Trump's simple, confident language has strong historical roots

Credit: Paul Brennan/public domain

To many, President Donald Trump's use of nontraditional, off-the-cuff language seems unlike that of any other politician, but new research on the language of past and present world leaders reveals simple, straightforward messaging that exudes confidence may be the new norm—making Trump a man of his time, rhetorically speaking.

The study, conducted by psychology researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The findings confirm that President Trump and leaders like him did not emerge out of nowhere, but rather are the most recent incarnation of long-term political trends," said Jamie Pennebaker, UT Austin psychology professor and co-author of the study. "Taken together, the trends suggest that voters may increasingly be drawn to leaders who can make difficult, easier to understand with intuitive, confident answers."

For linguists, function words—such as prepositions, pronouns and conjunctions—say a lot about how people think. Prior research has linked high rates of pronouns, negations and auxiliary verbs to low analytic, or more intuitive, thinking. And the heavy use of the pronouns "you" and "we" has been shown to indicate higher status, confidence or clout than the use of impersonal pronouns or "I" and "me."

Using the text analysis program Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count, developed by Pennebaker, researchers measured the evolution of analytic thinking and clout in presidential since 1789, focusing on the use of function words in past inaugural addresses, public papers, debates and speeches.

Researchers found that analytic thinking remained high throughout the 18th and 19th centuries but began declining around the time of Woodrow Wilson's presidency. And, by the time Dwight Eisenhower took office in the 1950s, presidential language had struck a new tone of confidence. Mapping this, researchers determined Trump only deviated from the trend in one setting—debates, where his speech was less analytic than that of any previous president.

"Donald Trump was, by and large, not an outlier, psychometrically speaking," said the study's lead author, Kayla Jordan, a psychology doctoral candidate at UT Austin. (Pyschometrics is the science of measuring mental capacities and processes.) "These results strongly suggest that the recipe that likely helped Trump become a successful presidential candidate was set in motion almost 100 years ago."

Researchers also examined the language of other English-speaking world leaders. They found that low analytic thinking and high clout have also become more common in Canada and Australia. British leaders have maintained higher analytic measures, but evidence shows their language, too, has begun to convey more confidence. Although these trends are similar to those seen in the U.S., they developed later, around the 1980s, researcher said.

"The results from non-American leaders provide evidence that the simple, confident rhetorical style observed in recent American presidents is an increasingly important marker of leadership globally," said Ryan Boyd, a co-author and psychology postdoctoral researcher at UT Austin.

To understand whether this was simply a political phenomenon or a reflection of the broader culture, researchers compared these trends with language used in novels, movies, CNN daily transcripts and New York Times articles. However, outside of the language used on CNN, no correlation was detected. Researchers speculated this exception was due to the network's focus on communicating politics to the masses.

Explore further

Text analysis of thousands of grant abstracts shows that writing style matters

More information: Kayla N. Jordan el al., "Examining long-term trends in politics and culture through language of political leaders and cultural institutions," PNAS (2019).
Citation: Trump's simple, confident language has strong historical roots (2019, February 11) retrieved 19 June 2019 from
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Feb 11, 2019
Simple because low IQ (t.v. vocabulary), body in very bad condition. And is confident because he is a born-rich white man in the USA, a country suited for that type of person.

Feb 11, 2019
mqr - Nothing you said is true. You actually described almost everyone in Hollywood and every liberal democrat in Congress.

Feb 11, 2019
The difference in Trump is that his personality is uniquely different than many of those leaders mentioned in that Trump is more often than not in a 'bad humor, sulking' mood.

One of the first published reports of Hitler's personality was by Carl Jung in 1939 (McGuire & Hull, 1977). In the late 1930s, Jung met and observed Hitler and Italian dictator Mussolini interact in Berlin. Jung noted that Mussolini appeared to be an "original man" who had warmth and energy, where as Jung said Hitler inspired in him only fear. During their interaction, Jung said Hitler never laughed, and it appeared as if Hitler was "in a bad humor, sulking." Jung viewed him as sexless and inhuman, with a singleness of purpose: to establish the Third Reich, a mystical, all-powerful German nation, which would overcome all of Hitler's perceived threats and previous insults in Germany's history.

Feb 11, 2019
Fat around the belly in a sedentary person = lower brain mass, bad health in general

Trump never read a book in his life, he probably reads to the level of a primary school student. Well known that his knowledge and references come from tv watching.

