Ever since November 2016, a whole lot of us — over 65,000,000 people, at the least — have been agonizing over the central question: why did our relatives, (erstwhile) friends and neighbors vote for Trump? Why did anyone vote for Trump?
In my family, there is one cousin who called us up after the election to announce what she had done.
I didn’t argue or fight with her but I did ask her why. Her response was in no way comprehensible to me. Instead of offering an affirmative reason for her vote, she gave me stats about what areas in the country voted for Trump.
I haven’t spoken to her since but have frequently talked to another cousin about it. And always — as matters get worse and worse — we ask each other, “Have you come up with any plausible explanation for why she voted as she did?”
We’ve each produced some fragments of explanation. Until recently, when Janet forwarded an article reprinted (I think) by Alternet, which lays out a neuroscientist’s study and analysis of the sort of brain that voted for Trump.
I’m not going to copy the article directly because I don’t know whether Alternet or wherever Alternet got it from has a firewall and I respect sovereignty. But I will give you my digest of the article’s import and tell you it was written by a science writer named Bobby Azarian. (After digging around a bit, I learned to my perturbation that Azarian got his Ph.D. from…George Mason U. I’m sticking that fact in here so all of us can contemplate whether GMU conveys any real education untainted by the Koch Bros philosophy and money. In any case, the study Mr. Azarian describes — oops, I mean Dr. Azarian: he seems to be particular about that, which you’ll learn if you Google him — is from a neuroscientist, not Azarian.)
I’m going to take this one reason at a time.
Reason One Why Someone Might Have Voted For Trump
The Dunning-Kruger Effect: the cognitive bias of illusory superiority.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect explains that many people are not merely ignorant: they are unaware of being ignorant. Their brains do not accept that they are uninformed.
In other words, they are too intellectually inadequate (to be euphemistic) to realize they’re intellectually inadequate. They don’t know that they don’t know and do not have the capacity to understand their inadequacy.
They think they know all there is to know.
Unlike a lot of us, who spend considerable time reading, absorbing information and double checking the information for accuracy, because we’re aware we don’t know everything.
We know what we don’t know.
Dunning-Kruger also makes it clear that we can’t convince people like this that they don’t know and should learn. Their brains are incapable of absorbing it. They are smug in their ignorance.
I’ve known for years of particular gaps in my ability to think logically. Once, a boyfriend was telling me the story of an old World War II-period movie. Very romantic, very tragic. He got toward the climax and said, “Well, I know you can figure out how it ends.” It was not only logical; the ending was sort of a masterly cliché, one of those eight or twelve basic endings, a psychological truism.
I couldn’t figure it out. He had to tell me. At which I said, “Oh GEEZ!”
I didn’t vote for Trump.