Karl Albrecht Ph.D.


Minds in the White House—Update

Our new President's Mindex pattern will shape U.S. politics for the next 4 years

Posted Nov 07, 2016

I’ve been musing about the "cognitive styles" of the various candidates who are up for the U.S. presidency, trying to guess how they arrange the furniture in their individual skulls, and how those thinking patterns might come into play in their aspirational roles (if they win them).

Using the four-quadrant Mindex model, we have:

The left-brained (linear / logical) vs. right-brained (nonlinear / intuitive) dimension on the horizontal axis; (or, “Blue thinking" vs. "Red thinking” in the Mindex model); and,

The concrete vs. abstract dimension on the vertical axis (“Earth thinking" vs. "Sky thinking” in the Mindex model).

This gives four combinations: Red Earth (right brained & concrete); Blue Earth (left brained & concrete); Red Sky (right brained & abstract); and Blue Sky (left brained & abstract). Please refer to the accompanying diagram to visualize these patterns.

(c) Karl Albrecht, 1983. All rights reserved
The Mindex Thinking Style Model
Source: (c) Karl Albrecht, 1983. All rights reserved

Based on snippets of evidence, and largely on their patterns of conversation, I’m guessing that we probably have:

Hillary Clinton = Blue Earth (left-brained and concrete); trained as an attorney; more process focused than people focused; a diligent bureaucrat (not intended as a critical judgment); likes to see concrete results; not given to high-concept dissertations; less responsive to philosophical appeals and more inclined to respond to logical propositions. As a leader, she would probably function as a serial problem solver. (BTW: Barack Obama also presents as a Blue Earth, concretely focused, a serial problem solver.)

Tim Kaine = also Blue Earth (left-brained and concrete); drawn to evidence, facts & figures, and logical arguments; less inclined to decide intuitively; often  perceived as a policy wonk, using details, facts, and figures to frame an issue. He tends to deal with issues on a case-by-case basis, rather than as parts of more complex conceptual molecules.

Donald Trump = Red Earth (right-brained and concrete); values and trusts direct personal experience; less responsive to linear, logical arguments, and more attuned to the “main point,” which is usually framed in human terms and concrete action premises. He appears to have a clinically significant degree of attention deficit, which would tend to limit his interest in, and grasp of complex issues. He is a creature of the moment, and would probably be a “horseback” leader, moving fluidly from issue to issue, but not giving extensive attention to any one. (Personality features can complicate our perception of cognitive styles, which is the only focus of this particular screed.)

Mike Pence = also Red Earth (right-brained and concrete); practically focused, people-oriented; prefers concrete results. He tends to focus on the “critical few” issues, with less interest in more vaguely framed issues which he might see as peripheral. He would probably act as a practical deal-maker, and less of a philosophical leader. (BTW, I’m inclined to see Joe Biden as a Red Earth as well.)

I’m sure it seems unfair to leave out the minority party candidates, but unfortunately I know very little about them.

If these guesses are right—or close—one thing they would tell us is that, regardless of who wins, the White House will be occupied by people who are relatively concrete thinkers. My sense is that, over recent history, U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents have been mostly tilted toward the Red Earth pattern. Al Gore would be a significant exception - a highly conceptual / theoretical thinker, i.e. a Blue Sky.

So, don’t expect Jeffersonian dissertations on the principles of government; Eisenhower-like dissertations about strategy; Reagan-esque (Red Earth / Red Sky) dissertations on the American Dream. There probably won’t be a grand declaration of principles.

Don’t look for an inspiring, carefully articulated foreign policy; it’ll probably evolve episode by episode. We’re likely to have a government of the “here and now”; the practical / doable; and the case-by-case.

Of course, I perceive this whole question through the biases of my own preferred processing pattern, which is Blue Sky (left-brained and abstract). If I had my way, we’d have 25% of the people in political roles and leadership jobs who are highly intelligent systems thinkers; combined with Red Sky philosophers; and 75% practical doers—a balanced combination of Red Earths and Blue Earths.

Or, maybe not .


"Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
~ John Kenneth Galbraith
Scottish/American Economist

The Author:

Dr. Karl Albrecht is an executive management consultant, coach, futurist, lecturer, and author of more than 20 books on professional achievement, organizational performance, and business strategy. He is listed as one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in business on the topic of leadership.

He is a recognized expert on cognitive styles and the development of advanced thinking skills. His books Social Intelligence: The New Science of Success, Practical Intelligence: The Art and Science of Common Sense, and his Mindex Thinking Style Profile are used in business and education.

The Mensa society presented him with its lifetime achievement award, for significant contributions by a member to the understanding of intelligence.

Originally a physicist, and having served as a military intelligence officer and business executive, he now consults, lectures, and writes about whatever he thinks would be fun.


Order Karl's entertaining book, "Brain Snacks: Fast Food for Your Mind"

More Posts