PER­ILS OF ARM­CHAIR ANAL­Y­SIS

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

The 2016 elec­tion has been a show­case for a shrill news me­dia, end­less spec­ta­cle and much “arm­chair anal­y­sis” of the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates. Dean McKay, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at Ford­ham Univer­sity, notes that pun­dits and the pub­lic at large fre­quently “an­a­lyze” pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates.

“Don­ald Trump in par­tic­u­lar has re­peat­edly been sub­ject to a range of clin­i­cal-sound­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal analy­ses,” says Dr. McKay, deem­ing the in­stant psy­cho­anal­y­sis of pub­lic fig­ures both “wrong and un­fair,” for three ma­jor rea­sons.

“It’s im­pos­si­ble to know some­one’s real mo­ti­va­tions with­out a con­fi­den­tial in­ter­view. Arm­chair anal­y­sis stig­ma­tizes men­tal ill­ness among the gen­eral pub­lic. The anal­y­sis says more about the per­son con­duct­ing it than about the can­di­date,” the pro­fes­sor ex­plains.

“It is not pos­si­ble to un­der­stand some­one’s un­der­ly­ing mo­tives sim­ply from what is said in pub­lic. The temp­ta­tion is great, since the ten­dency is for peo­ple to try and guess what other peo­ple are think­ing, or what their mo­tives might be,” he con­tin­ues.

“When arm­chair anal­y­sis is con­ducted, the one reach­ing the con­clu­sions can very eas­ily fit their nar­ra­tive to their own pre-con­ceived bi­ases. It is all too sim­ple to se­lec­tively choose the as­pects of be­hav­ior that fit the nar­ra­tive and ig­nore in­for­ma­tion that does not. This is a prob­lem that ther­a­pists who are well trained must guard against, and they too fre­quently fall prey to this prob­lem. There is no rea­son to be­lieve that the pub­lic would not be vic­tim to these same bi­ases as well.”

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