How Liberals and the GOP Can See Eye to Eye: The Art of Political Persuasion

In his inaugural address Trump declared to unify our country stating that “A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.” Since his signature on the disruptive executive order banning refugees from seven Muslim countries dried, he has ushered in what some politicians believe is the most divisive political climate since the Civil War. Protests have ensued with no end in sight as most Americans declare the order unconstitutional, un-American and, frankly, illogical given that virtually no refugees have committed terrorist attacks on the United States. Perhaps the most surprising reactions from Americans have originated from Republicans in their unwavering support of the clearly inhumane order. Top Republicans, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence, even reversed their stances on the ban as both previously classified the concept of a ban as unconstitutional:

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Liberals have tried to reason with their conservative brothers, citing the fact that these people are fleeing from terrorism, not causing it, as well as by using examples of Anne Frank and survivors of the Holocaust who were denied asylum by the United States after World War II (including Trump’s top adviser/ son-in-law Jared Kushner’s own grandparents). The problem with this is that the morality of conservatives and liberals differ so greatly to the point that trying to tug at the heart strings of Republicans is a waste of breath and cleverly drawn protest signs.

Psychologists have recently begun to study the deep divisions between the GOP and everyone else in the world through the Moral Foundations Theory. This theory states that there are five moral judgements that act as the foundation for the formation of moral beliefs and judgements. They include: harm/care foundation (concerned with one’s suffering and need to alleviate suffering), fairness/cheating foundation (concerned with justice, equality and discrimination), loyalty/betrayal foundation (prioritizes one’s in group over all other groups), authority/subversion foundation (respect for higher-ranked individuals) and sanctity/degradation foundation (concerned with sacredness, impurity and avoiding disgust-inducing behaviors).

Researchers have been able to effectively apply the Moral Foundations Theory to political ideology worldwide. Conservative parties rely on the foundations of loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation in order to make moral judgements in policy. Their admiration for the current executive order arises from the fact that they prioritize and value American’s over immigrants, see Trump as a high ranking official that knows what he is doing and deserves respect, and that immigrants and refugees are dirty people that will dirty our own country.

Conversely, research has shown that liberals rely on the foundations of harm/care and fairness/cheating in their development of political ideations. To democrats the immigration ban is unconstitutional because it infringes not only on the Constitution but defiles these moral foundations. Liberals want to welcome refugees into our country in order to alleviate their suffering and cite the fact that America is a country built on immigrants and that it is only fair to extend immigration policies that benefited our ancestors to a new generation.

While liberals and conservatives are wired differently in terms of morality, new research has shown that these moral foundations can be used to our advantage in political persuasion. Matthew Feinberg, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, has painstakingly researched the behaviors of Democrats and Republicans, including how they interact with one another. Recently, Feinberg has published studies on how to use the concepts of moral foundations to elicit political persuasion. His solution? You have to appeal to the other groups morals.

 

“Some existing research suggests the plausibility of moral reframing as a strategy for political persuasion,” writes Feinberg in his paper From Gulf to Bridge: When Do Moral Arguments Facilitate Political Influence? “A variety of studies shows that messages are more persuasive when they match the traits of the target.”

This means that in an effort to persuade conservatives to see their side on a variety of issues liberals must find a way to frame their arguments that hits one of their moral foundations of loyalty, authority, or sanctity. Olga Khazan, a writer for The Atlantic provides a good statement that encompasses republican morals in a persuasive statement against the ban:

“These refugees and immigrants are just like our family members who came to America in years past to seek a better life. All our ancestors wanted was to live the American dream, and that’s why today’s immigrants and refugees have chosen to come to America, so they too can live that same American dream that brought our families here. That dream is what our nation was founded on, it is what brought our grandparents and great-grandparents to this great land, and it is the great success story that these immigrants want to be a part of.”

 On the other hand, if conservatives want to persuade liberals to see that this immigration ban is in fact good for our country then they must try to steep their argument with ideas that include care and fairness.Arguing that refugees can take needed resources away from American children, elders and the sick may soften some liberal tensions about the ban.

But do these alternative arguments really work in political persuasion? Feinberg tested whether statements tailored to either a conservative or liberal audience can shift their perceptions of public policy in two separate studies.

The first of the two studies delved into public perception of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Both liberals and conservatives were asked to gauge their support for universal health care after reading a short article that framed the policy in terms of fairness (a liberal moral foundation) or purity (a conservative moral foundation). Arguments in the articles either heralded the ACA as an instrument of fairness (that health care is a universal human right) or that it combated impurity (by the avenue that sick people are dirty and impure).

Amazingly, conservatives that read the article positioning Obamacare as a way to rid America of the sick and impure showed more support than conservatives that read a paragraph arguing that health care is a human right and should be allowed to all out of fairness. This effect was not just limited to conservatives as liberals showed opposite results. More liberals supported the ACA when it was described as being fair than as a way to help sick people.

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Feinberg expanded upon this study to include debate over traditional conservative viewpoints. Similar to the first study, both democratic and republican participants were asked to measure their support after reading an article of information, this time in regards to increasing military spending. Traditionally, conservatives in the United States are for amplified military spending while liberals would rather see the billions of dollars on other governmental programs such as Medicaid.

Again, arguments were framed as either appealing to the fairness moral foundation of liberals or the conservative moral foundations of loyalty and authority. One paragraph described increasing spending as a way of increasing the size of the military to include disadvantaged and poverty-stricken individuals saving said individuals from inequality issues(promoting fairness),  while the other paragraph ensured a tone of loyalty and authority by describing our military as a means for unification and keeping America the “greatest nation in the world.”

Unsurprisingly, Liberals were significantly more supportive of increased military spending when it was posited as a means of helping the poor than the condition in which the spending was justified to keep America great. Conservatives on the other hand, were more likely to show support after reading the article that was framed in terms of loyalty than after the article rooted in fairness.

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These studies support the fact that differing parties can persuade others on individual issues if they can effectually engage their audience. Feinerg concludes in his paper that:

“Research has shown that while liberals are unmoved by arguments in favor of a conservative policy that are grounded in the more conservative moral foundations, their support for the conservative position increases after reading messages grounded in the more liberal foundations, and this research also demonstrates the reverse when it comes to liberals persuading conservative targets.”

The 2016 election proved to be like no other election as individual actions became the center of attention rather than their proposed legislation. We can all famously remember Trump attacking Clinton for her email “scandal” while the message of Clinton’s advertisements largely revolved around the revolting behavior Trump showed throughout the election cycle. Debates seldom saw talk of any actual policy but rather became a boxing match: the heavyweight GOP elephant vs the spry lightweight donkey. So how can we persuade people of opposing parties when they care more about candidates than policy?

Luckily, Feinberg continued his research to include this past tumultuous election.  In a yet unpublished study, the researchers adapted the concept of moral reframing to Trump and Clinton supporters. This study revolved around the liberal moral foundation of fairness and the conservative moral foundation of loyalty out of sake for brevity.

