Contemporary Issues Profile Reptilian Mind

QM and the Infantile Mentality of Donald Trump

The quadrune mind model has little value if we cannot use it to describe what we see in the real world. To that end, we believe that we can use what the model tells us about reptilian minded individuals—those who live life from an infantile mindset focused on instinctual, behavioral survival—to better understand the behaviors of President Donald Trump. Many commentators have gone to great lengths to figure out this shockingly uncomplicated man who appears to be unconcerned with the suffering he causes others. We believe the quadrune mind model provides a key to understanding how he can act the way he does, why he is unswayed by emotional or intellectual entreaties, and why his actions can harm millions without him even “meaning” to.

Trump is not special or uniquely evil, unfortunately. The purpose of this blog is not to claim that Trump is a supernaturally evil being, unlike anyone else on earth, because he is not. The quadrune model identifies four levels of consciousness that are part of all of us. However, the four levels of consciousness produce very different behaviors. We are using Trump as an example of the infantile mentality not because he is unique, but because he shares this mentality with millions, if not billions, of other people. It is important that we understand the nature of the infantile mind in “grown-ups” (they are not actually adults, as we shall see) because it occurs in every nation, culture, income group, and gender. What is different about Trump is that he has more power to affect the lives of other people than the typical reptilian-minded person does. His power also tends to prevent effective confrontations that would help him become less destructive and more conscious. The result is injury to the physical and spiritual well-being of everyone. He is a useful example of the model because his behavior has been on public display globally for years. It is this observable behavior that leads the model to describe Trump as a person who is stuck at the infantile state of mind. The purpose of this blog is not to vilify Trump, but rather to help us understand how and why he can do the things he does, just as any reptilian/infantile-minded person could. You may know someone in your own life who displays similar behaviors, whom you might be better able to understand as a result of seeing how the quadrune mind lens applies to Trump.  

Infantile-minded people with worldly power need help to use it. There is a famous experiment conducted by Harlene Hayne and Carolyn Rovee-Collier.  The experiment involved 2- to 6-month old infants lying in their cribs. A string was tied to the foot of each infant and connected to a five-object mobile hanging above each infant. Infants were trained to perform a foot kick, which moved the mobile. The infants were highly reinforced by their “power” to “make” the mobile shake because it gave them sensory pleasure (the only type of pleasure comprehendible to an infant) to see the mobile move. Of course, the infants had no conscious understanding of how their foot and the mobile moved together. The infant’s body just “knew” that it felt good when the foot kicked and the mobile moved. In the same way Trump just “knows” he feels powerful when he can make pretty things move. His infantile mentality does not consciously process how he affects other people, or how other people experience his behavior toward them. He just “knows” it feels good, powerful in some wonderful way, to do the things he does, just as the infants in the crib did. Trump must have helpers, as we will discuss in greater detail at the end of the blog, interpret for him what his actions mean. This is usually done on an ad hoc basis, because the infantile mind cannot formulate a cohesive, realistic view of how the world works. Each action must be explained again and again, because the explanation is not comprehended and stored in long-term memory.

The infantile mind cannot be self-centered. The infantile mind is not developed enough to conceive of an independent “self.” The “I” has not yet formed. Because of this deficiency, the infantile mind of Trump is neurologically incapable of recognizing others as separate “selves” with their own emotions, thoughts, hopes, and needs. No “I,” no “you.”

Loyalty is not an issue. A lot of talk about Trump emphasizes the loyalty he demands of the people around him. He is not capable of understanding the concept of “loyalty.” Loyalty is pledging one’s faithfulness to another person in voluntary consideration of the needs of that person. Because Trump’s infantile consciousness is not able to support a sense of a “self,” there cannot be any understanding of loyalty given to him by someone else. Trump does not demand loyalty in exactly the same way that an infant does not demand “loyalty” from his mother. What Trump “demands” is for something out there to take care of his biological need for survival. As in the infant, his body needs something and he behaves in a way that has previously led to satisfaction. None of this “behavioral learning” requires self-aware conscious processing, which is fortunate for the infant, because self-aware processing is not available. It is the same for the infantile-minded grown-up.

The infantile mind is not strategic. The infantile mind is not capable of foresight, hindsight, or insight. For Trump, each moment exists in isolation from the past and the future, as is the case for infants. There is no strategic planning for future goals, or past lessons to learn from. Just as their bodies tell infants what is working for them and what is hurting them, Trump trusts his “gut” above all else—including scientists, advisors, and others who rely on evidence and facts—to tell him what he needs to do to survive.

Infantile-minded people can be “smart,” but they cannot be fully conscious of reality. It is unwise for people to make fun of Trump’s apparent lack of semantic (factual) knowledge about the external world and take it as a sign of low intelligence. Intelligence and consciousness are two different things. Intelligence is the ability to figure out how to get what you need to survive. Infants can be smart—they universally figure out when to cry for their mamas. Some psychopaths may also be smart—they too can be very clever in getting what they want. Nevertheless, smart infants are still infants and know very few “facts” about the external world (see Scott A. McGreal’s Psychology Today article for a discussion of intelligence, psychopaths, and the general public). But consciousness, on the other hand, goes far beyond a simplistic cause and effect as it relates to oneself, to a spiritual understanding of what the rest of the world needs to thrive.  

