S.D. 10.86).
This mean compares with
a scale midpoint of 40 (there being on this occasion seven response-options
per item) and shows therefore a clear overall tendency for respondents
to be at least verbally tolerant of Gastarbeiter. Two items showed
means above the item midpoint and eight showed means below. This
scale did then again distribute the respondents fairly well in the
context of a very tolerant sample. The Directiveness scale showed
a reliability (alpha) of .74 and correlated .267 (p <.01) with
the racism scale. This means that German racists do show a tendency
towards aggressive dominance.
Given the apparent cross-cultural
differences so far revealed, it seemed of interest to look at one
more non-English-speaking sample. These were 95 Afrikaans-speaking
white residents of the South African city of Bloemfontein. The sample
was gathered randomly door-to-door and fuller methodological details
can be found in Ray & Heaven (1984).
The scale of attitude
to blacks used in Study I was translated into Afrikaans and showed
a reliability of .66. Its mean score was 22.44 (S.D. 3.86) with
ten items and three response-options per item. Seven items showed
above-midpoint scores and three below. This South African sample,
then (rather unsurprisingly), tended not to like blacks. The reliability
(alpha) of the Mark III Directiveness scale was .67 and it correlated
-.086 (N.S.) with the racism scale.
Clearly, the present
work has shown that, for all their methodological failings, Grossarth-Maticek,
Eysenck & Vetter were on to something. Their findings for Germany
were confirmed but it was also shown that the finding does not generalize
beyond Germany. When it comes to racism, there would appear to be
something different about Germans. In Germany, coronary prone personalities
and racism are linked. To be a racially antagonistic person has
some tendency to mean that you also have a coronary-prone personality.
All the correlations are, however, low so one could not go on to
claim that to be a racist also means that you will in fact be more
likely to have coronary problems. Many people with a coronary-prone
personality do not get CHD and many racists do not have a coronary-prone
personality. Only more research could tell whether racism and CHD
are directly linked. That would seem a worthwhile line of enquiry
for German psychologists.
Perhaps the most thought-provoking
aspect of the present comparison, however, is that the Directiveness
scale was originally devised to provide a valid measure of, not
the coronary-prone personality, but rather the core element of a
Nazi-type orientation. It was, in other words, designed to measure
an authoritarian personality. Adorno et al (1950), of course, in
their endeavour to explain (German) Nazism identified authoritarianism
as a prime cause of racism. So the present results both confirm
and limit the Adorno et al theory. It is a theory that is somewhat
true for Germany but not for elsewhere. It might be objected that
these findings simply reflect an historical heritage in Germany:
That the association of an authoritarian ideology and racism in
the Hitler era has somehow contaminated the thinking of modern-day
Germans too. The Directiveness scale, however, does not measure
authoritarian attitudes. It measures an authoritarian personality
or behaviour tendency and it has long been known that authoritarian
attitudes are not correlated with authoritarian personality or behaviour
tendency (Titus, 1968; Ray, 1976). Any authoritarian attitudes,
including attitudes surviving from the Hitler era, would therefore
seem irrelevant to the present findings.
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N.B. This paper is
published on the internet only but it draws together data from four
published journal articles. Full references are given. This paper
may be freely quoted, cited and circulated as long as appropriate
acknowledgment is made.
John Ray (Jonjayray@Hotmail.com)