He was born rich, very rich, he does not know what is to have a job, he does not know uncertainty due to money insecurity, he has no idea of that concept.

And denying that the USA is designed to treat rich white men as god-like is a psychopathic lie. Just remember the worst financial disaster in human history in 2008 and how many white men were or are held accountable for that mess. And for Enron?

USA has a two tier legal system, one for the wealthy whites, and other way more severe and unforgiving for the rest.

Trump supporters deny the truth like trump himself, because truly uninformed people who do not read have no idea of the value of knowledge or the value of the truth.

And yes many bullies in history are like that

Feb 11, 2019
People who don't like Trump now try to "analyze" him for imperfections. It's rottenness at its core. Get over it, snowflakes. Open your eyes, and repent of your hypocrisy.

Feb 11, 2019
Yeah. Hes not a professional talker. Hes not a speechifier. He has never made his living by talking but by doing. Thats why hes such a threat to the swamp.
Fat around the belly in a sedentary person = lower brain mass, bad health in general
-You mean like this?

Trump never read a book in his life
Naw he just writes them.
USA has a two tier legal system, one for the wealthy whites
You mean like this scumbag?

Feb 11, 2019
Law and order conservative tyrants are preferred - elected - over the chaos and anarchy of progressive demagogues. Karl Marx ... Adolf Hitler ... Barack Hussein Obama ... Donald J. Trump.

Trump 2020 vision for the future. Make America Great Again, Armed and Safe Again, Wholesome Again.

Feb 11, 2019
Trump is the 2nd TV star Presidents. I recall the 1st using some of these same elements, such as simple language describing a simple world confidently.

Feb 11, 2019
Trump should have taken the first deal. Now it's bleeding in the water and the deal won't be as good.

Feb 12, 2019
I never ever contemplated the idea that trump has written books!!!! so hilarious. It reminds me porn stars writting books too - without ever reading one lol....

I bet trump's language is very complex in private, I can see the scene where he puts down Plato, Proust, or G. B. Shaw to receive the porn star he is paying for sex. And after the paid unfaithful sex, lets have some cake, watch fox and tweet some hateful insanity. He does not even lie, because lying implies knowledge of the truth, and the truth to trump is like honesty to him: completely foreign concepts.

Feb 12, 2019
may increasingly be drawn to leaders who can make difficult, complex problems easier to understand with intuitive, confident answers

Problem is that 'understand' should mean 'comprehend' the sense of: "be able to make good decision based on gained knowledge"

What this simple language does, on the other hand, is just help people get it wrong in a way that makes them feel as though they didn't get it wrong.

Complex issues cannot be couched in simple language - otherwise they'd be simple issues.

Feb 12, 2019
Look around here at this site. Who makes overly simplistic comments confidently?

The trolls.

Trump is a troll. It's quite obvious if you watch a little while.

Feb 12, 2019
Naaah...he plays 11-dimensional all that spare "executive time" he has, didn't you know? He's the greatest presidentz evaaaa!

Feb 12, 2019
I can understand the Bogus POTUS popularity among the less capable demographic in American society.

Who are too intellectually lazy to put any effort into cerebral functions. They want to hear simplistic notions that appeals to their misogyny, racism & hatred of the Arts & Sciences.

But what baffles me? Is the mancrush between Putin & Trump.

I would have thought that after the disaster of Stalin's bromance with Hitler? That no Russian leader with any uncensored knowledge of history, would ever trust another fascist gangster!

Trump's descent into senility has been obvious for years. Now, I am suspecting that Putin is right there with him, in brain lesions.

Since Vlad has carefully surrounded himself with lickspittle sycophants? Just like Donnie's WH clown posse.
I guess they feel safe from being repudiated & replaced for their declining mental health.

Though it would be amusing if Melania or Lyudmila would pull an Edith Wilson.

Feb 12, 2019
Obamas bullshit language has strong historical roots

Feb 12, 2019
Isn' that why the trumpenella's scriptwriters keep plagiarizing material from the Last Legitimate President?

Feb 13, 2019
Donald Trump is certainly NOT the last legitimate president. Mike Pence in 2024.
Donald Trump is Making America Great Again - and Mike Pence in 2024 will KEEP America great.
Now rrwilliejoe - isn't it time for you to get back on your meds again? You are making yourself look like an antiAmerican snowflake.
I thought you would have sailed away to Venezuela by now - to be close to your BFF Maduro.

