Home — Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics

Established in 1999, the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics (USPP) is a collaborative faculty–student research program in the psychology of politics at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, directed by Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, who specializes in the psychological assessment of presidential candidates and world leaders.

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Purpose

The Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics is operated solely for research and educational purposes. The Unit does not advocate support for or defeat of any candidate for any political office. Political analysis published by the director or research associates of the Unit is the personal opinion of those individuals, based on empirical analysis of personality in politics and the influence of personality traits on high-level leadership.

Mission

The mission of the Unit is to conduct psychological assessments of candidates for public office and to disseminate the findings to professionals, the media, and the voting public.

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St. John’s University

Related links

USPP on ResearchGate » https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Aubrey_Immelman

Former USPP website (1999-2008) » http://uspp.csbsju.edu

USPP research reports and analysis (2008-2016) » Immelman.us

USPP on Twitter » @PolPsyProfiling

USPP director Aubrey Immelman with 2016 summer research fellows Marcus Langley, Rylee Pool, and Anna Faerber.

USPP director Aubrey Immelman with 2016 summer research fellows Marcus Langley, Rylee Pool, and Anna Faerber.

Social sciences librarian Diana Symons instructs USPP research assistants Meghan Keaveny (front left), Jacob Wankel, and Jim Hasselbrink in database research methods for a follow-up study of Kim Jong-un's personal psychology as a basis for conducting an updated North Korea threat assessment, Aug. 4, 2017.

Social sciences librarian Diana Symons instructs USPP research assistants Meghan Keaveny (front left), Jacob Wankel, and Jim Hasselbrink in database research methods for a follow-up study of Kim Jong-un’s personal psychology as a basis for conducting an updated North Korea threat assessment, Aug. 4, 2017.


Announcement: January 8, 2018

“Fire and Fury”

Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen (“The Wolff lines on Trump that ring unambiguously true,” Axios, Jan. 5, 2018) write:

There are definitely parts of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” that are wrong, sloppy, or betray off-the-record confidence. But there are two things he gets absolutely right, even in the eyes of White House officials who think some of the book’s scenes are fiction: his spot-on portrait of Trump as an emotionally erratic president, and the low opinion of him among some of those serving him.

VandeHei and Allen categorize “lines from the book [that] ring unambiguously true” into four categories: (1) how Trump processes (and resists) information; (2) instinct over expertise; (3) ill-preparedness; and (4) low regard by key aides.

Following is a selection from VandeHei and Allen’s shortlist of “Fire and Fury” quotes, annotated with empirical research findings from studies conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics.

How Trump processes (and resists) information:

  • “[Trump] seemed to lack the ability to take in third-party information.”
  • “Trump didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. … [H]e could read headlines and articles about himself, or at least headlines on articles about himself, and the gossip squibs on the New York Post’s Page Six.”
  • “[Trump] trusted his own expertise — no matter how paltry or irrelevant — more than anyone else’s [see *Note]. What’s more, he had an extremely short attention span, even when he thought you were worthy of attention.”

Outgoing (histrionic) cognitive style: flighty/scattered — Avoids introspective thought, attentive to fleeting external events, and speaks in impressionistic generalities; integrates experiences poorly, resulting in scattered learning and thoughtless judgments. [*Note: Trusting one’s own expertise more than anyone else’s is a narcissistic trait.]

Instinct over expertise:

  • “[Trump was] a man who, while he knew little, was entirely confident of his own gut instincts and reflexive opinions, however frequently they might change.”

Ambitious (narcissistic) expressive behavior: confident/conceited — Self-confident, conveying an air of calm, untroubled self-assurance; tends to act in a conceited manner, shading into hubris, immodesty, or presumptuousness; self-promoting, displaying an inflated sense of self-importance.

Ill-preparedness:

  • “[T]he president’s views of foreign policy and the world at large were among [his White House’s] most random, uninformed, and seemingly capricious aspects. His advisers didn’t know whether he was an isolationist or a militarist, or whether he could distinguish between the two.”