The infantile mind can look psychopathic. Some people have called Trump a psychopath, comparing him with Hitler as both equally demonizable. QM does not support demonizing anyone. It does classify people’s mentalities by observable behaviors according only to the philosophy of the quadrune mind model. University of Oxford research psychologist Kevin Dutton devised a scoring system to identify the psychopathic traits of US presidential hopefuls and historical world figures​. He used an abbreviated version of the “Psychopathic Personality Inventory–Revised.” According to this scale filled out by surrogates, Trump outscored Hitler, but it was close. Other psychologists have debated whether or not Trump meets the criteria for a diagnosis of malignant narcissism. From the quadrune mind model perspective, Trump would be designated as a reptilian-minded person.

Speech does not indicate intellectual consciousness. One of the most misleading behaviors we use to judge the level of consciousness of people is speech. We believe that if a person is speaking about some topic, that they have given some conscious thought to that topic. For example, if they talk about God, then they must have some consciousness of spiritual matters. Nothing could be further from the truth. Trump’s speech is not really “about” anything. Everything a reptilian-minded person does is done for “self” preservation. (Using “self” in quotes because, as discussed, their lack of object relations does not allow infantile individuals to understand self as separate from others—everything is there to serve their own continuation.) Homeostasis might be a more apt term. Trump’s speech is used only to defend his way of pre-intellectual “thinking” (so he does not have to change) or to attack other people (whom he perceives as threatening his homeostasis).

Words do not have emotional or intellectual meanings. Words are symbols. Symbols require a new mammalian, intellectual ability for abstractions in order to interpret their connotations. Even to understand the emotions that people convey in their tone of voice when they speak requires at least an old mammalian mentality. For Trump’s infantile, reptilian mind, reading words is done without any emotional or intellectual context. This limitation may have been displayed when he has robotically recited teleprompter script that would normally carry significant emotional and intellectual meaning for most people.

The infantile mind has no conception of the higher mentalities. Reptiles cannot understand the nature of mammals. Mammals cannot understand the nature of primates. Primates cannot understand the nature of human beings. A human infant cannot understand the nature of a child, adolescent, or adult. Similarly, the infantile mind of Trump cannot understand the nature of people with a higher level of consciousness than he has, which would be anyone with a higher level of consciousness than the infantile, reptilian mind. This conclusion would explain why Trump seems highly attracted to “strong,” possibly psychopathic, leaders in the world. He can understand, and thus relate to, behavior he sees as infantile in ways he cannot understand behavior guided by old mammalian/childlike emotions, new mammalian/adolescent intelligence, or Human/adult universal love. In any event, those with a mentality higher than reptilian but lower than Human will have no effect on Trump’s behavior by their emotional or intellectual efforts (see “Healing the Afflicted Brain” on page 10 of the Study Guide).

The infantile mind has only one purpose. The infant is hard-wired to survive. Early survival behaviors are directed by homeostatically-related signals from the body to the brain. Old mammalian emotional input and new mammalian intellectual input are not readily available to the person whose consciousness is dominated by the reptilian mind. Every action of Trump has only one purpose: his biologically instinctual drive for survival. (Note: Currently, we are in the dire midst of the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump as a non-strategic, every man for himself, reptilian-minded person is unable to devise a coordinated federal response to the epidemic. This inability is not a choice for him—he doesn’t choose to act with malice. Rather, those with a reptilian mind are incapable of the kind of consciousness needed to create an effective, broad plan to take care of the entire population. No amount of pleading or reasoning with him will change his inability to think in these terms. The state of his mind is especially revealed by his advice for the states to take care of themselves, along with some perfunctory administrative help.) (Read Anthony Fauci‘s account of trying to make the White House listen and the New York Times article on Trump telling governors to fend for themselves for examples.)

The infantile minded person is totally dependent upon others to do things for him. Infants need almost everything done for them. The bodies of the infants in the mobile experiment were simply learning how to move intentionally. It was an unexpected, but fascinating effect that a pretty mobile moved, too. But they could never themselves tie the string that is needed to make the mobile move. Trump also only knows how to kick his foot. And he feels strong when really big things move, too. Like the infants, Trump needs someone else to make his kicking foot impact big things. People closest to Trump tie the strings. Trump kicks his foot and things shake.

Additional resources.

