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Authoritarianism and the closure phenomenon Duncan, Frances Mary

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to note the effect of certain variables on perceptual closure. Closure has been defined by Mooney (1951) as, "the facility with which individuals can apprehend the structural implications of a confused or incomplete visual configuration." Since research into the effect of variables such as age, sex, and intelligence have yielded few results, it was thought that the field of personality traits might be a lucrative one in which to look for factors affecting closure ability. Authoritarianism was chosen as a possible starting-point because it has been shown that high authoritarians are high in rigidity, a factor having a deterrent effect on closure. (Luchins 1959) The Pensacola Z Scale (Jones 1957) was used as the measure of authoritarian personality, since it consists of four factored, separately scorable, subscales: anxiety; dependency; hostility; and rigidity. The closure phenomenon was measured by Mooney's Closure Test (1951) because it can be administered to either an individual or a group. The sample consisted of fifty volunteer students attending the University of British Columbia summer session. Subjects were divided into two groups for testing purposes; one group received the Closure Test first, and the other received the Pensacola first. The purpose of this procedure was to randomize the effects of the two tests on each other. Analysis of the data yielded a Pearson Product-Moment coefficient of -.345, significant at the 5% level, between Closure and the total Pensacola scores, which supported the original hypothesis that there would be an inverse relationship between scores obtained on a measure of authoritarianism and those obtained on a measure of closure. When Closure was correlated with each of the Pensacola subscales, only two were significant; closure-anxiety (-.32) at 57% level, and closure-dependency (-.40) at the 1% level. The other two coefficients can only be regarded as chance occurrences. The multiple correlation coefficient of -.495 calculated between closure, and anxiety and dependency, indicated the better predictive value of the combined scales of dependency and anxiety over the use of them singly, or over the use of the total Pensacola scale. From this study it was concluded that high authoritarians possess qualities which interfere with the ability necessary for achieving closure. Also, the results of this study point to the fact that one place to look for variables affecting closure is within the field of personality traits.

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