- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The 2016 election has been a showcase for shrill news coverage, endless spectacle and much ‘armchair analysis” of the presidential candidates.

Dr. Dean McKay, a professor of psychology at Fordham University and past president of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, 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,” he said, deeming the instant psychoanalysis of public figures both “wrong and unfair” — and for three major reasons.

“It’s impossible to know someone’s real motivations without a confidential interview,” the professor explained in a statement sent to The Washington Times. “Armchair analysis’ stigmatizes mental illness among the general public. The analysis says more about the person conducting it than about the candidate.

“These points apply regardless of the nature of the election, or even if in the context of friends and colleagues,” Dr. McKay continued. “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.

“When ‘armchair analysis’ is conducted, the one reaching the conclusions can very easily fit their narrative to their own preconceived biases,” he said. “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.”

The psychologist is also concerned some potential collateral damage.

“The added problem under circumstances like this unprecedented election is that those with mental illness are further stigmatized by armchair analysis,” he said. “If we can freely make such judgments, then individuals with known psychiatric problems will feel less free to self-identify or seek treatment, since the connotations from ‘armchair analysis’ are typically negative and subject to social scorn.”


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