Psychologists draw up categories for Trump’s tweets

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It seems likely that Donald Trump will continue to send out twitter messages during his presidency to dominate the news cycle and to influence or deflect news stories he does not like.

To give the public an accurate idea of how Trump frames his messages, George Lakoff (a cognitive linguist) suggests the press should categorize them using labels he has developed and talked about during media interviews.

Four of those labels appear below (next to each label is an example of how Trump has employed it.)


Trump diverted attention from the issue of his business conflicts of interest by tweeting that Meryl Streep is the most overrated actress in Hollywood.


Rather than answer a CNN reporter in a press conference, Trump said CNN dealt in fake news.

Trial Balloons

Trump tweeted we need to pay more attention to nukes. When there was no outcry, he doubled down on the issue.

Pre-emptive Framing:

Instead of responding to the serious charge of a hack and a “weaponizing” of the stolen information to sway an American election by the Russians, Trump tweeted that the hack was the fault of the DNC for being lax in its website security.

In this “post-truth” era, it is important for the press to go beyond conventional reporting of the “facts” and show how “the news” gets shaped.

In our opinion, labeling Trump’s tweets through Lakoff’s taxonomy would be a good step in that direction.

Martin H. Levinson, Ph.D

Katherine Liepe-Levinson, Ph.D

Forest Hills

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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Reader feedback

Ele from Bayside says:
Psychologists require to see their patient for at least several sessions in the privacy of their office to maybe evaluate their patient accurately. Yet symptoms are often missed. A correct analysis takes a lot more work because the brain is a very unique, and complex organ. (How often do people share symptoms that describe a disease although the person does not have the disease)? I am reluctant to trust labeling ANYONE by tweets.
Feb. 8, 2017, 11:43 am
C.J. from Flushing says:
What diagnosis would you feel most confident with to exclude or diagnose some serious condition? 1). An assumption from describing your symptoms to a doctor without further testing? 2). How you appear to a doctor without further testing? 3). A simple office exam by a doctor without further testing? OR 4). A complete study involving images, labwork, and tests in addition to your symptoms and exam?
Feb. 8, 2017, 1:19 pm
MB from flushing says:
Ele and C.J... if you can't see he is a nut job even without a diagnosis then you may have a problem...
Feb. 8, 2017, 6:33 pm

Comments closed.


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