!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: The Dogmatism Scale

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Dogmatism Scale

In an earlier post, I mentioned that Jürg Niehans, one of my favorite grad school professors, had a way of introducing comments with the disclaimer, "I don't want to be dogmatic, but ..." Clearly, Niehans was not in favor of dogmatism, and neither am I, at least when it comes to discussions outside of religion. The importance of open-mindedness for sound decision-making and innovative thinking is hard to exaggerate.

If you're interested in doing a bit of a self-assessment, you can run through the twenty items in the Dogmatism Scale developed by Robert Altemeyer, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Manitoba.1 Ask yourself how strongly you agree or disagree with each item. For the ten asterisked items, the dogmatic response is to disagree. For the other ten items, the dogmatic response is to agree.

The twenty items are:
  1. Anyone who is honestly and truly seeking the truth will end up believing what I believe.

  2. There are so many things we have not discovered yet, nobody should be absolutely certain his beliefs are right.*

  3. The things I believe in are so completely true, I could never doubt them.

  4. I have never discovered a system of beliefs that explains everything to my satisfaction.*

  5. It is best to be open to all possibilities, and ready to re-evaluate all your beliefs.*

  6. My opinions are right, and will stand the test of time.

  7. Flexibility is a real virtue in thinking, since you may well be wrong.*

  8. My opinions and beliefs fit together perfectly to make a crystal-clear “picture” of things.

  9. There are no discoveries or facts that could possibly make me change my mind about the things that matter most in life.

  10. I am a long way from reaching final conclusions about the central issues in life.*

  11. The person who is absolutely certain she has the truth will probably never find it.*

  12. I am absolutely certain that my ideas about the fundamental issues in life are correct.

  13. The people who disagree with me may well turn out to be right.*

  14. I am so sure I am right about the important things in life, there is no evidence that could convince me otherwise.

  15. If you are “open-minded” about the most important things in life, you will probably reach the wrong conclusions.

  16. Twenty years from now, some of my opinions about the important things in life will probably have changed.*

  17. “Flexibility in thinking” is another name for being “confused and indecisive.”

  18. No one knows all the essential truths about the central issues in life.*

  19. Someday I will probably realize my present ideas about the BIG issues are wrong.*

  20. People who disagree with me are just plain wrong, and often evil as well.
You can score yourself informally by noting whether or not you had a noticeable tendency to give dogmatic responses to the above items. If so, it could be worth your while to spend some time strengthening your critical thinking skills.

1 Robert H. Altemeyer, The Authoritarian Specter (Harvard University Press, 1996), Ch. 8.