Science Knows Why People Love Donald Trump — and It's Scary

Donald Trump is the topic of our national conversation, and the reason for his popularity seems to revolve around his distaste for political correctness—but why do we love that? 

Science Knows Why People Love Donald Trump — and It's Scary
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 15: Republican presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump speaks with reporters after arriving at the Iowa State Fair on August 15, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The Iowa State Fair is one of the oldest and largest agricultural an


The most interesting candidate in the presidential race is, unequivocally, Donald Trump. He is drawing crowds and doing well in polls, and at the Republican debate he dominated the stage and the next day’s headlines. Trump is in our Twitter feeds, in our dinner conversations, and currently the ringleader of the political arena. But why is that?

A riveting series of articles in Scientific American has attempted to explain why, psychologically, the public is so enamored with a business tycoon that “tells it like it is.” They are hypothesizing that his very open distaste for political correctness is at the core of his popularity, and while he “flip flops” as much as the next politician, we’re fooled into believing him because what he says is so far outside what is expected. That is a type of dependability: We can count on him to say whatever he is thinking or feeling with little regard of how it will be perceived. That dependability is vital when considering “ambiguity intolerance,” or how comfortable people are with not knowing the future.


The science shows that people who are anxious about the future tend to lean more politically conservative. They want someone that is not going to act erratically, someone you can predict. Trump, while his statements are sometimes shocking, is at the very least consistent. What is most interesting is that while people may be turned off by the content of Trump’s statements, they are so at ease with his persona of “truth telling” that what he is saying seems to matter less than the fact that he’s saying it. That means that we as a public can think that Trump is sexist, racist, or whatever the inflammatory comment du jour is, and still be more comfortable with him as a candidate because he appears to not be lying or hiding his feelings.


This is due to how we perceive “non-normative” statements. A statement that strikes us as against the grain will cause us to feel we know the person better. For example, if I’m at the concert of a country star and I say “You know, I really prefer the Bee Gees,” you would be inclined to think I’m telling the truth (and I am). Why would someone surrounded by people of one opinion state their own radically different (and unpopular) opinion if it were not true? That’s the genius of Trump. He seems trustworthy simply by making non-normative statements. To borrow a line from Anchorman, “I’m not mad; I’m impressed!” There is an air of authenticity that feels like the antidote to the pandering politician. We may not agree with him, but at least we know he actually believes what he’s saying. Right?

It becomes slightly frightening to unpack the implications of this. Have politicians gotten so PC that we will praise anyone who embraces a lack of it? And also, isn’t it odd that we should be so enthralled with someone who says things the majority of Americans may find problematic (e.g., his comments on John McCain and Megyn Kelly)? It’s a troublesome sign implying we are so used to politicians lying that we actually expect it, and that when someone comes along who is refusing to play the game, we reward them even if we don’t like them. There are lessons to be learned on both sides. Politicians should take note that the public is tired of hearing what they think we want to hear, and the public should, as always, stay informed and aware. I for one find it difficult to trust someone that thinks Famiglia’s is real New York pizza, but then, perhaps his pizza choice was just one of his first non-normative statements.

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

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Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash
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