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Psychologists on the Donald Trump Phenomenon

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Originally posted on July 7, 2016.

In authoring textbooks (and this blog) I seek to steer clear of overtly partisan politics. That’s out of respect for my readers’ diverse views, and also because my calling is to report on psychological science and its application to everyday life.

But sometimes psychology speaks to politics. Recently, more than 750 psychotherapists have signed “A Public Manifesto: Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism.” Its author, University of Minnesota professor William Doherty, emphasizes that the manifesto does not seek to diagnose Trump, the person. Rather it assesses Trumpist ideology, which it sees as “an emerging form of American facism” marked by fear, scapegoating, and exaggerated masculinity.

An alternative statement, drafted by public intellectual David Blankenhorn of the bipartisan “Better Angels” initiative (and signed by 22 of us), offers “A Letter to Trump Supporters”—some arguments for rethinking support of Donald Trump. Social psychologists will recognize this as an effort at “central route” persuasion (offering reasons for rethinking one’s position). But in this presidential season, are rational arguments or emotional appeals more likely to sway voters—or some combination of both? What do you think?

About the Author
David Myers has spent his entire teaching career at Hope College, Michigan, where he has been voted “outstanding professor” and has been selected by students to deliver the commencement address. His award-winning research and writings have appeared in over three dozen scientific periodicals and numerous publications for the general public. He also has authored five general audience books, including The Pursuit of Happiness and Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. David Myers has chaired his city's Human Relations Commission, helped found a thriving assistance center for families in poverty, and spoken to hundreds of college and community groups. Drawing on his experience, he also has written articles and a book (A Quiet World) about hearing loss, and he is advocating a transformation in American assistive listening technology (see www.hearingloop.org).