Leaders are speaking far more simply and with more confidence than they did four score and seven years ago. Donald Trump's speech has accelerated that trend.
A new study says Trump talks less analytically, and more confidently, than all past U.S. presidents.
Psychologists at the University of Texas and Princeton University used a computer language program to study nearly 3 million texts going back to 1789, using speeches by leaders in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia, along with general stories in books and newspapers, movie subtitles and cable news transcripts.
According to a new study, leaders are speaking more simply and with more confidence than they did four score and seven years ago. Donald Trump's speech has accelerated the trend. The study says Trump talks less analytically, and more confidently, than all past U.S. presidents
Trump's speeches, debates and documents scored the highest among presidents on a scale that tries to measure confidence in language, more than twice that of low man William Henry Harrison.
He ranks last in speaking analytically, scoring less than half of leader John Quincy Adams and substantially below recent presidents such as George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Kayla Jordan, a psychology researcher at the University of Texas and lead author of the study, said the nature of leaders' communication began to change around the time of Woodrow Wilson, when radio and then other mass media began to emerge and when the voting population expanded to women, minorities and young people.
There's nothing wrong with being simple, she said: 'You want everyone to understand what you're saying.'
The study is in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Jordan said the team looked at how leaders spoke, not at what they said.
The study looked at all sorts of utterances - but not tweets - including presidential debates in part to try to minimize the effects of professional speechwriters and get more 'off the cuff' speech, Jordan said.
They examined articles and prepositions - such as 'the' and 'of' as signs of more analytical thinking, because often those words signal a phrase that explains things. Personal pronouns and adjectives - 'I'' and 'beautiful' - are rated less analytical.
Words like 'we' and 'you,' are rated more confident, while tentative and negative words, like 'not,' ''would' or 'should,' are rated as less confident, Jordan said.