Last week Trump was given a cognitive test that he specifically requested. Since some people have questioned his mental fitness, he wanted to put the questions to rest. His doctor, Dr. Ronny Jackson, used the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, also known as the MoCA. The assessment is comprised of various memory and mental tasks, including the naming of animals pictured, remembering certain words, and reciting numbers backwards. To pass the exam you must score a 26/30, but Trump got a perfect 30/30 score. His doctor said that this rules out any cognitive impairment and there is no need for any further tests.
Obviously we should take this article’s report with a grain of salt, as it is CNN. Every news channel has an angle and bias towards almost anyone in politics. I went back to the actual press conference and CNN didn’t seem to embellish anything drastically. They only reported his results without tying in any outside research, so I didn’t have to critique that. We first need to review a few principles before looking at their representation in the test.
In the first chapter of our text we discussed the digit span task, and even gave it a shot in class. This activity had us hear a series of numbers and repeat them back, If we got them correct more numbers were added. This would measure our number span. We also discussed parts of the working memory, which means information that is being processed now. When asked how we remember a seriesof numbers for the digit span task, many people say by repetition. This means that they utilized their articulatory rehearsal loop. They repeated the numbers in their inner voice, also called the “subvocalization.” but could still complete other tasks while doing it. These principles were shown in Trump’s testing.
The MoCA utilized a few span tests, using both numbers and letters separately. The words that were used in one span test were to be recalled at the end of the test. Trump was warned that he would be asked to repeat them again, and utilized his articulatory rehearsal loop to remember the words. He could continue on with other tasks while repeating those words in his inner voice. This allowed him to remember them perfectly at the end of the test.
Do you think this test is an accurate portrayal of Trump’s cognitive abilities? Could someone with cognitive impairments have easily passed this test? I felt suspicious of the test after reading sample questions and activities. This doesn’t mean that I necessarily think that Trump is cognitively impaired in any way, but the test seemed to focus mostly on working memory, which is just a small part of cognition. I think it would be interesting to see how Trump did with other activities that maybe had more critical thinking skills involved. After looking up the MoCA and reading more about it, it is to be used as a brief screening tool. I definitely believe that people can pass this test even if they are cognitively impaired. Again, I’m not saying that I think Trump is (and in fact I don’t believe he is,) but I think to say with certainty that he does not have any cognitive impairments a more thorough, diverse test would need to be done.
Read the CNN report here