Feb 13, 2019
better get used to it

says snoosebaum

Great video. Fabrizio Galli of Italy did a great job on that mannequin. He captured the essence of Donald J. Trump perfectly.

Feb 13, 2019
And here, on cue, is the less capable demographic. Thanks for demonstrating that, idiot. Now go be the husband for Bubba some more.

Feb 13, 2019
Simple because low IQ

Yes, that was my very first thought when I read that. And I guess that thought was probably also that of most other thinking people that are smart enough to notice he isn't.

Feb 13, 2019
Well seu, I do agree with you
"Donald Trump is certainly NOT the last legitimate president."
To qualify, the trumpsterfire would have to actually win an honest election.
After all the effort pimp putin put into stealing the election for his whore trumpenella? No way hey will never risk an honest vote.

"Mike Pence in 2024."?
vp pfenning is a sordid joke.
A vivid display that the evangelist movement has chosen lucifer's seductive promises of power on Earth over salvation in Heaven.

& finally seu, reading comprehension is obviously lacking from your limited competencies that you so graphically display,
"Here's Your Sign!"

Feb 13, 2019
As usual, you have no idea whereof you speaketh. America is lucky to have Donald Trump as POTUS. That Christopher Steele dossier that Hillary Clinton paid for so that the lies in the dossier (claiming that Trump paid some Russian prostitutes to pee on the bed in the hotel room in which the Obamas had spent the night) could be presented for a Fisa warrant - which was supposedly the evidence that Trump had colluded with the Russians in order to win the election.
All the evidence is out now, that it was Hillary Clinton and the Democrat Party, and the FBI, DOJ and some others who had committed TREASON against the US by themselves having colluded with the Russians. Donald Trump is innocent of all charges, lies and innuendoes - particularly by the Democrat Party and the liberal/Socialist mainstream media.
Re: Mike Pence - someone has to be elected in 2024, so the best candidate for the job of POTUS is Mike Pence - not somebody from the Party of Slavery (Democrats)

Feb 13, 2019

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)
"The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 ("FISA" Pub.L. 95–511, 92 Stat. 1783, 50 U.S.C. ch. 36) is a United States federal law which establishes procedures for the physical and electronic surveillance and collection of "foreign intelligence information" between "foreign powers" and "agents of foreign powers" suspected of espionage or terrorism.[1] The Act created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to oversee requests for surveillance warrants by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It has been repeatedly amended since the September 11 attacks."

There had been a concerted effort by the Democrat Party and the Hillary Clinton election campaign to impugn Donald Trump's veracity and credibility as to his fitness as a candidate for the election of President of United States. Hillary Clinton was supposed to win the election so that the Barack Obama presidency could continue beyond his 8 years.

Feb 13, 2019
Why is this individual who has been convicted of peculation and false accounting posting on a physics site?

Go be Bubba's "husband," you psychotic POS.

Feb 13, 2019
It also turns out that Hillary Clinton had classified documents that were national secrets while she was still the head of the State Department - documents which she was not allowed to have on her own private server that was inside a closet. She then destroyed the evidence with Bleach Pit and taking a hammer to the computer so that she wouldn't be found out to have committed treason to her country.
After Donald Trump won the presidency - the Dem Party set out to destroy Trump in every way they could - with lies, leaked information, uncooperative behaviour by the Democrat Congressmen and Senators, lies from the Liberal/Socialist media and, of course, the sniveling snowflakes and their University or college professors. Those professors who also decry "Toxic Masculinity" and the Straight White Male.

It was Hillary Clinton that had colluded with Russia. That's the one who you preferred to be President, right?

Feb 13, 2019
Da Schniebo is an acolyte of Satan and tell lies about anyone it disagrees with. Da Schniebo is also into trolling after those it disagrees with. Da Schniebo can't stand to read the truth.

Feb 13, 2019
This "President's" lies are being exposed day by day. Paulie Nuts will do full time and die in prison.


Read 'em and weep, trolling lying asshole whiner. Paulie Nuts is gonna get cornholed by Bubba, just like you.

When will you stop lying?

Feb 14, 2019
It is an interesting coincidence. That whenever putin's trolls start screeching about Clinton? Invariavly there are new indictments revealed about the criminally treasonous activities of the Grossly Obscene Pederasts serving as putins agitprop bots.
Quislings & copperheads, the lot.

Feb 20, 2019
Swallowed_Keg_Unit has had a few too many if he thinks he'll win many supporters with the tired 'but look at Hilary' gambit.

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