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How high-conflict personalities capture high office

BILL EDDY: High-Conflict Personalities or people with those, and I refer to them as HCPs, have four key characteristics that make some of them want to be political leaders. They love to blame other people. They're preoccupied with other people's behavior. There's a lot of all-or-nothing thinking. And for politicians, it's all-or-nothing solutions to problems. They have unmanaged emotions or intense emotions. And they actually shift everything to the emotional side, which helps give them power. But lastly, they have extreme behaviors, behaviors that 90% of people would never have, maybe even 99% of people, when they become high-conflict politicians.

Human beings like to be independent. They like to do things their own way. But when there's a crisis, they'll follow a leader. And so when a high-conflict personality wants to become a leader, first of all, they don't have good problem-solving skills. And they don't have good leadership skills. So what happens is, to become a leader, they have to create a crisis or just say something is a crisis-- say, there's an evil villain over there related to this-- or caused the crisis-- and I'm a hero. And if people identify them with the image of a strong man, an image of a hero, then they will follow that person. But wait a minute. There isn't really a crisis. And this person isn't really a hero. And there isn't really a villain.

In general, the world is much better off than it's ever been. There's less hunger. People live longer-- all of this. But the message that grabs our attention is crisis-- Fear, conflict, chaos. And so we're fed that, in many ways, because we want to be fed that. We're shifting from reading the news and talking about it in a matter-of-fact manner to high emotions. It's faces. It's voices. It grabs your attention. And it's like constant advertising. You don't even have to think. Your brain absorbs this information. So we see all these leaders around the world. The ones who are the most high-conflict personality are the ones who come forward in this face-and-voice news environment. And they grab your attention. They grab your brain. And they make up stories. It doesn't matter if they're true or false. It's the best stories. And the modern media-- inadvertently I think-- is Would have just stayed on the fringes, who everyone would have laughed at and said, you're just way out-of-line here.

High-conflict politicians always have a love-hate relationship with the media. And the reason for this is they love the attention. But they don't like or they hate the interpretation. And so they want to fight the interpretation. But that helps with the drama, because if they're in conflict-- if they say, well, your reporters can't attend my event, only these reporters can, that's more conflict. That's more chaos-- more crisis, more fear. And people are afraid-- uh-oh-- if I step on this person's toes, we won't get to have our reporter there. So it just adds to the drama. But the key thing that happens is the media repeats the emotional messages of the high-conflict politician. And that just sails on through. And that's what gets into our brain, without even thinking, like advertising.

Emotional repetition is the key to how high-conflict politicians communicate with and excite everybody. They excite their followers. But they also make their opponents angry and ineffective, as they get emotionally hooked and fight with each other. The parts of our brain that are paying attention the most to human emotions are the relationship parts of our brain. And so they can form a relationship with people by doing this at an emotional level, without really thinking. And in many ways, it's a seduction process, just like a con man would seduce a woman that they want their credit card or they want to marry them and then spend their money on the next person. They say all these emotional things. You're wonderful. You're beautiful. You're the best thing that ever happened to me. And high-conflict politicians say, you're wonderful. We agree with each other. We're the best thing for each other. When in fact, it's all calculated.

  • High-conflict personalities possesses 4 qualities that may encourage them to become politicians.
  • Overly emotional communication suits high-conflict personalities and drives the media to cover them.
  • As with any conman, relationships with high-conflict personalities are calculated and transactional.


Why it’s hard to tell when high-class people are incompetent

A recent study gives new meaning to the saying "fake it 'til you make it."

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Surprising Science
  • The study involves four experiments that measured individuals' socioeconomic status, overconfidence and actual performance.
  • Results consistently showed that high-class people tend to overestimate their abilities.
  • However, this overconfidence was misinterpreted as genuine competence in one study, suggesting overestimating your abilities can have social advantages.
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Maps show how CNN lost America to Fox News

Is this proof of a dramatic shift?

Strange Maps
  • Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
  • Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
  • A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses

Dramatic and misleading

Image: Reddit / SICResearch

The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.

Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.

The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.

Let's zoom in:

  • It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
  • By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
  • Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
  • In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
  • Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
  • By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.

"Frightening map"

Image source: Reddit / SICResearch

This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?

  • "The end is near."
  • "The idiocracy grows."
  • "(It's) like a spreading disease."
  • "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
For others, the maps are less about the rise of Fox News, and more about CNN's self-inflicted downward spiral:
  • "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
  • "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
  • "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
  • "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."

Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:

  • "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
  • "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
  • "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
  • "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."

"Old people learning to Google"

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)

But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:

  • "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
  • "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
  • "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
  • "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."

A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.

The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.

One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.

Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.

It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison

For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):

  • Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
  • MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
  • CNN: 706,000 (-9%)

And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.

The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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Mother bonobos, too, pressure their sons to have grandchildren

If you thought your mother was pushy in her pursuit of grandchildren, wait until you learn about bonobo mothers.

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Surprising Science
  • Mother bonobos have been observed to help their sons find and copulate with mates.
  • The mothers accomplish this by leading sons to mates, interfering with other males trying to copulate with females, and helping sons rise in the social hierarchy of the group.
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