Cleckley, H. (1988). The mask of sanity: An attempt to clarify some issues about the so-called psychopathic personality (5th ed.). Augusta, GA: Emily S. Cleckley. Psychiatrist Cleckley was a major influence on America’s conceptualization of psychopathy. The title of this classic psychiatric book refers to the psychopath’s ability to appear “sane” to other people. [Personality disorder diagnoses have been considered to be conceptually weak. Current research into psychopathy continues. For recent research on the development of the psychopathy diagnosis, and the early childhood testing for psychopathy in children ages 3-12, see “A New Measure to Assess Psychopathic Personality in Children: The Child Problematic Traits Inventory.” The authors test three theoretically proposed factors of psychopathy: a Grandiose-Deceitful Factor, a Callous-Unemotional factor, and an Impulsive-Need for Stimulation factor].

Cuomo, A. (2020, March 23). Cuomo provides a more emotionally, intellectually conscious response to the Coronavirus than presented by Trump. Although not technically “Human” in the quadrune mind model sense, I believe it provides an informative contrast to Trump’s press conference performances. [Postscript, February 28, 2021: I cited this resource because Cuomo’s performances in news conferences at the height of the NY pandemic were certainly more emotionally comforting than Trump’s flat readings, which we described in the “Words do not have emotional or intellectual meanings” section above. However, currently Cuomo is accused of significant political and personal misconduct, which would be inconsistent with a Human mentality].

Grandin, T., & Johnson, C. (2005). Animals in translation. [See “Resources” in the Study Guide. This book, as far as we know, is the best subjective description of how an old mammalian mind is experienced by a human being].

Martin, J. (1996). Miss Manners® rescues civilization. [See “Resources” in the Study Guide. As with Samenow (below), this book also takes a no excuses approach to behaving hurtfully. It is a surprisingly relevant book for our current social issues, and probably would live up to its title, if we followed her advice for civil behavior].

Samenow, S. E. (1984). Inside the criminal mind. New York: Times Books. [Clinical psychologist with a no-excuse approach to criminal behavior, including sex crimes. His descriptions of the “criminal mind” and its treatment are very relevant to the concept of psychopathy in the quadrune mind model].

5 replies on “QM and the Infantile Mentality of Donald Trump”

Good job you guys! I’m glad to see you post something like this. I think it might be helpful if you did a diagnosis of republicans and democrats based primarily on the party platforms of each. Might not work since you would be dealing with ideas instead of people but could be interesting.
Anyway, I have three questions regarding your analysis of Trump. You said that he cannot understand the concept of loyalty but he certainly seems to understand it enough to act like he understands it. He punishes critics and rewards sycophants. Secondly you said that he cannot act strategically, but it seemed that in parts of his campaign that he did and in parts of his foreign policy he seems to. Maybe I’m not understanding your terms correctly. And finally you did not address his continual lying, his bigotry and his misygony. Are they just extra added features that we get for no additional cost?

This is fascinating and truly a new perspective for me. I can see this in his actions and in his speech. It explains why he mispronounces many words and reverts to immature language when his brain can’t come up with appropriate words spontaneously. Can I just say that I still want to blame him and call him things I shouldn’t type in here, even though I now understand your explanation of his infantile mind.
I’ve passed the link onto two of my friends (both UCO graduates in different fields) to get their thoughts. I may reply again after I’ve heard back from them. One of these friends had a theory that he has high functioning autism. Since most of my work has been in the field of Autism, I didn’t agree with her. But I do see his lack of empathy and this is maybe why she had this take.
Thank you for posting this, and also to Gloria for sharing it with me.

Karen, I greatly appreciate your time to read and comment on our blog. Perhaps it will help you to know that the quadrune mind model sets a very high bar of spiritual behavior with which I have been struggling, often unsuccessfully, for more than 20 years.

Allan, thank you for your comment. I’m glad we were able to have an extended telephone conversation regarding the points you raised. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to fit our discussion into a satisfactory answer in this space. Briefly, the central issue is the infantile level of consciousness that the quadrune mind model ascribes to Trump and some other reptilian-minded people. According to QM, there is not enough conscious self-awareness for Trump to conceive of himself as having existed in the past or will exist in the future as an on-going personality. Cognitive neuroscientist Endel Tulving gave the ability of human beings to have a “conscious awareness of subjective time” the name of “chronesthesia.”
Separately, the quadrune mind model states that Trump’s mind, as with infants, does not possess this ability. Consequently, Trump’s behavior is seen as consistent with a moment-by-moment physiological/behavioral response to immediate threats to his biological survival. His infantile consciousness is unable to support strategic planning for future results using lessons learned from the past, including how loyalty is earned or lost in an ongoing relationship, or how strategic lying can be used for future gains. This chronesthesia-type limitation can be seen by the conceptually naive and inconsistent lies he says from one statement to another. Bigotry and misogyny require enough consciousness to perceive other people as individuals in order to have bigoted attitudes toward them. Infants are mentally unable to have thoughts of bigotry toward others based on some abstract principle, or to disdain a socially identified population based on gender. And neither can Trump in the opinion of QM. In fact, you do get these extra added features for no additional cost, according to the QM model.

Thanks, Tom. Our phone conversation and your added remarks above have helped. Keep up the good work.

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