The first study conducted centered on the public perception of our now President Donald Trump. Participants, who identified as conservative, were presented with arguments against Trump with one framed in the context of loyalty and one in the context of fairness.  Information regarding Trump’s lack of loyalty pointed to the fact that he had dodged the draft during the Vietnam War and implications that Trump is using the presidency to advance his own fiscal gains from his businesses. Fairness arguments against Trump included his quotes that discriminated against Muslims that would prevent them from being treated fairly as well as the opinion that his statements against Mexicans, African Americans, women, the disabled and practically anyone who isn’t a rich white male are discriminatory and would foster prejudice throughout America. The subjects were asked to rate Trump on warmth, acceptance as President, and likelihood to vote for him.

Similar to the first study conducted a year prior, the conservatives who read the statements against Trump rooted in loyalty registered him as less warm, said that they would not accept him as President, and stated that they were less likely to vote for him than the conservatives who read the arguments regarding fairness.

Hilary Clinton was not immune to the study as it was replicated for a second audience of Democrats, this time with arguments of fairness and loyalty being made against the former First Lady. In terms of fairness, researchers argued that Clinton accepted money from Wall Street Bankers to give speeches while millions of Americans experienced poverty during the recession. The loyalty arguments framed Clinton as less loyal by bringing up her involvement in Benghazi and that she failed our military (a huge prospect of loyalty to conservatives as pointed out in the previous study).

Liberals who were presented with information regarding Clinton as less fair described Clinton as less warm, but had no effect on whether they were less likely to accept her as President or whether they would vote for her in the election compared to liberals who were presented with the loyalty arguments.

Feinberg’s multiple research studies exist as proof that conservatives and liberals can be persuaded by each other if they reach out on issues that exist within the parameters of their morals. But in our tortuous political climate it is being made clearer day by day that our ability to sit down and argue peacefully with opposite parties is dwindling down to nothing, put into effect by our candidates who could not do the same no doubt. When conservatives cannot accept factual arguments, liberals become upset and succumb to protesting in an effort to get their view point across.

If we are to truly unite, as Trump emptily promised, we must see the differences in our judgements and appeal to those, as seen in Feinberg’s research. Conservatives must learn to see factual statistics not as attacks on authority but as a way to keep our nation great. Liberals must not automatically judge conservatives as unfair but try to see their concerns for safety and loyalty as viable. If not, we will surely be in perpetual limbo of protests and attacks, stuck in the same boxing match between elephant and donkey.  And when a TKO happens, we will all feel it.

Will Islam Ever Be An American Religion?

In the wake of the controversial refugee ban from seven Muslim countries as well as political reactions to the mosque shooting in Quebec, one statement has reared its ugly head: Islam is not American.

“Islam is not thought of as American religion,” said Zareena Grewal, a professor of religious studies at Yale University. “However much Muslim-Americans wish that to be true.”

Currently Islam is the second most practiced religion in the world with over 1.3 billion followers, eclipsed only by Christianity as the most popular belief system. 3.3 million of those 1.3 billion followers reside in the United States according to a Pew Center report. With more Muslims making their way to the United States it begs the questions: What needs to happen for Americans to accept Islam? Will Americans ever accept Islam?

In order to find the answer to these questions we must look at the statistics behind the growing population of Muslims as well as disparities in American perceptions of the religion.

Islam Will Eventually Replace Christianity as the Most Popular Religion in the World

The Pew Research Center released estimates stating that Muslims will outnumber Christians worldwide by the year 2070, due largely in part to Muslims having higher fertility rates than their Christian brothers.

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“We can be quite confident that Muslims are going to grow rapidly in the decades ahead,” stated Conrad Hackett, demographer and lead author of the  Pew report.

Projections included in the report state that Islam will grow an estimated 73% in one generation while Christianity will only grown 35% in that same time interval. The large growth of Muslims will undoubtedly impact the United States as Muslims in Africa and Asia will turn to Western civilization for education, food and a healthy lifestyle.

“The very rapid growth of population, combined with limited opportunities even for the educated young people, but particularly for less educated ones, has created social and therefore political tensions and that has fueled things like immigration to Western countries, political upheaval,” says David Voas a professor of population studies at England’s Institute for Social and Economic Research.

A greater influx of Muslims will certainly place more pressure on Americans to accept Islam as a main religion. By 2050 the Muslim population will more than double to 2.1% and, for the first time in history, will outnumber Jews in America.

Christianity, on the other hand, will not fair as well as Islam in the near future. Research scientists predict that Christianity will lose approximately 106 million followers to unaffiliated religious groups including atheists and agnostics.

The rise of Islam and the fall of Christianity will eventually force a dialogue between Americans as more and more of our friends, coworkers and family members will ascribe to the relatively unknown religion. When that dialogue will occur, however, is yet to be determined.

Most Americans Oppose Islam Without Even Knowing What It Is

In a separate Pew report, a majority of Americans (55%) professed to not knowing a significant amount of information about Islam:

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Additional studies conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute reveals that more than 6 out of 10 surveyed Americans recall never having had a conversation with a single Muslim in their lifetime.

What makes these statistics amazing is the fact that 61% of Americans report having an unfavorable view of Islam according to a survey conducted by Shibley Telhami, a researcher at the University of Maryland:

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So where does this cognitive dissonance arise from? How can so many Americans have an unfavorable opinion about a religion that they know nothing about? How can businesses declare themselves “Muslim free-zones” without most never having met a Muslim? How can anybody firebomb a mosque without even knowing what is being practiced inside? How can a group of hundreds of people protest, asking “how many of you Muslims are terrorists?” without being aware that Islam is a religion that promotes peace and love?

This is because the only knowledge Americans have of Muslims comes from the 9/11 attacks. Most rural, white republicans fall within the above statistics of not being acquainted with any Muslim personally, causing these people to glean information from the media rather than going out and meeting any Muslims themselves.

Unsurprisingly, anti-Muslim hate crimes spiked sharply after 9/11 as this was the first introduction for many Americans to the world of Islam. The recent political climate, in which politicians associate Islamic groups with terrorism and assert that Islam is a political system and not a religion, has re-sparked attacks against Muslims. The FBI reports a 67% increase in attacks from 2015 to 2016 due largely in part to politics. In fact, the number of hate crimes against Muslims is currently at its highest since the 9/11 attacks.

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Tolerance and brotherhood towards Muslims can only be accomplished by Americans when the media ceases to report a connection between Islam and violence. In addition to this, more personal connections to Muslims will override any exaggerated and false claims in the news. Speaking of which:

Americans Who Have Personal Relationships With Muslims View Islam as More Favorable

The slim amount of Americans who have had the pleasure of interacting with Muslims have significantly more favorable views on the religion of Islam according to the same report by Shibley Telhami:

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These Americans have been able to develop the empathy necessary to distinguish a traditional Muslim from their extremist counterparts, and to see the terrorists as just that: extremists. This empathy is even strong enough to cross party lines.  Whereas most republicans do not hesitate in labeling Muslims as terrorists, a majority of those who have had the opportunity to interact with Muslims can see this as simply untrue.

