A look at how Trump’s pointed rhetoric binds him to his tribe — and it to him

Tuesday, September 15, 2020 - 19:20 in Psychology & Sociology

As the presidential race enters its final weeks, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden both hope to compel voters to the polls by drawing contrasts with their opponent, swapping barbs intended to paint the other as unfit. Most politicians draw the line at trash talk, recognizing that seeming too divisive could hamper their efforts to appeal to as many voters as they can. Trump, however, is known for harsher rhetoric, for instance labeling former President Barack Obama a “traitor” and criticizing supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement as “terrorists.” His goal appears to be rallying his ardent backers instead of widening his support. Making oneself odious to many is known as “costly signal deployment.” Professor Joshua D. Greene ’97, an experimental psychologist who studies the scientific underpinnings of moral judgments and decision-making, spoke with the Gazette via email about the likely rationale behind such a strategy, and...

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