If you’re a well educated person, whether by degree or simply because you take time to inform yourself of the facts, you may be unable to comprehend why anyone in their right mind would support a man like Donald Trump. You might find yourself earnestly asking the nearest Trump supporter, “Don’t you realize that Donald Trump is a dangerous buffoon?” Don’t bother. To do so would be wasted effort as well as an exercise in frustration.
That’s because Trump supporters are, on the whole, under the influence of a psychological condition that causes them to be completely unaware of their own ignorance. Known to cognitive neuroscientists as the Dunning-Kruger effect, the troubling mental condition explains why many people are willing to believe anything Donald Trump says, whether his statements are true or not.
Are all Trump supporters stupid?
Certainly not. In fact, many Trump supporters may actually be intelligent people who are simply sick of the status quo in America today. Some may opt to vote for Trump because of their personal dislike for Hillary Clinton. Some may support Trump as a sort of one-finger salute to Washington, D.C., says Psychology Today. But, as a general rule, there is a twisted psychology of Trump supporters that is best defined by neuroscientists, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals.
First described in 1999 by David Dunning and Justin Kruger of the department of psychology at Cornell University, persons operating under the Dunning-Kruger effect are entirely unaware of their own incompetence. They don’t recognize their inability, nor do they recognize their inadequacy. In other words, Trump supporters who suffer from the syndrome are too ignorant to understand how ignorant they truly are.
Dr. Dunning further explained the Dunning-Kruger effect in a Politico article last May.
“The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at that task. This includes political judgment.
We have found this pattern in logical reasoning, grammar, emotional intelligence, financial literacy, numeracy, firearm care and safety, debate skill, and college coursework. Others have found a similar lack of insight among poor chess players, unskilled medical lab technicians, medical students unsuccessfully completing an obstetrics/gynecology rotation, and people failing a test on performing CPR.”
Washington D.C.-based cognitive neurologist and science writer, Bobby Azarian, Ph.D., outlines a number of other psychological symptoms that are apparent in virtually all Trump supporters.
Heightened sensitivity to threatening images
Referring to a study published by the National Institutes of Health in 2008, Azarian noted that people who lean toward the conservative side of political issues are more influenced by loud noises and disturbing images than their more liberal counterparts.
After studying nearly 50 participants who boasted strong political beliefs, researchers concluded that persons who are not easily startled by sudden noises or readily alarmed by graphic images tend to be more compassionate, supporting foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control exponentially more than conservatives. Conversely, individuals who become highly fearful of certain stimuli tend to support high military budgets, capital punishment, super patriotism, and American involvement in foreign wars.
Biological basis for supporting Trump
Dr. Azarian cites a 2014 study published in Current Biology that reveals that ultra conservatives, such as those who support the Donald Trump candidacy, are likely to have a larger amygdala than liberals. The amygdala is a structure within the brain that is electrically active when a person feels fear and anxiety. MRI scans taken of conservatives show their amygdala lighting up like a Christmas tree when viewing disturbing images. This involuntary and automatic neural response –which has nothing to do with reason or logic– may indicate that Trump supporters have brains that are quite different from persons who are more liberal in their political ideology.
Dr. Azarian notes that when Trump frightens his followers by portraying Muslims, Mexicans, and other groups as dangerous, conservative brains react in predictable ways. Fear puts people into a state of hyper-vigilance and keeps them there. Because Trump touts himself as a protector, his supporters are less concerned with remarks they might otherwise find offensive. This may also explain the twisted psychology of Trump supporters that allows them to believe his most outlandish claims.
What about Trump? Is he mentally disturbed, too?
In a word– yes. According to Harvard psych professor Howard Gardner, Trump shows clear indication of being a “textbook” narcissist. Named after a Greek mythological character who falls in love with his own image, narcissistic personality disorder is a mental malady that fills a person with an unrealistic sense of their own notability, a deep-seated need for admiration, and a complete lack of empathy for others. When Trump says Mexican immigrants are criminals, drug dealers, and rapists or promises to exclude all Muslims from entering the country, he clearly shows his narcissistic colors.
Should you be worried about a Trump presidency?
Not at all, if you’re in the mood to live under a despotic dictator like Napoleon Bonaparte, Joseph Stalin, or Saddam Hussein. These men were prime examples of narcissists with political power and should serve as a warning to sane American voters in November.
What's the psychology behind believing someone like Trump, despite everything? A new book explains: https://t.co/Otc5mOgDTE
— Olga Khazan (@olgakhazan) October 13, 2016
Will Trump supporters change their minds before election day?
Not according to Dr. Azarian. The doctor told Raw Story the following:
“As a cognitive neuroscientist, it grieves me to say that there may be nothing we can do. The overwhelming majority of these people may be beyond reach, at least in the short term. The best we can do is to motivate everyone else to get out to the booths and check the box that doesn’t belong to a narcissistic nationalist who has the potential to damage the nation beyond repair.”
Does your mind boggle at Trump's behavior? It's all completely predictable once you know the key. Psychology Today: https://t.co/HciepGAV5U
— M.S. Bellows, Jr. (@msbellows) October 15, 2016
[Featured photo by Highwaystarz/ThinkStock]