The influx of Muslim immigrants over the past century has already had an effect on the public perception of Islam. More and more children and young adults are interacting with Muslims and immigrant offspring in schools across the nation, leading to a visible disparity between the perceptions of the religion between younger and older adults. According to a survey conducted by YouGov, only 31% of 18-29 year-olds see Islam as more violent than other religions compared to an overwhelming 63% of Americans aged 65 and older:

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As American schools and universities become more diverse, the favorability of Islam is sure to increase as well. The personal anecdotes regarding Muslims that accompany relationships with school peers and friends are sure to last with young adults throughout their lifetimes, thus leading to more acceptance nationwide in the future.

What Does the Future of Islam Look Like for America?

It is clear from all of these statistics that Islam and Muslims are not going anywhere. Despite his best efforts, Donald Trump cannot stop the immense growth of Islam worldwide and within our borders. It is a special time in American politics, a time of ultra-conservatism and a time of dominance for a political party that has always been staunchly anti-Muslim. While four years seems like a lifetime at this point, looking at the data regarding young people should give us solace. Young people are more welcoming of diversity: racially, sexually and religiously. As they say, young people are the future. Remember that in this past election voters 18-25 voted overwhelmingly democratic:

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Not to mention they are out there protesting on the streets at this very moment for Muslims. No statistics and data are necessary to see that young people are more tolerable and accepting of Islam, making for a brighter future for not just Islam but all mankind.

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Us and Them: The Psychology Behind Xenophobia and the Muslim Ban

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The Merriam-Wesbter dictionary defines xenophobia as a “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” The next print edition for the publication will definitely reference Trump’s immigrant and refugee ban as the perfect illustration of xenophobia. The fact that a president could ban an entire religion from distinct countries only promotes xenophobia while also highlighting the intense paranoia that our leader feels of outsiders. So how can somebody become xenophobic to the point of isolating themselves, and our country, from the rest of the world?

Psychology has long researched the idea of xenophobia, especially after tragic events such as the Holocaust and assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The recent political climate has again stirred interest in nationwide prejudice, bringing evidence back into the spotlight as to how xenophobia can override common sense and logic. Here are some common discussions surrounding the psychology behind xenophobia:

We Have to Look Back to Look Forward

Sorry Christians, but humans did not appear on Earth in perfect form. We have spent millions of years evolving from common ancestors such as apes. It should come as no surprise that the evolutionary adaptations necessary to survive back in caveman days are still present in our highly evolved brains.

“Us vs. Them” grew from an evolutionary need during our days as apes and humanoid cavemen.

“I think there’s probably a very deep-rooted fear and suspicion of outsiders,” says Michael Wilson, a primatologist at the University of Minnesota.

The scientist, who studies apes for a living, cites behavior in apes as evidence for our hostility to people who belong to other groups. When two groups of apes bump into each other in the wild, it will always end in conflict. According to Wilson, the apes will threaten each other with loud calls, perform aggressive gestures and at times become physically violent.

Remember Harambe? When a little boy fell into the gorilla sanctuary at Cincinnati Zoo he grabbed the boy and began to drag him throughout the moat in the exhibit. Zoo officials reacted immediately to save the boy because they knew how territorial apes are by design. Harambe saw a boy, an outsider, as an immediate threat and dealt with this the only way his brain could let him: through violence. Whether he would actually kill the boy is indeterminable, but evolutionary psychology bets that after interacting with the boy more the violence would escalate.

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RIP Harambe

“If they can grab a member of the other community, they may beat on them, bite them, and continue doing so until they’re very severely injured or killed,” says Wilson of apes.

Wilson goes on to say that it makes sense that chimps defend their territories so vigilantly. A bigger territory leads to more food for the group and a better chance for survival.

The idea of protecting one’s territory is one aspect of apes that passed on to early humans. Before the invention of civilizations, humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies where one’s group had to work together for survival. No doubt the early humans had to protect their food and shelter from not just animal predators, but from other groups who would poach food for themselves. The need to protect one’s group, and conversely the hatred of other groups, came from the need to survive, and this would be imprinted in our brains for the rest of time.

We Can Be Prejudiced on the Most Arbitrary of Traits

In a hallmark experiment, schoolteacher Jane Elliott wanted to teach her class what it felt like to be prejudiced against after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Elliott proclaimed to the class that the blue-eyed students were superior to their brown-eyed peers by stating that:

“Blue-eyed people are the better people in this room. Blue-eyed people are smarter than brown-eyed people… this is a fact: blue eyed people are better than brown-eyed people… the blue-eyed people get five extra minutes of recess while the brown-eyed people have to stay in. The brown-eyed people do not get to use the drinking fountain, you’ll have to use paper cups. You brown-eyed people are not to play with the blue-eyed people on the playground because you are not as good as blue eyed people.”

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Elliott went on to say that brown-eyed people were to wear collars to identify them more easily (similar to how Jews had to wear stars of David during the Holocaust). When the students were asked to open their books to start a lesson, brown-eyed people were slower to do so. When Ms. Elliott declared that her yard stick was missing, students in the class pointed out that a brown-eyed person probably stole it. The blue-eyed students bullied the brown-eyed students by declaring that they weren’t smart, should be beaten if they disobeyed, and that they don’t deserve seconds at lunch.

The treatment of the brown-eyed children had a demonstrable effect on their own behavior. One student remarked that: “It seemed like when we were down on the bottom everything bad was happening to us. The way they treated you, it felt like you didn’t even want to try to do anything.” The brown-eyed students started to perform worse on phonetic tests, they began hitting the children who called them names and refused to answer questions in class.

To further test how easy it is to create prejudice, Elliott reversed the proclamation, stating that it was actually the brown-eyed children who were better than their blue-eyed counterparts. The results were strikingly similar with now the blue-eyed children performing worse on tests, being picked on, and not wanting to participate in class.

Elliott’s unconventional experiment shows how groups can be formed on the simplest of traits. The children never saw eye color as a basis for discrimination before, but were emboldened by a superior (their teacher) to form these ingroups and outgroups based on eye color.

For the naysayers that believe this is only because they are children, studies have shown that when minorities are presented with an identifying question before a standardized test (i.e. what is your race?) they perform significantly worse than when such a question was absent. In addition, the prejudices that we form in childhood are much harder to get rid of in adulthood, as seen in an earlier post here.

When We Are Fearful, We Think Threats Are Much Closer than They Are

Researchers from New York University conducted three studies on which people were asked to estimate how close immediate threats are to them.

