What Science has to Say About A Trump Presidency

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No one really knows what kind of president Donald Trump will be, not really. There can obviously be educated guesses based on what he has said during campaigns. What is known about his personal feelings about certain issues. His past actions. But he was not a politician, and as many of his supporters, his surrogates, his campaign, and Donald Trump himself made clear throughout the course of his Republican nominee campaign and his presidential campaign is that Donald Trump is not a politician. He can and will change the system because he has never operated within it. Except now Donald Trump is a politician. And that necessarily changes things. In fact, Trump is already changing policy positions.

No matter how much change you want to make to the system, that change must still come from within that very system. And it doesn’t change easily. Some things cannot be changed. Some things Trump can do by himself or at least with the help of a unified government, but others are not so simple. Donald Trump must still learn how to operate within the constraints imposed by the political system and by the office of the president. Especially as it appears much of his incoming staff will be inexperienced and perhaps unable to greatly assist in the short-term with his plans to institute so much change. Political change only comes with political maneuvering and negotiation, two things of which Donald Trump is supposedly an expert, but again, he has zero experience in politics.

However, science may be able to provide some clues as to how Donald Trump may manage these aspects of being president. Via Vox:

“Power gets into our heads. It changes us. Power can give us confidence to indulge in our base urges. It can make us less empathetic, more likely to see our own success in a positive light and harshly condemn failures in others…

“Psychology defines power very simply: It’s our ability to influence others and the world. It’s accrued in so, so many ways: by the amount of money we have, by the social class we’re born into, by the force of our personalities and intellect, by the teams and institutions we associate with, and so on.

 ‘”Power is to humans and their relationships [what] energy is to physics,”‘ [Michael Kraus, who studies the psychology of power at Yale] says, paraphrasing Bertrand Russell.

“The more powerful we are, the freer we are to act on our base desires. (Robert Caro came to this conclusion — power doesn’t corrupt, it reveals — in his biographies of Lyndon B. Johnson.)

“When we’re not in a position of power, we’re constrained by social norms and expectations. We make decisions that don’t rock the boat; we’re maybe more polite; we’re less confident in our ideas…

“When those barriers are removed, the “true self” — meaning a person’s personality, the gut way they react to the world — is revealed. (Psychologists generally feel personality is a stable trait. Meaning the Trump personality we’ve seen is likely the one we’ll get.)…

‘”People who are pro-social are very pro-social when they have power; people who are more selfish are even more selfish when they have power,”‘ Pamela Smith, a psychologist studying power at the University of California San Diego, says. Studies find that when people who are more altruistic are given power, they share more with other study participants. The opposite is true for those inclined to be selfish.

‘”Power magnifies your personality traits,”‘ says Dacher Keltner, a psychologist who collaborates with Kraus and recently published The Power Paradox, a book outlining the psychological science of how we gain power and what it does to our minds. ‘”Given that, we might want to find [candidates] who have balanced, moderate personality traits.”‘…

“Power puts a magnifying glass to our personalities, but it also subtly influences all of us to become a bit more selfish. ‘”We know power amplifies our more dangerous tendencies,”‘ Keltner says. ‘”It will make us behave in more irrational ways.”‘…

“The powerful are also more prone to hypocrisy. One 2010 paper out of Northwestern and Tilburg universities found evidence that while powerful-feeling people judge others more harshly for breaking rules, they cut themselves some slack when they bend the rules. “People with power take what they want not only because they can do so without punishment, but also because they intuitively feel they are entitled to do so,” the paper concluded.

‘”There’s a good rule for determining who will be better at wielding power: Look at their past behavior,”‘ Kraus says. ‘”I would pay far more attention to that than promises of what we’re going to do as a country at commercials and rallies.”‘

In other words, according to science Donald Trump is who we think he is and will remain so, if not further magnified, during his time as president.

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