… and go above the incessant ideological debate and explore the reality at the core of Trump’s inherent capabilities and psychological limitations
Four things you might not know
- “Fifty years of empirical research has allowed psychological scientists to establish the widely known “Big Five” definitions in identifying a persons personality and: “Across his lifetime, Donald Trump has exhibited a trait profile that you would not expect of a U.S. president: sky-high extroversion combined with off-the-chart low agreeableness.”
- “People low in agreeableness are described as callous, rude, arrogant, and lacking in empathy. If Donald Trump does not score low on this personality dimension, then probably nobody does … [and] cool rationality does not always seem to fit, probably because Trump’s disagreeableness appears so strongly motivated by anger.”
- “Indeed, anger may be the operative emotion behind Trump’s high extroversion as well as his low agreeableness. Anger can fuel malice, but it can also motivate social dominance, stoking a desire to win the adoration of others … The real psychological wild card, however, is Trump’s agreeableness—or lack thereof.”
- “He’s unlikely to shy away from risky decisions that, should they work out, could burnish his legacy and provide him an emotional payoff.”
(2 minute read)
The Mind of Donald Trump is a 10,000 word article (allow 1/2 hour) that provides a sound, in depth understanding of who Donald Trump really is, and it is a must read for anyone who gives a damn about understanding the man at the helm of the Good-Ship-America, which is loaded with more than 320 million passengers. Not to mention the accompanying boatloads of “friends and allies” from around the world.
This article was written in June 2016 and offers a candid and penetrating look into Trump’s psychological makeup and provides a framework in which we can asses Trump now, as he faces the reality – not the campaign myth – of leading the free world. Whether fearful of, or comfortable with Trump, this is a good place to start for anyone who wants to rise about the incessant political rancor and ideological arguments and intelligently and objectively analyze him.
Dan P. McAdams is a professor of psychology and the director of the Foley Center for the Study of Lives at Northwestern University. He is the author of George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream: A Psychological Portrait and The Art and Science of Personality Development.
“Psychological research demonstrates that many narcissists come across as charming, witty, and charismatic upon initial acquaintance. They can attain high levels of popularity and esteem in the short term. As long as they prove to be successful and brilliant—like Steve Jobs—they may be able to weather criticism and retain their exalted status. But more often than not, narcissists wear out their welcome. Over time, people become annoyed, if not infuriated, by their self-centeredness. When narcissists begin to disappoint those whom they once dazzled, their descent can be especially precipitous. There is still truth today in the ancient proverb: Pride goeth before the fall.”
“Who, really, is Donald Trump? What’s behind the actor’s mask? I can discern little more than narcissistic motivations and a complementary personal narrative about winning at any cost. It is as if Trump has invested so much of himself in developing and refining his socially dominant role that he has nothing left over to create a meaningful story for his life, or for the nation. It is always Donald Trump playing Donald Trump, fighting to win, but never knowing why.”
For the rest of the story … read the article, The Mind of Donald Trump. It’s well worth your time.
David—The Atlantic article on Trump was great reading. Thanks. The comparison to Jackson is a solid one, as they were both outsiders (Jackson being the first non-east coast elite to hold the office-although he was a military officer). Trump of course is the first person elected president who has never held public office or military command and the only person to pay for his own campaign (he will also be the only the fourth not to collect the president’s salary). The Jackson comparative certainly provides great optimism, as he was a very successful president as a powerful voice of the people. (E.g. founded the Democratic Party, kept South Carolina (Nullification Crisis) in the union, stood up to the wealthy bankers (2ND Bank of the US stance) that put his reelection in jeopardy and confirmed his legacy as defender of the common people, face of the 20 dollar bill etc.— Jackson is generally regarded as 8th greatest president (consensus has Obama at no better than 18th). Trump must be flattered by such comparisons…not to mention the hope it offers for the next 4 years. Like Jackson he will reduce taxes on small incomes and on corporate taxes, to entice businesses that have fled to return, and tax Wall Street — to which he –like Jackson –owes nothing. – P.
It is indeed unfortunate that narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and sociopathy are not uncommon among people in high positions of authority. Donald Trump has entered a “leadership” scene void of quality standards. Instead, the currency is money and power, and such destructive disproportion is allowed by employees and constituents who are enablers. The press does not know how to deal with him, as “unprecedented” has become one of the most common words in political journalism. Just as people can be socialized into accepting sun-obliterating smog, we risk normalizing sociopathy and NPD when such personality disorders are imperially flaunted 24/7. I believe it is each person’s responsibility to assure that human being supersedes insanity, and real leadership presides.
@PK: I haven’t read much about Andrew Jackson but a quick run through Wiki reveals what most of history reveals about presidents, there’s two sides to the story. First, I would not put Trump’s name in the same sentence as Jackson, at least not until we have some solid evidence on Trump’s capability, which was the main point of the Atlantic article: Does he have the psychological capacity to lead? What Trump did at the Trump Organization pales in comparison to what he will face as President (evidence his first 4 weeks). I have little to no “optimism” – even if he is like Jackson – for two reasons: 1) His mental capability (see early blog, “Human Capability”); and 2) his deeply troubling narcissism and psychological makeup. I think he will be overwhelmed by circumstances and because of his limited mental and emotional capability to properly respond, he will make major mistakes, far outweighing the good things he will do. And he will do some good things, but at what cost? Jackson too had such problems. In Wiki they say: “Historians believe Jackson’s presidency marked the beginning of an era of decline in public ethics.” “Jackson’s purging of office holders and expansion of executive power formed the Whig Party, calling Jackson “King Andrew I …” And, “His most controversial presidential actions included removal of the Indians from the southeast, the dismantling of the Bank of the United States, and his threat to use military force against the state of South Carolina to make it stop nullifying federal laws.” I see the parallels, but not sure they’re predominantly good (it’ll take further reading).
One thing Canadians can be grateful for is in the War of 1812 that “Old Hickory” led the “Battle of New Orleans” rather than the “Battle of Crysler’s Farm” (the battle that saved Canada), which was led by the drunk American Captain Wilkinson. If Jackson had been hanging out on the St. Lawrence, we might all be calling Donald Trump “Mr. President.”
@Bruce: You’re right. But it is such a mountain to climb. Reminds me of the myth of Sisyphus – the weightiness of higher purpose and character is never achieved, it just rolls back down the mountain of underachieving humanity. Narcissism (NPD) and sociopathy are far too prevalent in leadership positions and the combination of “money and power” not only dominates employee behavior but it is emulated by those seeking the same (see earlier blog: “Leadership and the power of emulation”). In the US, 70% of employees are disengaged. And of the other 30%, a large portion “normalize,” emulate and enable this type of leadership. It becomes what Nietzsche called, “eternal recurrence.” And with Trump in the biggest leadership fishbowl in the world, it’s not likely that we will see much change any time soon. In fact, if E. O. Wilson, renowned biologist, and Richard Dawkins are right, it maybe genetic and we will not get it right in this phase of the evolution of the human species (see earlier blog: “Are Trump and Stumpf biologically connected?”). The late Ernst Mayr developed a theory called, “Lethal Intelligence” in which he posited that the human species, the animal category with the highest intelligence, was the most likely to self-destruct. That certainly seems to square with your point of the dearth of “real leadership” and the “unprecedented” inability of so-called leaders to find the principled strength (personal character, values, guts and balls) to stand up and do what’s right versus what’s self-supporting. Perhaps it’s Darwinian and only evolution will resolve it, one way or the other. After all, there are more insects in one square mile of the Borneo jungle than there are humans on earth so our survival is not preordained or guaranteed.