In the first study, fans of the New York Yankees were asked to estimate how far away Fenway Stadium (home of their rivals the Boston Red Sox) is to NYU, and asked the same question to students who did not identify as fans of Derek Jeter’s old team. Researchers found that Yankees fans believed Fenway to be closer than the non-Yankee fans.

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In the second study, researchers presented half of participants with information that portrayed Columbia University as threatening to NYU students while the other half received no such information. The students who were given negative information about Columbia rated the university as being physically closer to NYU than the students who did not receive incriminating information.

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Finally in the third study, Americans who perceived Mexican immigrants as a threat to the United States estimated New Mexico City as closer to New York City than those who did not perceive a threat.

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These studies combined give a clear indication that those who fear outside groups observe a more eminent threat than reality actually imposes. This falls in line with the psychological theory called the representative heuristic.  This states that things that happen in the media are more likely to happen then in normal probability.

This is why people are more afraid to ride in planes than cars: the national media covers more plane crashes than car crashes, making it seem as if they happen more often than in reality. The national news is more likely to cover a shooting or an attack that is committed by a terrorist group than a local American. Take for example the “terrorist” who attacked Ohio State University last year. He did not actually kill anyone, but Trump and other politicians called for more extreme vetting for refugees after. A local shooting carried out by a local citizen may kill five or ten people and only make it to the local news by comparison. The idea that terrorists are all over, as perpetuated by the media, can override comparable statistics saying that it is far more likely to get struck by lightning than to be confronted by a terrorist.

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We Are Able to Dehumanize Humans, No Matter How Much They Look Like Us

When critics of Michelle and Barrack Obama lash out at the two dignified leaders calling them apes, it is not just evidence of racism, but of dehumanization. These people do not even see the leaders of our country as human, due to the fact that they are in a different social group.

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Dehumanization first appeared in our vocabularies during the Holocaust in which Jews were deprived of their names and given a number instead. Germans stood by Hitler as they no longer saw the Jews as people, neighbors and friends, but as workers indebted to the Reich.

Psychologists have found that dehumanization exists far after Auschwitz closed its doors. Psychologists from Northwestern University have studied dehumanization as recently as 2015. In their paper The Ascent of Man: Theoretical and Empirical Evidence for Blatant Dehumanization, researchers looked into how Americans viewed Americans, Arabs, Canadians, Chinese, European and Muslim groups using their ascent measures.

Unsurprisingly, Europeans, and Japanese were rated as similarly evolved to Americans whereas South Koreans, Chinese, and Mexican Immigrants were rated as significantly less evolved than Americans. Arabs and Muslims were rated as 10.6 and 14.0 points less evolved than Americans respectively.

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The researchers then decided to see if dehumanization is more present after tragic world events than when they completed the first study. Three days after the Boston Marathon bombings, the scientists asked participants the same survey questions for two weeks. Not only did Americans still rate Arabs as less evolved, but blatant dehumanization measures increased as well, symbolizing that Americans dehumanized Arabs as less than human more significantly after perceiving a threat.

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But Not All Hope Is Lost

The American Psychological Association has published a set of guidelines in response to a conference on racism held at the United Nations. Psychologists break down solutions to solving the problems into two categories: exposing racism’s roots and socializing people for tolerance and peace. The guidelines are as followed:

Exposing racism’s roots:

  • Acknowledge racist practices and urge major institutions to fight them.
  • Establish institutes on racial equity and mental health promotion.
  • Eliminate racist bias in research.
  • Reduce racism-related physical and mental health disparities
  • Conduct more research on perpetrators

Socializing people for tolerance and peace:

  • Collect statistical data on race that takes into account “economic and social indicators, including…mental and physical health care” to help close social and economic gaps
  • Bolster measures “to fulfill the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” by working to eliminate racism-induced health disparities.
  • Promote fair treatment and respect for migrants, refugees and indigenous peoples.
  • Increase tolerance and diversity
  • Stop trafficking of women and children
  • End racial profiling and discrimination on the part of law enforcement and government officials
  • Fight xenophobia, gender and racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance

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If we can change our society to enforce these rules, if we can learn to have empathy for other groups, if we can learn to look at correct statistics instead of relying on emotions and lies, then the road to eliminating xenophobia will be far less bumpy. We have to start seeing the refugees and immigrants as actual people, as someone’s parent, child, friend, and not as just people from the other side of the world, even if our leader is incapable of doing such. America was built as a nation of immigrants, someone taking a chance on our ancestors, and we have to do to same. These are actual people, not hypothetical  “what ifs” on a psychology study.

Science Confirms What We All Know: Internet Trolls Are Horrible People

When Data & Society released their report on online harassment, digital abuse and cyberstalking in America, the statistics confirmed what we all learned from the election: internet trolls are everywhere. The report, which compiled recorded instances of harassment over an 18th month period across the US, states that 47% of Americans have been victims of online harassment whereas over 72% of internet users witness such abuse from their own computer screens. These numbers are sure to rise over the next 18 months as internet trolls have become emboldened by our new president, arguably the biggest, nastiest troll of all time. But not all trolls can be as evil and sadistic as their online personas, can they?

Of course they can. In fact, researchers at the University of Manitoba found just that. In their paper Trolls Just Wanna Have Fun, psychologists Erin Buckels and Paul Trapnel profiled the personality characteristics of self-identified trolls. Most importantly, they wanted to determine whether the trolls’ personalities consisted of traits associated with the psychologically evil Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (self-obsession and inflated sense of ego), psychopathy (defined here as a lack of remorse and empathy) and sadism (a sense of pleasure in hurting others).

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Pepe the Psychopath Frog

In order to identify the trolls wreaking havoc on the internet, the scientists simply asked a population of 1215 survey takers what they enjoyed most when commenting on web sites. Their options were: “debating issues that are important to you”, “chatting with others”, “making new friends”, “trolling”, and “other”.  Yes, the researchers found the harassers by literally asking if they identified as trolls, and the trolls were proud enough of their behavior to admit to it. Sounds about right to me.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has a working internet connection: trolling was significantly associated with all the traits of the Dark Tetrad except for narcissism where there was a positive association, but not strong enough to reach significance. The trait of sadism was found to be the highest associated with trolling behavior, implying that the bullies enjoy the harm they bring to others. The amount of time spend commenting on the internet also was found to be associated with higher levels of these dark traits, their sadism growing with every new disturbing post.

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Hundreds of people proudly identified as trolls. And Machiavellian, narcissistic, psychopathic, sadistic and as all-around horrible people.  

If the words “Dark Tetrad” aren’t enough to scare you away from these insidious creatures, then perhaps a sub-study by the researchers will. Using survey samples from Amazon Mechanical Turk and college students, Buckels and Trapnel wanted to see if they could determine why trolling attracts these psychologically disturbing personality profiles. They even coined their own survey instrument, aptly titled the Global Assessment of Internet Trolling, or GAIT. Here are some of the actual terms from the assessment:

The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt

I like to troll people in forums or the comments sections of websites

I have sent people to shock websites for the lulz

I enjoy griefing other players in multiplayer games

People actually said yes to these questions. Researchers comment that endorsing such atrocious intentions further supports the assertion that sadism is highly associated with trolling. Not only do the sadists enjoy internet bullying and harassment, they are so proud of themselves that they actually admit to identifying as a troll and engaging in such vile behavior. Authors reveled in this information, stating that “Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!”

