When the boy who cries wolf is the president, Americans form a distorted view of reality.
President Donald Trump’s constant lying confuses the American conscience, which acts to further his agenda and diminish truth. Trump is misleading and consequently failing to guide the country when he proclaims false information as fact. We deserve to know the truth, but when our public officials fail to offer it, we should persist in defending the truth in everyday conversations.
According to the New York Times, Trump has been cited lying in his State of the Union address and beyond, through his false statements and self-accreditation for phenomena a part of a broader movement outside of his efforts.
He has falsely described the conditions required for someone to be allowed to enter into the U.S. through the green card lottery program and family-based immigration visas, according to the New York Times. In his State of the Union address, Trump said the visa lottery “randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit or the safety of our people.” In contrast, ThinkProgress reported that after being randomly selected, individuals must undergo multiple security checks, interviews, and meet the minimum requirements of either a high school education or two years of work experience. Family members of the lottery winner must also go through the process to be approved as “derivatives” of the selected.
Trump has declared his tax cuts to be the largest in history. However, CNN reported more significant tax cuts by former presidents Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson.
He took full credit for the collapse of the Islamic State caliphate in Syria and Iraq in an interview with The Spectator, though it was actually a continuance of work done by former President Barack Obama, as reported by the New York Times.
The New York Times also reported that although Trump boasted an increase in employment rates, especially among African-Americans, these improvements were already in progress before he took office.
Trump has claimed “serious voter fraud” in Virginia, New Hampshire, and California without any evidence, PolitiFact reports.
PolitiFact reports 69 percent of Trump’s statements to be mostly or completely false and only four percent to be true. When a political leader lies at such a high frequency, they diminish trust between themselves and citizens.
The leader-member exchange model, reported on by Psychology Today, shows that a productive relationship between members and leaders requires trust. Trust empowers feelings of connectedness. Psychology Today goes on to find that “When people in positions of power lie, you not only become disaffected with them, but you become disaffected with the institutions they represent.”
In essence, Trump’s lies reap and cultivate an image of government that people are less engaged in and begin to reject.
Incessant lying not only deteriorates citizens’ motivation to externally engage in government, but also distorts citizens’ internal understanding of ongoing policy.
Newsweek reports that Americans whose pre-existing political views are supported by Trump’s lies are more likely to accept his words as truth because of a phenomena called motivated reasoning. Motivated reasoning explains people’s subconscious tendency to internalize false information if it aligns with their existing beliefs.
Trump’s lies increase the amount of people that believe in his false information. People who hold views in conflict with Trump’s statements are also subject to falling for this alternate version of reality.
Gilbert said the first step someone takes to understand the world is to accepting everything as true. It’s an instinct to take input for its worth in the very first moment you hear it. It is not until after automatically considering the statement as valid that the brain begins to intentionally analyze the statement.
Politico reported that the brain is unable to process a constant amount of lies, because it will reach a brink of “cognitive overload.”
Through Trump’s constant lying, Americans lose the psychological endurance to sort through which of his statements are true or false, and accept them as true by default.
His repetitive rhetoric additionally works to depict lies as truth. Wired described the “illusory truth effect,” which theorizes that the repetition of false statements decreases the brain’s ability to recognize it as such. According to Wired, “The effect works because when people attempt to assess truth they rely on two things: whether the information jibes with their understanding, and whether it feels familiar.”
The brain assesses truth by comparing new information to past understanding, deliberating over which one is more trustworthy or credible. What happens when false information is repeated is that the repeated lies meld with past knowledge. As Wired explains, “familiarity can trump rationality.”
Ultimately, Trump prompts a false sense of reality for all parties, which is detrimental to the individual, democratic opinions of citizens. Americans are entitled to the truth, and the president should not be the obstacle that keeps them from understanding it.
We need to demand integrity from our leaders, but during the absence of honesty in this administration, it is our responsibility to combat government-sourced lies with individually-found truths.
By initiating and prompting conversations that speak truth into current events, we can balance and outweigh the feedback coming from the White House, and promote a more accurate public understanding.