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.
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.
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.
USPP launches study of Democratic presidential contenders — Feb. 2019
Data collection has begun at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics for a study of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, similar to the study of Republican contenders conducted in the spring of 2015.
Selecting presidential contenders for profiling
Considering the finite resources and the labor-intensive nature of research at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, the large field of credible announced and prospective Democratic candidates poses practical difficulties: (1) how to select the four to six subjects most likely to advance deep into the primaries and (2) how to ensure the eventual nominee is included in the initial subject pool.
Based on a rational-intuitive evaluation of viability in terms of polling data and informal observation of personality-based electability/political impact criteria, our preliminary pool of target subjects is the following:
- Kamala Harris
- Joe Biden
- Bernie Sanders
- Beto O’Rourke
- Amy Klobuchar
We already have data on Joe Biden (2008) and Bernie Sanders (2016) from previous presidential campaigns, so Biden and Sanders are essentially default selections, considering both are among the top-5 frontrunners in current polling.
Amy Klobuchar, although at the bottom of the top 5 prospective candidates in the polls, happens to be our local senator (Minnesota), so we are better acquainted with her than with other contenders at the outset.
The Personality Profile of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — December 7, 2018
A psychological analysis of United States Supreme Court associate justice Brett Kavanaugh by Allison Roehl and Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D., at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, revealed that Kavanaugh’s primary personality patterns are Conscientious/respectful and Accommodating/cooperative, with secondary Dominant/asserting and Ambitious/confident features. In summary, Justice Kavanaugh’s personality composite can be characterized as that of a conscientious conciliator.
Conscientious (scale 6) individuals are characteristically principled, prudent, proper, dignified, and dependable; they are dutiful and diligent, with a strong work ethic and careful attention to detail. Accommodating (scale 4) individuals are cordial, cooperative, and amicable; they are polite, respectful, and agreeable, willing to adapt their preferences to reconcile differences, and to concede or compromise when necessary. Dominant (scale 1A) individuals enjoy the power to direct others and to evoke obedience and respect; they can be tough and unsentimental and often are effective in positions of authority. Ambitious (scale 2) individuals are bold, competitive, and self-assured; they easily assume leadership roles, expect others to recognize their special qualities, and may act as though entitled.
The Conscientious–Accommodating (Scale 6–4) composite pattern
Individuals with a predominantly Conscientious (scale 6) personality pattern who also possess significant Accommodating (scale 4) features may be characterized as conscientious conciliators. The Conscientious–Accommodating blend is the most well-adjusted of all Conscientious personality variants. These personalities are earnest, hardworking, meticulous, play by the rules, and are duty-bound. The most prevalent limitation of this personality amalgam is a tendency to be inflexible and indecisive, with an unwarranted fear of failure or error; hence, they tend to be risk-averse and are typically more submissive (socially agreeable) than dominant.
This indirect, at-a-distance personality assessment cannot be construed as disconfirming or confirming the sexual assault allegations dating back decades that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford leveled against Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation hearings; those allegations must be evaluated on their own merits. It may, however, legitimately be asserted that the personality profile is inconsistent with that of a person who would exhibit a pattern of sexual misconduct (or any kind of habitual criminal or antisocial behavior). Finally, the profile cannot exclude the possibility that a teenage Brett Kavanaugh — irrespective of his enduring personality pattern — could have committed a sexual indiscretion on occasion when his judgment was impaired by alcohol intoxication.
Psychological profiles of world leaders presented at ISPP — July 5, 2018
Aubrey Immelman presents his paper on “The political personality of 2016 Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump” at the 41st Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, San Antonio, Texas, July 4-7, 2018.
Ganna Diedkova presents the results of her research, with Christ’l De Landtsheer, on “The value of electability in a hybrid regime: Comparing personality profiles of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his opponent Alexei Navalny” at the 41st Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, San Antonio, Texas, July 4-7, 2018.
USPP releases new research report — June 11, 2018
The Leadership Style of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un
Working paper by Aubrey Immelman, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, Collegeville and St. Joseph, Minn., June 10, 2018. Abstract and full text available for download at Digital Commons: https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/120/
USPP releases new research report — April 8, 2018
The Personality Profile of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un
Working paper by Aubrey Immelman, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, Collegeville and St. Joseph, Minn., April 1, 2018. Abstract and full text available for download at Digital Commons: https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/119/
USPP presents latest research findings — April 27, 2018
The Personality Profile of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un
Research poster presented by Katlin Rice, Austen Luetmer, Suntina Spehar, Hillary Rethlake, Lucas Vetsch, Amanda Olson, and Mariah Ogden-Kellington, 18th Annual Celebrating Scholarship & Creativity Day, College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, St. Joseph and Collegeville, Minn., April 26, 2018. (Faculty advisor: Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D.)
Announcement — June 26, 2018
College of St. Benedict senior psychology major Katelyn Hendrickson has been appointed Director of Undergraduate Research at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics for the 2018-19 academic year.
Her duties will 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, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and other political figures.
During the 2017-2018 academic year, Katelyn was a teaching assistant for Dr. Ben Faber‘s Applied Behavioral Statistics course. She is currently working full-time as a summer 2018 research fellow at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics. In fall 2018 Katelyn will intern at the CentraCare Health/St. Cloud Hospital Behavioral Health Clinic, supervised by Dr. Scott Palmer.
On July 16, 2018, U.S. president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin will have a summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland.
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. (Paper presented at the 41st Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, San Antonio, TX, July 4-7, 2018.) 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/
Study currently in progress
Kim Jong-un’s Extreme Makeover (Robin Stein, Ainara Tiefenthäler, and Natalie Reneau, New York Times, April 28, 2018) — How did North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, go from being an international pariah to a smiling diplomat in a matter of a few months? (03:02)
Previous studies available for download
Index of psychological studies of U.S. presidents and presidential candidates, foreign leaders, and prominent terrorist figures conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics » http://personality-politics.org/2017-19-media-tipsheet/
Work at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics is dedicated to the memory of Theodore Millon, Ph.D., D.Sc.