DONALD TRUMP LOOKALIKES
Perhaps for their next study researchers can identify trolls by their hair?

So how do we keep trolls away from their beloved swings and slides? The answer is complicated, and perhaps, unsolvable. News websites such as Recode, The Verge, Reuters, Mic, Popular Science, The Week, and USA Today’s FTW have discarded their comments section after the rise of the internet troll. On the other hand, websites such as 4chan are breeding grounds for trolls, where they can get together to plan attacks on other internet users and not face repercussions due to anonymity.

Study authors also comment on the troubles of fixing this potent problem. “Because the behaviors are intrinsically motivating for sadists, comment moderators will likely have a difficult time curbing trolling with punishments (e.g., banning users),” said Buckels. “Ultimately, the allure of trolling may be too strong for sadists, who presumably have limited opportunities to express their sadistic interests in a socially-desirable manner.”

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The actual face of a troll when you respond to them calling you a racist against white people.

The rise of our President presents another problem. Usually trolls live under the guise of anonymity, tied only to their IP address. This troll stands atop a podium, making his name known to the world one gilded Trump Tower and tweet at a time. His sadism not only feeds his own already gargantuan ego, but feeds the egos of those who copy his childish behavior online.

The best way to deal with trolls, in my opinion and based on the research, is to tackle their egos. We have seen time and time again with Trump becoming visibly irritated when presented with concrete facts that diminish his ego. When the numbers came in about his abysmal attendance at his inauguration, he sent a fury of tweets that millions attended (wrong!). When he lost the popular vote by close to three million ballots, Trump has signed an executive order saying that he lost due to massive voter fraud without any evidence (sad!). Trump even shut down the EPA for tweeting evidence for climate change, which he decrees as a “hoax” (too bad!). Trump only relies on emotions. We’ve seen in throughout the election debates. He could not, and still cannot, produce any concrete plans for tax cuts, healthcare replacement, or crime in inner cities, but instead focused all of his campaign on creating emotion in voters by painting Clinton as corrupt and bible belters as a forgotten population in America. Presenting Trump with facts that he cannot explain with his emotions is slowly causing him to become unhinged and will ultimately lead to his downfall if he continues on this path.

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An actual article from Salon.com. It doesn’t matter that what he says makes no sense! He speaks for me and stands up for the little guy! He’s a rich New Yorker, of course he understands Middle America and the lower class!

Internet troll problems can be solved similarly. Trolls, like Trump, feed off of your negative emotions. As the study shows, they don’t post to begin debates, they post because they like seeing you suffer, that your suffering makes them happy. You can accomplish this either by ignoring trolling behavior, or eliciting a tactic known as the Gray Rock Method. Developed initially to help people deal with psychopaths and stalkers, the Gray Rock Method involves simply becoming uninteresting in the eyes of whoever is harassing you. Instead of calling a troll an asshole or stupid in response, try giving a boring response that is void of emotion. Remember, a troll wants you to get emotional, so if you do not give them that, they will eventually leave you to find another target.

One statistic gleaned from the study, however, gives hope to those desiring to reclaim the safe haven of the internet. Researchers found that only 5.6% of the 1215 surveyed identified as trolls, whereas 41.3% of internet users identified as “non-commenters”. The presence of trolls seems to be greater than it actually is as most trolls post multiple comments on multiple platforms searching for that high from upsetting people. The act of trolling is a manifestation of everyday sadism, meaning that trolls are in constant need of harassment for stimulation. How many hours a day do you watch TV? How many hours do you spend texting or talking on your phone? Imagine spending all of those hours on the internet, needing to leave nasty comments for entertainment and excitement. All of those comments would certainly rack up, just as your phone data bill does toward the end of the month.

The biggest thing to remember is that internet trolls are not psychologically normal. They combined the scariest words in psychology together to form the term “Dark Tetrad” for a reason. Next time you witness internet harassment remember, these are sadistic people and replying to them is only feeding into their sadism. Remember, these people have to look in the mirror every day, or at least their reflection in their laptop screens. That should be punishment enough.

Source: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886914000324

Try it Tuesday: Do Adult Coloring Books Actually Work?

Last week was a stressful week. It was the last five days of Obama as President and the dread of a Trump presidency started to sink in. With all this stress, I decided to pick up an adult coloring book to see if they actually work in creating relaxation. And yes, I know that I am playing into the alt-rights portrayal of liberals as snowflakes with safe spaces and adult coloring books, but hey, it’s better to be conscious of your mental health than to be bullied by internet trolls.

The Experiment

In order to test the validity of adult coloring books I needed to induce stress and frustration. The best way to do this, I figured, was to watch the evening news for a full 30 minutes. I decided on ABC World News with David Muir in order to eliminate any bias associated with liberal or conservative news outlets. I ordered a Great British Bake Off coloring book (one of the most relaxing shows out there) and decided upon one image to color for the entire work week after the news, Monday through Friday.

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Oh David, not even your handsome face can cushion the blow of a Trump administration

What Happened

Monday January 16, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Rep. John Lewis boycotts the inauguration
  • Winter storms continue across the US
  • Outgoing CIA director warns Trump about Russia

Frustration level before coloring: 3/5

Frustration level after coloring: 1/5

This day wasn’t particularly too stressful, but coloring actually help my attention and focus more than I imagined. The 30 minutes flew by as if it were 5 minutes and all I was thinking about while coloring was what color I was gonna make all of the pies and pastries. And how delicious those pies and pastries must be of course.

Tuesday January 17, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Barbara Bush and George WH Bush hospitalized
  • Trump communications appointee resigns amid plagiarism scandal
  • Trump receives record low approval ratings as incoming president

Frustration level before coloring: 4/5

Frustration level after coloring: 1.5/5

One interesting aspect about this foray into coloring was when I began I was starving and almost ordered a pizza. After I began coloring though, I was not hungry anymore and didn’t eat for over an hour after I was finished. I believe, like on the first day, this was because of coloring helping me to focus more. Again, the coloring was relaxing and helped me to forget for a second about our new president.

Wednesday January 18, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Obama commutes Chelsea Manning
  • DeVos cites grizzly bears as reasoning for guns in schools
  • 18 million Americans will go uninsured if Obamacare repealed

Frustration level before coloring: 5/5

Frustration level after coloring: 2/5

It seemed like this day was filled to the brim with bad news. Every single one of Trump’s appointees said disparaging things about climate change, women’s rights and their own failures to disclose their finances. How could one forget to mention they had $100 million dollars just lying around? Nothing got my blood boiling more than DeVos confirmation when she said that guns should be allowed in schools to shoot grizzlies, that disabled students shouldn’t be protected by federal law and that she did not know she donated thousands to anti-LGBT groups. That being said, the coloring was a great distraction for the thirty minutes, but as soon I was done the bad news kept tumbling, in bringing back my frustration.

