Ask a neuroscientist “What’s wrong with the brains of Trump voters?”


Trump supporters on CNN

The Dunning-Kruger Effect:

Some believe that many of those who support Donald Trump do so because of ignorance — basically they are under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When Trump tells them that crime is skyrocketing in the United States, or that the economy is the worst it’s ever been, they simply take his word for it.

The seemingly obvious solution would be to try to reach those people through political ads, expert opinions, and logical arguments that educate with facts. Except none of those things seem to be swaying any Trump supporters from his side, despite great efforts to deliver this information to them directly.

The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that the problem isn’t just that they are misinformed; it’s that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed. This creates a double burden.

RTFA…you’ll also discover threat sensitivity, terror management, intense nationalism…all sorts of crap beyond simple-minded ignorance.

17 thoughts on “Ask a neuroscientist “What’s wrong with the brains of Trump voters?”

  1. List of X says:

    The bad news is, apparently, that these people cannot be convinced by logic, reason, or facts.
    The good – well, only good compared to the bad news above, is that they number maybe 35-40% of voters, so they could be outvoted.

  2. Terrible2s says:

    “Infantilism as a norm” https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-05/nruh-iaa052518.php
    “…From a psychological perspective, adulthood implies self-regulation, emotional maturity (rationality, self-control, lack of impulsivity, etc.), responsibility, ability to self-reflect, and the need to work and have stable relationships. Adults strive for success in their professions and in family life. Some psychologists emphasize the importance of the motives of affiliation and achievement. It is important for a person to define his or her civil and social position, lifestyle, etc.
    According to the researchers, infantile personality, on the contrary, is characterized by immature feelings (‘childish’ reactions, lack of willpower, lack of confidence), external locus of control (other people are blamed), inflated self-concept, low demands on self (accompanied by high demands on society), and egocentrism. ‘An infantile person seeks to escape the need to adequately assess objective social reality’, the paper’s authors added.

    • keith says:

      Mostly ignorant. Presuming we count racism and bigotry as social ailments not medical.

      Racism is often characterized by social scientists as the “American” disease. After all, we were the last major slave-based economy. Played a big part in the history of American political campaigns.

  3. Pedant says:

    Not crazy, but (as the author suggests) the behavior of some Trump supporters might result from their being completely unaware that they are misinformed due to a type of cognitive bias (the Dunning-Kruger effect) in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are. See “The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is” by Errol Morris (NYT) https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/the-anosognosics-dilemma-1/ and “Is belief superiority justified by superior knowledge?” (Journal of Experimental Social Psychology May 2018) http://www.iflscience.com/brain/study-confirms-that-knowitalls-actually-know-less/all/ The article also proposes some neurological reasons, as opposed to mental illness, for this group of voters attentional bias and hypersensitivity to threats.

    • Same-o says:

      All the gang of those who rule us
      Hope our quarrels never stop
      Helping them to split and fool us
      So they can remain on top.

      Bertolt Brecht, “Solidarity song” [Solidaritätslied] (1931)

  4. Keith says:

    No offense. No chuckle either. Ignoring the range of polling analysis collated with American “standards” of poor education/mediocre education/little education – only guarantees the power of corrupt politics.

  5. Old Guy says:

    I guess I am not making my point very well. I am not saying we should ignore substandard schools or close our eyes to those with low cognitive abilities. My point is that for the last few decades our county has been split in half between people who vote democrat and those who vote republican. These voting patterns are based on my belief on different conclusions about the type of government we should have. There are valid arguments by well meaning people for both concepts. I object to dismissing those who disagree with you as having low cognitive abilities or suffering from ignorance due to inadequate schools, instead of considering their viewpoints. I don’t know if you know any republicans and have discussed political issues with them. I know republicans and have listenened to their arguments. Many of these people are highly intelligent and well educated. Yo dismiss those who disagree out of hand to me is the height of arrogance and self deceit.

    • Keith says:

      Actually, like Eid, I’m a former Republican…from a family of Republicans. As my personal standards, ethics, evolved, I found it impossible to continue involvement with politicians willing to support racist policies – whether from their bigotry or opportunism was irrelevant. My contempt for Democrats follows their parallel commitment to an imperial America. Taking over the reins from the declining Brits. A plague on both their houses.

      Get past the strawman and rationales. Yes, there are plenty of bright, honest Republicans. They barely have a voice – and no power – in that party. At least there is an honest majority of Dems willing to overcome culpability in the good old American practice of gerrymandering and work to end it after the next census. Finally coming round to supporting an equal opportunity to vote isn’t inspiring me enough to join.

      I choose to live in an area supportive of independent politics. Even current local politics offers me an independent candidate who I previously worked with and supported when he held office as a Democrat. Like most progressives in my experience, he’s a fiscal conservative. Something equally desirable on the federal level IMHO.

      • Old Guy says:

        I grew up a New Deal Democrat and voted Democrat until I though they went off the deep end. Then I voted Republican for twenty years until they went off the reservation. The last twenty or so years I have voted straight democrat. I voted for Hillary this time holding my nose from the stench. I Harbe about decided to only vote for Green Party candidates from now on. Our not vote and leave it to the young folks. It is their future, let them decide.

    • Ed Bernays says:

      Regards the mechanisms for manufacturing consent and their assaults on human intelligence: “If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable…what then? (George Orwell, 1984)

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