Part of the fictional story I am currently writing takes place in a typical dictatorship country with its propaganda, cult of the leader, etc. The main character undergoes several psychological tests over couple of days and their goal is to find out how easily the character can be manipulated, how strong an individual he is and if he succumbs to mass thinking.

Could you advise me on any psychological tests that can prove such things?

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    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment though mostly for manipulation/obedience rather than for propaganda. $\endgroup$ – Fizz Dec 13 '17 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ Great, I've completely forgotten about this one. If you can think of any others it will be great $\endgroup$ – skornos Dec 13 '17 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ I have also found Asch Conformity Experiment $\endgroup$ – skornos Dec 13 '17 at 23:07
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    $\begingroup$ @skornos can you explain why it is you would want those types of individuals i.e. people who can be manipulated easily versus people who would be effective and reliable henchmen for this regime? $\endgroup$ – faustus Dec 14 '17 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ @skomos but this is only relevant for people who are not ideologically driven. if people share your worldview, then it's far easier to get them to do extreme things. i would suggest that they "reverse engineer" the selection process by first finding their henchmen then identifying the traits that distinguish them from others. $\endgroup$ – faustus Dec 17 '17 at 1:40

Historical examples as mentioned in the comments, include: Asch's Conformity Experiment; Milgram's Obediance Experiment; and similarly, the Stanford Prison Experiment by Zimbardo.

Zimbardo's experiment had more to do with situational forces and taking on an assumed role. A brief synopsis: He randomly assigns healthy students to either guard of prisoner roles in a mock basement prison. They assume their roles with striking commitment, which leads to some unfortunate interactions between the guards and prisoners. Some of his rhetoric would probably suit your story nicely. In the later chapters of his book published after the conclusion of the experiment, Zimbardo discusses his idea of a "hero" able to resist the situational forces. He believes this to be a latent attribute within an individual, and that leads us towards personality psychology. It is more akin to Asch's study, in that there is no true "authority" but rather situational forces brought about by other conforming peers.

As far as an specific test, I believe the Big Five Inventory can be adapted to your purposes. In personality psychology, it is regarded as a rather valid and consistent tool. Some of the metrics included could predispose an individual to obedience. Some examples that come to mind:

Agreeableness: Includes applicable measures of trust and compliance

Conscientiousness: Perhaps some use of self-discipline and dutifulness would identify as positive traits for an obedient character (thinking soldier or the like).

Openness to Experience: Scoring highly in measures of curiosity and values may make a character less apt to be obedient.

Source - Also includes a 44-item sample inventory.

  • $\begingroup$ yes, but answering a questionnaire would be so unepic in an Orwellian scenario. Unless you add rats. $\endgroup$ – Fizz Dec 15 '17 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ I must agree with that, but measures of personality realistically come in the form of questionnaires. Since this story is fiction, it might be best to use a real inventory as a starting point, but employ some fictional brain-scanning or simulated situation to gather the measures for the sake of the story. $\endgroup$ – user17769 Dec 15 '17 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ Not necessarily... educacaosec21.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/… and even more so when looking for specific traits. $\endgroup$ – Fizz Dec 15 '17 at 18:16

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