Thursday January 19, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Trump inaugural concert most boring, most cringe-worthy concert in modern history
  • 2016 named hottest year on record even though Trump dismisses global warming
  • Hundreds attend queer dance party outside of VP Pence’s house

Frustration level before coloring: 4.5/5

Frustration level after coloring: 1/5

Today’s news was a mixture of good and bad. Of course the biggest ticket was Trump’s concert but it made me feel happier knowing how sparsely attended it was and that his biggest draw was the guy who wrote “God Bless the USA”. That being said, my frustration levels didn’t last after coloring and it was a welcome distraction from what was happening in Washington.

Friday January 20, 2017

The day of Trump’s inauguration

Frustration level before coloring: 100,000,000/5

Frustration level after coloring: 3/5

To be honest I didn’t turn in to the news today. I already knew what was happening and did not want to be a part of it. I kept my tv off, switched off my wifi on my laptop, and kept my headphones on. Like in previous days, the coloring definitely helped to shift my focus and keep me calm as I was creating art, this day was just full of special circumstances and anxieties that would not go away easily.

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They make adult coloring books for everyone. Even your pervy uncle 

Did it Really Help?

In one word:yes. The coloring definitely helped to calm my frustrations and to keep me focused on creating art as opposed to pondering all of the bad things going on in the world. I found that I was paying less attention to things around me while I was coloring and that it was quite relaxing. As another positive, I found that it actually quelled my appetite, or at least made me focus on things other than food.

Will it Help Me?

If you find that certain things or people make you frustrated, then yes, coloring books will help you. Because I induced my frustration by watching the news I am unsure that coloring will help you cope with generalized anxiety that may be experienced at all times. However, if you need time to unwind and focus on other things besides your hectic life, then adult coloring books will aid you in that.

What Does the Research Say?

Research on the subject of adult coloring mainly focuses on the benefits to the brain as well as differences with art therapy. Psychologists have found that while coloring may not be as effective as art therapy in the treatment of major mental disorders, they have found four main benefits to adult coloring:

  1. Helps dementia and Alzheimer’s patients remain engaged with the outside world
  2. Can lower blood pressure (by decreasing stress)
  3. Trains your brain to focus better
  4. Helps people deal with PTSD and stress

Psychologist Stan Rodski, who has even authored his own coloring book, compares the effects of coloring to the effects of meditation. Like meditation, coloring allows us to switch off our brains and focus on what is at hand instead of  the perils of everyday life.

Adult coloring books may also help in relaxation by replacing negative images and thought with positive ones literally:

“You have to look at the shape and size, you have to look at the edges, and you have to pick a color,” Pearson told Nine MSN. “It should occupy the same parts of the brain that stops any anxiety-related mental imagery happening as well. … Anything that helps you control your attention is going to help.”

Final Thoughts

If you have been thinking about picking up an adult coloring book but have passed due to embarrassment, time limitations, or disbelief in their effects  just do it! Even taking just half an hour out of your day can ease frustrations, help you focus and keep your brain from eliciting negative thoughts. You can find adult coloring books practically everywhere for cheap, and you can create priceless advantages for your brain in the process.

 

Source:http://www.medicaldaily.com/therapeutic-science-adult-coloring-books-how-childhood-pastime-helps-adults-356280

 

 

Two Days After the Women’s March, Trump Signs Executive Order to Defund Reproductive Care Groups

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via Daily Prompt: Oversight

Donald Trump sent a big middle finger to the 1 million women who marched worldwide on Saturday by signing an executive order to reinstate the “global gag rule”, a policy that is just as bad as it sounds. This order also comes one day after the 44th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, a Supreme Court decision Trump is committed to overturning.

The global gag rule states that any foreign organization that provides abortion cannot receive funds from the US, even though it is illegal for governmental funds to be used for abortion. This means that family planning NGOs in developing countries will lose funds for contraceptives, HIV services, and even malaria treatment. In fact from 2001 to 2009 20 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East lost US donated contraceptives and many organizations were shut down entirely. Ironically enough, this plan did not reduce the amount of abortions, but instead increased the number of unsafe abortions practiced worldwide. You can read statistics about the implementation of the global gag rule at these links:

Global gag rule in Nepal:

Click to access ggrcase_nepal.pdf

Global gag rule in Kenya:

Click to access ggrcase_kenya_2006.pdf

Global gag rule in Zambia:

Click to access ggrcase_zambia_2006.pdf

 

We cannot, as citizens of one of the most privileged civilizations in the world stand, by idly while this “man” can do whatever he pleases with a subject he knows nothing about. Why older politicians are so obsessed with women’s rights and reproductive issues I do not know, but what I do know is that we must fight and not let this become an oversight. If we do fail to stand up now it is only a matter of time before abortion becomes defunded and possibly made criminalized in our own country. We need to continue the momentum from the Women’s March and channel it into positive decision making, positive action. The lives of our mothers, sisters, cousins and daughters depend on it.

 

To the Men Who Don’t Understand the Women’s March

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On Saturday more than 500,000 women gathered outside the White House in DC, more than 3 times the amount of people in attendance for Trump’s inauguration (not if you ask Trump of course). More than 600 sister marches occurred concurrently in other cities in the US such as Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York as well as the world in cities like London, Toronto, Sydney and Paris. I was unfortunately not able to go, but my sister made the long trek for the protests in Washington. Upon viewing pictures she sent me and seeing live news coverage on television I cried numerous tears. The first tears of joy since the election.

I remember November 9th 2016 just like it was yesterday. My uncle had passed away two days prior, so we were on an epic road trip from New York to Missouri for his wake. We made sure to stay back until the last second in order to vote, to vote for the first female president, hoping to silence the bigotry Trump spurted throughout his campaign. We live in Rochester, NY home of Susan B. Anthony and I remember seeing dozens of “I Voted” stickers plastered on her grave, pictures with comments that people were voting for Clinton in honor of Anthony who championed for women’s suffrage. Electing the first female president was the only thing keeping me going after my uncle’s death, but unfortunately death comes in three: first my uncle, then American democracy, and finally, my hope in the common American citizen.

Traveling throughout red states was especially hard. We crossed Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana (our homophobic vice president’s home state) and finally Missouri making pit stops in each. In one way being trapped in a car was a saving grace: I had no internet access to hear about the newest travesties that Trump would bring along with his presidency. No one in the car talked about the election; we were all in a state of shock and it took a while to sink in. We had all seen Trump condone sexual assault, make fun of the disabled, call Mexicans rapists and drug dealers, and threaten to take away the reproductive rights of women. How could anyone vote for him?

