Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds

New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason.

Is It Time to Call Trump Mentally Ill?

So while it would be unethical for a psychiatrist to say that President Trump has narcissistic personality disorder, he or she could discuss common narcissistic character traits, like grandiosity and intolerance of criticism, and how they might explain Mr. Trump’s behavior. In other words, psychiatrists can talk about the psychology and symptoms of narcissism in general, and the public is free to decide whether the information could apply to the individual.

.. Besides, even if you posit that a president has a mental disorder, that in itself may say little about his fitness to serve. After all, Lincoln had severe depression. Theodore Roosevelt was probably bipolar.


According to a study based on biographical data, 18 of America’s first 37 presidents met criteria suggesting they suffered from a psychiatric disorder during their lifetime: 24 percent from depression, 8 percent from anxiety, 8 percent from bipolar disorder and 8 percent from alcohol abuse or dependence. And 10 of those presidents showed signs of mental illness while they were in office.

Ask HN: What is the best way to learn for the easily distracted?

I have ADHD and it has effected every day of my life since I flunked out of Stanford in 1968. I have a few coping skills that might help you. They focus more on things involved in getting an education rather than directly on learning itself, but are never-the-less powerful aids to learning.

First: Some kinds of work are better suited to ADHD folks than others. Try to devise an academic career that focus on these activities. Writing on a word processor is an example. The non-linear aspects of re-writing to improve what you have written is a good fit to the non-linear thought processes ADHD folks live by. Begin with stream-of-thought writing, then re-write as inspiration dictates. Structured and Objective programming also is well suited because visual rigorous structure makes is easy to refresh focus with a glance following a distraction, and strict objective practice isolates a single function into a small package that is easy to complete before attention wanders. That programming takes place in a graphical/word processing environment is an additional advantage for ADHD folks. Graphical work like drawing or painting is easy to re-focus on for the same reasons. Any program that offers a dynamic editing environment that permits non-linear editing or permits ratcheting forward a task and easy review would have similar advantages. Planning any activity or writing and organizing notes using a outline processor works well. The point here is don’t try to work like other folks. find ways to work like you think: non-linearly.

The Simple Psychological Trick to Political Persuasion

Conservatives are more likely to support issues like immigration and Obamacare if the message is “morally reframed” to suit their values.

.. Rather than emphasizing concern over the harm that might come to refugees, says Matt Feinberg, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, to truly persuade Trump supporters on the matter it would have been be better to go with something like this:

“These refugees and immigrants are just like our family members who came to America in years past to seek a better life. All our ancestors wanted was to live the American dream, and that’s why today’s immigrants and refugees have chosen to come to America, so they too can live that same American dream that brought our families here. That dream is what our nation was founded on, it is what brought our grandparents and great-grandparents to this great land, and it is the great success story that these immigrants want to be a part of.”

It’s a message high on patriotism and loyalty—two “moral frames” that research shows are more important to conservatives than are traditionally more liberal values, like reciprocity and caring.

.. One reason this is so hard to do, they explain, is that people tend to present their arguments in a way that appeals to the ethical code of their own side, rather than that of their opponents.

.. just 8 percent of the liberals in Willer and Feinberg’s study were able to craft an argument that would appeal to conservatives’ value of loyalty toward your own kind. (So something like, “Our fellow citizens of the United States of America deserve to stand alongside us … We should lift our fellow citizens up, not bring them down.”) What’s worse, some of them picked an argument that directly contradicted what many conservatives value, with arguments like, “your religion should play no part in the laws of the United States.”

..Previously, they had found that conservatives were more likely to endorse environmental protections when researchers activated their concerns about purity, rather than the more liberal concern about “harm”: A picture of a forest covered in rotting garbage, in other words, performed better with Republicans than a forest of tree stumps
..researchers tested four different hot-button political issues, each time trying to reframe it in terms of the values that the Moral Foundations Theory tells us are more important for the opposite political side. Again, for liberals that’s “harm and fairness (e.g. benevolence, nurturance, equality, social justice),” and for conservatives, “group loyalty, authority, and purity (e.g., patriotism, traditionalism, strictness, religious sanctity).”