Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Bruce Hunsberger

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This study investigated the tendency of right-wing authoritarians (RWAs) to yield to established and legitimate authorities. University students enrolled in an Introductory Psychology course read two persuasive passages. One passage concerned whether homosexuals should be allowed to become schoolteachers, while the other discussed whether an aggressive proselytizing religious group should be allowed to recruit students on university campuses. Some of the participants were informed that the passage was written by a highly established and legitimate authority; others were told the passage came from a less established and legitimate authority. In addition, the passages were manipulated so that half supported and half argued against the relevant issue. Participants’ attitudes towards these issues were assessed both before and after reading each passage and an attitude change score was calculated. It was proposed that the authoritarian submission component of the high RWA's personality predisposes authoritarians to use a decision-making heuristic akin to "Established and legitimate authorities are usually correct" when responding to a persuasive message. Therefore, it was expected that high RWAs’ attitudes towards the issues would be more influenced by the authority legitimacy of the passage authors than would those of low RWAs. Contrary to expectations, high RWAs were Q9; influenced by the authority legitimacy manipulation. However, high RWAs, more often than low RWAs, reported an intention to comply with a counter-attitudinal law. They also tended to rate established and legitimate authorities as having more authority over their personal attitudes concerning the two issues than did low RWAs. Several explanations are discussed concerning why the high RWAs were not influenced by the authority legitimacy manipulation within the persuasion context of this study.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season