Months after the election, much of the electorate is still trying to figure out what makes Trump/Trumpism tick. Everyone has a theory--frankly too many theories to rehearse right here. But we'll give you the take of Stephen Fry, a regular presence on our site.
In the animated clip above from Pindex, Fry attributes the Trump's political ascendance and style to three cognitive biases, or three deviations from rational judgment, which lead people to draw illogical conclusions about other people or situations. They are, as follows:
- The Dunning Kruger Effect, a phenomenon first articulated by Cornell University researchers (and explained on our site by Monty Python's John Cleese), which essentially holds that "persons of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is." This effect was first articulated in the 1999 study "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments".
- Salience Bias, the tendency to use highly visible/shocking traits to make a judgment/determination about a person or a situation.
- The Mere Exposure Effect, "a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them."
At minimum, Fry's primer offers a quick introduction to the world of cognitive biases and their social impact. At most, it makes some sense of America's unexpected detour into Trumpism. I suspect that Fry's speculations only scratch the surface of a much more complicated answer--an answer that historians can sort out in the decades to come. And Fry's solutions--the ways he suggests combatting these cognitive biases--will need some more expert analysis too.
For anyone interested, the video below highlights 12 cognitive biases we regularly encounter in our daily lives:
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