PERILS OF ARMCHAIR ANALYSIS
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.”