Outgoing (histrionic) cognitive style: flighty/scattered — Avoids introspective thought, attentive to fleeting external events, and speaks in impressionistic generalities; integrates experiences poorly, resulting in scattered learning and thoughtless judgments.

Low regard by key aides:

  • “He spoke obliviously and happily, believing himself to be a perfect pitch raconteur and public performer, while everyone with him held their breath.”

Ambitious (narcissistic) expressive behavior: confident/conceited — Self-confident, conveying an air of calm, untroubled self-assurance; tends to act in a conceited manner, shading into hubris, immodesty, or presumptuousness; self-promoting, displaying an inflated sense of self-importance.

  • “If a wackadoo moment occurred on the occasions … when his remarks careened in no clear direction, his staff had to go into intense method-acting response.”

Outgoing (histrionic) mood/temperament: poor impulse control — Animated, uninhibited, and emotionally responsive; moods subject to rapid fluctuation; may be over-excitable, exhibit a pervasive tendency to be easily enthused and as easily bored or angered, make thoughtless, imprudent judgments, and embark on rash or reckless courses of action.

  • “At points on the day’s spectrum of adverse political developments, he could have moments of, almost everyone would admit, irrationality. When that happened, he was alone in his anger and not approachable by anyone.”

Dominant (aggressive) mood/temperament: volatile — Prone to irritability; volatile temper that may at times be difficult to control, flaring readily into petty or contentious argument.

Recommended References for In-Depth Analysis

The Political Personality of 2016 Republican Presidential Nominee Donald J. Trump. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, October 2016. Abstract and link for full-text (31 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/103/

The Leadership Style of U.S. President Donald J. Trump. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, January 2017. Abstract and link for full-text (14 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/107/


Announcement: August 28, 2017

USPP_Meghan-KeavenyCollege of St. Benedict senior psychology major Meghan Keaveny has been appointed Director of Undergraduate Research at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics for the 2017-18 academic year.

Her duties include training students in undergraduate Personality Psychology courses in data collection procedures and coordinating group research projects on the personalities of U.S. President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-un.

Meghan works part-time as an administrative assistant at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud. During the 2016-17 academic year, she served as a research assistant for Dr. Ben Faber and Dr. Jan Holtz. This past summer, Meghan interned at CORE Professional Services in Sartell, MN, where she assisted with psychosexual assessments, personality testing, and risk assessments; conducted progress notes for individual and couples therapy; assisted clients in individual sessions with assignments provided by therapists; and taught the Healthy Relationships / Sexuality Education curriculum. She also worked part-time as a summer research fellow at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics.


Featured profiles

On July 7, 2017, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin had their first face-to-face encounter at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

Compare the psychological profiles of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

Putin-poster_revised Trump poster (July 2015)

The Political Personality of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, January 2017. Abstract and link for full-text (36 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/104/

The Political Personality of 2016 Republican Presidential Nominee Donald J. Trump. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, October 2016. Abstract and link for full-text (31 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/103/

The Leadership Style of U.S. President Donald J. Trump. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, January 2017. Abstract and link for full-text (14 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/107/


Studies currently in progress

The personality profile of North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un » http://personality-politics.org/the-personality-profile-of-north-korean-supreme-leader-kim-jong-un

Kim Jong Un poster

The personality profile of U.S. vice president Mike Pence » http://personality-politics.org/mike-pence

Pence poster

The Political Personality of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, May 2017. Abstract and link for full-text (19 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/118/


Previous studies available for download

Index of psychological studies of U.S. presidents and presidential candidates, foreign leaders, and leading terrorist figures conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics » http://personality-politics.org/2017-media-tipsheet/


Psychology Faculty Publications



Work at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics is dedicated to the memory of Theodore Millon, Ph.D., D.Sc.

Dr. Theodore Millon receives the Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Application of Psychology at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Boston, Mass.

Dr. Theodore Millon receives the Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Application of Psychology at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Boston, Mass.

Books and Other Media

Disorders of Personality cover Toward a New Personology cover Masters of the Mind cover The Millon Inventories cover