The fact that we are at a point in this country where we are discussing cognitive tests in a presidential election instead of having substantive policy discussions, highlights a major political problem facing America today. Our leaders are old, America is a gerontocracy and it’s time for us to start having a serious discussion about term limits for politicians, supreme court justices, and age limits for presidents.
Recently, Donald Trump has been bragging about not only taking a cognitive test but acing it and he’s proud of his accomplishment because the test was “very hard.” He clearly does not have any idea what the test is and why it’s done.
The test Trump likely took was the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) a brief 30 question test that takes about 10 minutes to complete. It’s not a diagnostic test, it’s was designed to help health professionals determine quickly whether a person has abnormal cognitive function by assessing things like orientation, short term memory, executive function, language abilities, abstraction, animal naming, and attention. The test does not measure one’s intellectual skill or IQ, Dr. Ziad Nasreddine, the creator of the test told the Washington Post.
“If someone performs well, what it means is they can be ruled out for cognitive impairment that comes with with diseases like alzheimer’s, stroke or multiple sclerosis,” Dr. Nasreddine said. “The reason most people take the test is they or others start noticing mental decline.”
Which begs the question, why is Trump, the President of the United States boasting about taking a test reserved for people others suspect may be in mental decline? And not only that, he called the test “very hard”. That alone should raise some red flags.
Chris Wallace interview
Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked Trump about the test in an interview aired on Sunday: “Well it’s not the hardest test,” Wallace said. “They have a picture and it says ‘what’s that’ and it’s an elephant.’
Trump claimed Wallace was misrepresenting the test.
“Well that’s what it says on the web,” Wallace countered.
Trump responded: “Yes the first questions are easy, but i’ll bet you couldn’t answer the last five questions. I’ll bet you couldn’t. They get very hard, the last five questions.”
While the exact questions on the test may vary, the last five questions are usually intended to assess language and memory. The health professional administering the test, usually ask the person taking the test to, repeat two written sentences out loud, name as many words as they can remember that begins with a specific letter in one minute, find similarities between words, repeat words they were asked to remember earlier without cues and identify the date, place and city in which they are currently located.
Cognitive issues are very serious and having Trump bragging about acing a a cognitive test because he believes that it somehow gives him an advantage over Joe Biden is not helpful, he’s trivializing a very serious illness that affects millions of Americans.