Trump's simple and safe language has strong historical roots.



Credit: Paul Brennan / public domain

For many, President Donald Trump's use of non-traditional and improvised language seems different from that of any other politician, but new research on the language of past and present world leaders reveals that the simple and direct messages that Exude confidence can be the new norm. Making Trump a man of his time, rhetorically speaking.

The study, conducted by psychology researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, was published in the Procedures of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The findings confirm that President Trump and leaders like him did not emerge out of thin air, but are the latest incarnation of long-term political trends," said Jamie Pennebaker, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. co-author of the study. "Taken together, trends suggest that voters can be increasingly attracted to leaders who can make complex and difficult problems easier to understand with intuitive and reliable responses."

For linguists, functional words, such as prepositions, pronouns and conjunctions, say a lot about how people think. Previous research has linked high rates of pronouns, negations, and auxiliary verbs to low or more intuitive badytical thinking. And it has been shown that the intensive use of the pronouns "you" and "we" indicates a higher status, confidence or influence than the use of impersonal pronouns or "I" and "I".

Using the program of badysis of texts, Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count, developed by Pennebaker, the researchers measured the evolution of badytical thinking and influence on the presidential language since 1789, focusing on the use of functional words in the inaugural speeches, documents public, debates and speeches.

The researchers found that badytical thinking remained high during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but began to decline at the time of Woodrow Wilson's presidency. And, when Dwight Eisenhower took office in the 1950s, the presidential language had reached a new tone of confidence. Making a map of this, the researchers determined that Trump only deviated from the trend in one context: the debates, where his speech was less badytical than that of any previous president.

"Donald Trump was not, in general, a psychologist," said the study's lead author, Kayla Jordan, a doctoral candidate in psychology at UT Austin. (Psychometry is the science that measures mental processes and capacities). "These results strongly suggest that the recipe that probably helped Trump become a successful presidential candidate began almost 100 years ago."

The researchers also examined the language of other English-speaking world leaders. They found that low badytical thinking and high influence have also become more common in Canada and Australia. British leaders have maintained higher badytical measures, but the evidence shows that their language has also begun to transmit more confidence. Although these trends are similar to those observed in the USA. UU., They developed later, around the 1980s, according to one researcher.

"The findings of non-US leaders provide evidence that the simple and safe rhetorical style observed in recent US presidents is an increasingly important marker of leadership worldwide," said Ryan Boyd, co-author and postdoctoral researcher in psychology at UT. Austin

To understand whether this was simply a political phenomenon or a reflection of the broader culture, the researchers compared these trends with the language used in the novels, movies, CNN's daily transcripts and New York Times articles. However, outside the language used in CNN, no correlation was detected. The researchers speculated that this exception was due to the network's focus on communicating politics to the mbades.


Explore further:
Text badysis of thousands of scholarship abstracts shows that writing style is important

More information:
Kayla N. Jordan the al. "Examining long-term trends in politics and culture through the language of political leaders and cultural institutions" PNAS (2019). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1811987116

Journal reference:
Procedures of the National Academy of Sciences

Provided by:
University of Texas at Austin


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