Things I've learned about personality from studying political leaders at a distance

J Pers. 2005 Jun;73(3):557-84; discussion 553-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2005.00321.x.


Studying the personalities of political leaders requires methods of measuring personality at a distance. One such method is content analysis of speeches, interviews, and other texts. This article reviews the author's research on achievement, affiliation, and power motives of U.S. presidents and other leaders and draws the following conclusions: (1) motivation and personality can be objectively and reliably measured at a distance; (2) personality is complex, consisting of several different elements or kinds of variables (e.g., motives and cognitions as well as traits); (3) personality exists in social contexts, and past social contexts are embodied in personality; (4) political behaviors and outcomes can be predicted from personality, but only in contingent ("if/then") ways.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Leadership*
  • Motivation
  • Personality*
  • Politics*