Trump’s manifest insecurity about his cognitive abilities

Most people do not even think about whether they are cognitively impaired or not. It is only those who fear that there is a problem who may obsess about it. Seth Meyers looks at the way that Trump keeps boasting about the results of his ‘cognitive test’, a test that is not used to test how smart you are, as Trump seems to think, but to see if you are showing signs of dementia. (Note that he took this test back in 2018 and it was administered by his then White House personal physician Ronny Jackson who subsequently resigned amid allegations of misconduct and is now running for a Texas congressional seat on an ardently pro-Trump platform.)

The doctor who designed the test says that “it is supposed to be easy for those who have no cognitive impairment”. As another psychologist said, “I’ve administered this test (the MOCA) hundreds, if not thousands of times. Let me tell you, bragging about acing this test is the equivalent of bragging that you tied your own shoes this morning.”

Even Fox News’s Chris Wallace, in interviewing Trump, laughed at Trump’s boasting about taking the test and said that he had taken it too before the interview and that it was “not the hardest test”, which naturally annoyed Trump.

I had to take such a test when I was thinking of getting insurance for long-term care in case I needed it. The insurance companies don’t like to cover people who show early signs of dementia because they can live for a long time with it, making it costly. The test involved some memory items and simple arithmetic problems. I must have passed the test because they did offer to cover me, though I decided that such insurance was not worth it in my case. Although it was reassuring that there did not seem to be any sign (as yet) that I was starting to lose my marbles, it never occurred to me to boast to people that I had passed such a test. That would be weird.

But we have a truly weird president obsessed with his own brain capabilities, so much so that they are making a sequel to A Beautiful Mind that features him. Here’s the trailer.

Of course, Trump’s bizarre boast deserves the Sarah Cooper treatment.


  1. johnson catman says

    So, The Orange Toddler-Tyrant discovered a new word this week: cognitive. Nobody else knew the word before he came up with it. Now, it is HIS word, and he is going to use and abuse it until he discovers or invents a new one.

  2. jrkrideau says

    I have taken it and, IIRC, it is slightly easier than the GREs.

    Trump seems to have missed the difference between cognitive impairment and intelligence quotient.

  3. Matt G says

    Are these the kinds of test that give extra credit for spelling your name correctly?

  4. jrkrideau says

    @ 3 Matt G
    You do not need to write your name. The test administrator does that. We do not want the test to be too difficult.

    You do need to draw a clock with the hands set to a specific time. This may mean the test is getting out of date, come to think of it. How many 15 year olds look at a clock face any more?

  5. sonofrojblake says

    What struck me hardest about this was this: he didn’t remember the five or six word list of fairly random nouns the test required him to memorise. Fine. Many people probably could retain that information days later. But he gave an example list, to demonstrate the sort of thing he’d been required to do.
    And the list he came up with speaks volumes. It’s so limited, limited to what he can see from where he’s sitting at that moment. It’s a great demonstration, if you needed one, that he has literally no imagination. He lives in the moment, all the time. Which is terrifying.

  6. machintelligence says

    A mind is a terrible thing to lose … but don’t worry Trump’s is so sick it won’t get far.

  7. jrkrideau says

    @ 5 sonofrojblake
    Many people probably could retain that information days later.

    Highly unlikely unless the words were particularly salient or there was some extremely motivating reason to commit them to long term/permanent memory. A death threat might do.

    Human memory, in general, just does not work that way for most people. IIRC holding a set of words like that means they are in intermediate term memory but they will not get transferred to long term without a reason. We need to forget all sorts of things all the time.

    I agree with And the list he came up with speaks volumes.. Iit seems to me that if he is still able to pull off that coping behaviour, he is not as far gone as I suspected. That he had to do it is is terrifying.

  8. Owlmirror says

    As I’ve suggested elsewhere, it’s entirely possible that Trump cheated. He could have had an aide “remind” him of the correct answers.

  9. Owlmirror says

    I think the fact that Trump doesn’t realize how simple the tasks are for people with normal cognitive abilities strongly implies that he is currently cognitively deficient. He’s been confabulating for so long that he’s forgotten what it’s like not to need to confabulate.

  10. sonofrojblake says

    @jkrideau, 7: actually that was a typo and I meant many people could NOT retain such a list. Thanks for the chuckle re: “death threat”.

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