Is Donald Trump “Drunken Bonding” with America?
Donald Trump, the outspoken real estate mogul and reality-TV star turned Presidential candidate, seems to say whatever he wants without any sort of filter. Which as it turns out, may be exactly why he is leading the polls for the Republican nomination.
But wait, you might ask, shouldn’t these unfiltered and outrageous comments hurt Donald Trump’s popularity as a candidate? Not necessarily, says Dr. Steve R. Howell, associate professor of psychology at Keystone College in La Plume Pa..
Dr. Howell puts this in terms of his “drunken bonding” theory of friendship development (as recently reported in the United Kingdom’s Sunday Times), which suggests that friendships need a crisis to test them.
“When you have been drinking, exchanging confidences and taking risks with your friends, you cannot fake a friendship,” said Dr. Howell. “You send out an honest signal about whether you can be trusted.”
“One can assume Donald Trump is not drunk in front of the cameras or while campaigning,” said Dr. Howell. “The blunt and harsh comments he makes are statements most other people would have to be drunk to say. And yet this paradoxically makes him seem more trustworthy.”
“Voters are generally aware that politicians try to stay on message, so they often tune that out,” Dr. Howell said. “When politicians let things slip in unguarded moments, we can assume this tells us something real, about them personally, and perhaps about how they would really think and act once they are elected. Unguarded comments can make the viewer more trustful of the candidate, not less.”
According to the “drunken bonding” theory, individuals may have a group of friends, but one can’t separate true friends from fair-weather friends who will disappear when the going gets rough. Only by enduring challenges or hardships together, and seeing who sticks around, can individuals tell the difference.
In the modern world, life is normally pretty stable, without many crises, so friends have to unconsciously manufacture crises to test each other’s loyalty, and group drinking is one of the most accessible.
People, especially young adults, can get into all kinds of difficult situations while drinking, and as Keystone College student researcher Rachel Orazzi puts it, “when it’s time to pay the bill and your card is declined or as soon as the first insult is thrown to the loud guy at the bar, the fair-weather friends excuse themselves to the bathroom as quickly as possible, leaving you alone to wash dishes to repay the bar tab or to take the three-on-one fight you accidentally started. This is where the true friend shines. The true friend will pay the tab for you, or will even the odds in a fist fight.”
This is true friendship that costs something of the friend, providing what psychologists call an honest signal of friendship and trustworthiness.
The very perception of honesty on Donald Trump’s part says Dr. Howell, “is what we believe is making him so popular, in spite of the fact that people may not agree with most of his political stances. Whether they like him or not, people seem to believe that he’s authentic and trustworthy.”