A Psychologist Explains How Trump Is the Exact Opposite of a 'Stable Genius'

Robert Epstein, the senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, penned an op-ed on Monday addressing Donald Trump’s numerous lies, reversal and contradictions. In it, Epstein argues that the president is not, as some suggest, mentally ill, but is instead “highly vulnerable to what can reasonably be called ‘sympathetic audience control.’”

As Epstein explains, “all normal people are subject to ‘audience control’ to one degree or another,” meaning they “regulate what they say and do based on who’s around them.” But while “audience control doesn’t usually cause problems,” for Trump it makes him “like a rudderless sailboat blown about by the wind.”

“When Trump is in the presence of someone he dislikes or distrusts, he attacks and will continue to lash out for a while, but not necessarily forever,” Epstein writes. “When someone he perceives as a threat becomes deferential (Rocket Man, for example), Trump not only stops attacking, he also becomes highly vulnerable to influence.”

Meanwhile, the president is “rapidly influenced” by people he “perceives as supportive,” a concept Epstein refers to as “sympathetic audience control.” 

“When Trump is in front of a large group of cheering people, his thinking is fully controlled by the crowd,” Epstein adds. “It might seem he’s in control, but the opposite is actually the case. The supportive audience completely dominates his thinking, causing him to repeat, over and over, things he believes the audience wants to hear.”

Trump also, according to Epstein, perceives the world in small time windows, leading hm to shift “his views frequently” — “without shame or even awareness.”

“All that’s shiny and real to him is what friends or foes are saying inside those small time windows,” Epstein writes.

“If I’m right, and I’m pretty sure I am, Trump is capable of only a minimal level of analytical or critical thinking,” the psychologist continues. “Perhaps more alarming, our president — the putative leader of the free world — doesn’t believe in anything and he rarely, if ever, means anything he says.”

“And if I’m right, Trump will continue to function this way — blindly, erratically and reactively, without principle or direction — for the rest of his life,” Epstein concludes.

You can read the full op-ed at USA Today.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.