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The days after the election was when I fully understood that being a women is a disadvantage. The fact that 50 million Americans thought that it was no big deal for Trump to commit sexual assault, threaten to take away health care coverage for birth control and assure that he would make abortion illegal was a slap in the face. Did 50 million Americans really declare that women are too stupid to make decisions regarding their own bodies? Did 50 million Americans award a man that has repeatedly said that a woman’s success is directly tied to appearance and breast size with the highest office in our country? Did 50 million Americans condone sexual harassment and sexual assault?

Of course there are voters out there that will say they voted for Trump because he was different, because he wanted to bring back jobs, because he wasn’t Hillary Clinton and to that I say bullshit. If you can overlook a person who looks at women with predatory eyes, and not just overlook them, but put them in charge of our country, in charge of making laws that effect the livelihoods of women then you are as asshole, plain and simple. And it is not just women. Mike Pence has repeatedly supported legislation that makes it okay to discriminate against the LGBT, the Trump camp wants to deport millions of undocumented immigrants who have been living in the US for years, Trump is single-handedly trying to destroy the press, put guns in schools,  cut off ties with the rest of the world. If you voted for him and cannot look in the mirror and see that you are misogynistic, bigoted, and xenophobic then you can at least call yourself selfish. Why do you think that your tax breaks or minimum wages are more important than the livelihoods of your fellow countrymen? Your mothers, your sisters, your friends, neighbors and coworkers?

When the shock from the election wore off, pure terror began to sink in. While returning to the safety of my blue state of New York, I still had to travel across Trump’s America. I couldn’t even look people in the eyes at rest stops. All I could think when seeing men at the stops were: “does he think its okay to assault me?” “does he think I am a lesser person than himself?” To be honest, I thought to myself this must be what it feels like to be black. To always wonder who is your friend and who is your enemy, to wonder who I would have to be careful around, to wonder if I would ever have it as easy as other people. To want to be seen equally as white men would be a common dream between women and blacks and all other minority groups. We were finally at the cusp, and then it was thrown in our faces.

This was not the first time where I had experienced feeling like a lesser person than men. While at my summer job in college, a coworker proudly declared that “you will always be inferior to me because of your chromosomes”, because of what is between my legs. I stood there shocked, and actually hoped that one of my male coworkers would step in, horrified by his declaration. I stood there, in silence, waiting for help that would never come.

I spent the next couple of hours or so crying, trying to get my managers attention that there was a problem, but no one would help. Other men there had made sexist comments that I would never make as much money as them, that I should just get married instead of going to graduate school, that I was weird for not having a boyfriend. I am ashamed to admit that some of these people were my friends, that I just shrugged these comments off. I should have be awoken to the misogyny then, but nothing woke me up faster and more effectively than this election.

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If you ask women around you they will probably share the same sentiment. That they had experienced some kind of misogyny or assault in their lives but they thought that the problem was contained to themselves. I personally thought I would never meet another man like the one who told me that I was inferior to him for being a woman. Then I saw Trump. Millions of women, not just Americans, saw the worst qualities of men they had interacted with exist ten-fold in Trump. I am sure Trump brought up painful memories of ex-boyfriends, bosses, and Facebook friends that women had to deal with.

The problem is that we expected people to be on our sides. For me, I expected one of my best friends who was present when our coworker proudly said that I was a lesser person than him to step in and do the right thing instead of doing the right thing myself. This election, if anything, taught us not to rely on the common American to stand up for what is right and speak up for women. We have to speak up for ourselves. The first thing I did upon returning to my home after the road trip was to write a letter to my friend and the “man” who harassed me, telling them both to shove off.

This women’s march goes well beyond a Trump presidency. If one good thing were to come out of the election it is that we are no longer ignorant to the fact that a sizable amount of Americans do not hold women’s rights as important, that they are selfish and look out for themselves before the good of others. That we have to stand up for what is right even though we are in the minority. That women are strong and should be respected. That we will not give up silently.

For those men who cannot take strong women, who do not champion for equal rights, and think they are better than anyone else we say: grow some balls.

 

Trump Isn’t the First Psychopath in the Oval Office (and He Probably Won’t Be the Last)

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Today is January 20th, 2017. The first day of Donald Trump’s presidency and for most, the first day of the end of the world. We’ve constantly seen him belittle others on Twitter, condone sexual assault, and exert such grandiose assertions about multiple things (having the most diverse cabinet, bringing back jobs that have nothing to do with his position, and declaring himself so charming, that Mexico will listen to him to build a wall costing billions for no good reason, to name a few instances) that it is no wonder most label the “politician” as a psychopath. In fact, many psychologists are exercising their professional opinions, calling Trump not agreeable, neurotic, and unusually aggressive, many traits of psychopathy (you can read one such account here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/the-mind-of-donald-trump/480771/). So how did we actually elect a psychological monster to lead our country? Well it turns out we have done it before.

Researchers from Emory University began a study in 2010 delving into the psychopathic traits of 42 past presidents (up until and including George W. Bush) with the notion that some aspects of psychopathy (fearlessness, interpersonal dominance) can actually be beneficial to the leader of our country.

“Despite the lengthy research tradition linking psychopathy to unsuccessful behavior, a consistent strand of clinical lore has tied psychopathy, or at least certain features of it, to socially successful behavior across a variety of domains, including the business world, politics, and everyday life,” cites Scott O. Lilienfeld, first author of the paper. “These important results raise the possibility that psychopathy, or at least some features of it, are associated with certain aspects of adaptive functioning in workplace settings, although they may also be associated with certain aspects of maladaptive functioning.”

To test whether the presidents in fact shared traits consistent with psychopaths, researchers handed our surveys to the biographers of every US president, people who know the actions and personalities of the presidents best. Instead of answering the questions about themselves, they were asked to compile answers on behalf of their biographical subjects to questions taken from the Psychopathic Personality Inventory, PPI for short. The PPI consists of two factors: fearless dominance (social potency, stress immunity, and fearlessness) and self-centered impulsivity (careful nonplanfuless, impulse nonconformity, Machiavellian egocentricity and blame externalization). The psychologists also asked historians for ratings on presidential performance, leadership, persuasiveness, crisis management skills and Congressional relations to determine if certain traits on the PPI were correlated with a successful presidency.

Without further ado, here are the top psychopathic presidents according to the research:

1.      John F Kennedy

2.      William Clinton

3.      Andrew Jackson

4.      Theodore Roosevelt

5.      Lyndon B Johnson

6.      Franklin D Roosevelt

7.      Chester Arthur

8.      George W Bush

9.      Ronald Reagan

10.   Richard Nixon

11.   Andrew Johnson

12.   James Polk

13.   John Adams

14.   John Tyler

15.   Martin van Buren

16.   Woodrow Wilson

17.   Warren Harding

18.   William Harrison

19.   Benjamin Harrison

20.   James Earl Carter

21.   Zachary Taylor

22.   George Washington

23.   Thomas Jefferson

24.   Ulysses S Grant

25.   John Q Adams

26.   Dwight D Eisenhower

27.   Gerald Ford

28.   Abraham Lincoln

29.   James Garfield

30.   Harry S Truman

31.   Herbert Hoover

32.   Franklin Pierce

33.   James Madison

34.   Calvin Coolidge

35.   George H Bush

36.   Grover Cleveland

37.   James Buchanan

38.   William Taft

39.   Rutherford Hayes

40.   James Monroe

41.   Millard Fillmore

42.   William McKinley

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The face of a real psychopath

If you are wondering how the hell Nixon didn’t clench the top spot, it boils down to the fact that some aspects of psychopathy are associated with being a better leader. The researchers found that higher levels of fearless dominance were associated with higher approval ratings, better leadership, and more initiative in starting projects. John F. Kennedy scored especially high here for his revolutionary work in the civil rights movement, while more forgettable presidents such as Van Buren scored lower.

In contrast, impulse antisociality ratings were negatively correlated with presidential success. Conversely, they were associated with Congressional impeachments, unsavory character and tolerating unethical behavior. It is no surprise that Bill Clinton snagged the highest rating in this category due to him impeachment and overall “discretions”.

Psychologist Kevin Dutton echoed the results of the study saying “Both great and terrible leaders score higher than the general population for psychopathic traits, but it is the mix of those traits that determines success.”

So how would our sparkly new President do if he were given the PPI? Recently Dr. Dutton took it upon himself to find out, while also contrasting our leader with infamous dictators, monarchs, and conquerors from history. Here is his list:

  1. Saddam Hussein, former President of Iraq (with a score of 189)
  2. King Henry VIII, former King of England (178)
  3. Idi Amin, former President of Uganda (176)
  4. Donald Trump (171)
  5. Adolf Hitler, former fuhrer of Nazi Germany (169)
  6. William the Conqueror, former king of England (165)
  7. Saint Paul, apostle (157)
  8. Jesus, son of God (157)
  9. Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of England (155)
  10. Napoleon Bonaparte, French military leader (153)
  11. Hilary Clinton, former Presidential candidate and hope for the future (152)

Yes, you read that correctly: Trump is more psychopathic than Hitler, especially on the traits of social influence and fearlessness. This is especially ironic given that Trump recently stated that the media treats him as if he were living in Nazi Germany:

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Donald may actually be right about something

But if Jesus was enough of a psychopath to make the list, surely it is not all doom and gloom for the incoming administration. Dutton explains that it is all about how these traits work together, stating that “someone who scores highly for being influential, fearless and cold hearted could be a decisive leader who can make dispassionate decisions. If those traits are accompanied by a high score on blaming others, they might be a genocidal demagogue.”

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On second thought, I am going to invest in a bomb shelter after today.

 

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22823288

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-psychopath-researcher-oxford-university-kevin-dutton-a7204706.html

Study Spotlight: Why Some Americans Don’t Believe in Global Warming (and No, it’s Not Because of the Chinese)

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Evidence of climate change and global warming is everywhere. Seldom can one turn on the news without seeing reports of rising sea levels, shrinking ice sheets, extreme weather, and the acidification of our diverse oceans. When President Elect Donald J. Trump proudly declared that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, educated citizens reacted with notions of incredulity. When his supporters came out in droves defending the “hoax,” we all reacted with shock and horror.

How can so many individuals ignore readily available facts that are unequivocal? Researchers at Utah State University set out to uncover why exactly individuals can throw away decades of scientific evidence. Peter Howe, an assistant professor of human-environment geography at the University’s Department of Environment and Society collaborated with researchers from Boston University, George Washington University, and Oxford University. The researchers based their data from more than 12,000 survey respondents across the nation, as collected by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication from 2008 to 2014.

map

 

“We found that places with more record high temperatures than lows have more residents who believe the planet is warming,” reported Howe. “Conversely, in places with more record low temperatures, more people tend to doubt global warming.”

Northern states were found to have a lower percentage of residents believing in climate change, including North Dakota with only 56% of inhabitants agreeing that global warming is a tangible problem. The states with the highest proportion of surveyed adults agreeing that global warming exists, unsurprisingly, were Hawaii and California with 75% and 70% of yes votes respectively.  States in the middle portion of the United States reported statistics between those high and low percentages with Missouri coming in with 60% of occupants agreeing that climate change exists, North Carolina with 62%, and Colorado with 66%.

This coincides with multiple tweets from the President Elect who commonly cites snow and freezing temperatures in winter as evidence against the science of climate change. People who do not experience warmer temperature frequently are more stubborn to believe that the planet is warming. Individuals rely more on anecdotal and personal experiences when forming opinions, and because weather is experienced on a daily basis, everyone thinks they are an expert. How can global warming be real when I am freezing in North Dakota all the time?

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“One of the greatest challenges to communicating scientific findings about climate change is the cognitive disconnect between local and global events,” added Michael Mann of George Washington University. “It’s easy to assume that what you experience at home must be happening elsewhere.”

So how can entities living in colder areas be convinced of the ravages of our warming climate? The key, according to scientists, is in our phrasing.

It is first important to differentiate the concept of weather, the temperatures of an area over a relatively short period of time, and climate, the average temperature of an area that occurs during a period of 25 or 30 years. Sure it may be freezing and snowing now, but is it less cold than the winters you remember from your childhood?

Secondly, word choice comes into play when discussing the changing phenomena themselves. If one lives in an area far from the equator experiencing record low temperatures, then global warming is a discouraging term. However if propositioned with the phrasing climate change, some naysayers may change their tune. While they may not be able to recollect changing temperatures, they may be cognizant to supplementary environmental changes such as an increase in rainfall, smog, or storm occurrences that are also symptomatic of the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

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Researchers are optimistic that adapting the dialogue when discussing climate change can encourage positive discussion about the fate of our planet.

“Our work highlights some of the challenges of communicating about climate change, and the importance of situating people’s experiences at the local level within the larger global context,” Howe cemented.

In his final presidential address, Barrack Obama echoed the importance of universal acceptance of climate change while also lamenting that action is more important than collective agreement.  “Without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change,” he remarked to an audience of 24 million television viewers. “They’ll be busy dealing with its effects: more environmental disasters, more economic disruptions, waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary.”

With this study showing that only 63% of Americans believe in climate change due to their inability to look beyond their own location, it is best to heed President Obama’s advice to go forward and combat the insidious effects head on.  There will always be people who say racism doesn’t exist because they live in a white neighborhood, abortion is unnecessary because they live in the Bible belt, and that 9/11 was enacted by the government because they live in their parents’ basements clad in tin foil hats. Climate change is not about convincing people that there is a problem, but about combating the problem while there is still an earth standing.

 

You can read more about Dr. Howe’s research and his maps on climate change opinion at: http://www.peterhowe.org