Wow, that was quite a discussion over at Facebook groups on Neuroscience, Neuroplasticity, Psychiatry & Clinical Psychology, Singularity and beyond as a response to the question Should heads of state and candidates to high office pass a cognitive/ mental fitness test?
Here are (lightly edited, randomly ordered, anonymized) some of the sharpest comments among the 100+ submitted; some Pro, some Con, and many “it depends:”
I wonder what brought this up.
Then the balance of political power would shift towards the designers of those tests.
I disagree because these tests are very bad at predicting how good someone would be in leading a country. It doesn’t require the ability to store a lot of information in your working memory. Being a good leader requires only one essential thing: having the right priorities.
Definitely. We routinely screen applicants for a wide range of jobs. Apply for the police, you will be tested. Join the military, you will be evaluated. Should we not know if a candidate for the highest position in the country has a serious emotional, intellectual or psychological impairment?
That’s what debates are for.
It would be quite difficult to find a test we could agree on being valid enough, and then there’s all ways to bypass honest test-taking, especially for powerful persons. Surely it would need to be updated occasionally, too, but by whom? Doubtful we could get enough support and trust behind a test that would likely create more bureaucracy than it’s worth. There should be some more minimum requirements for holding office, but again, finding those that we can agree on would be difficult.
Who makes the test? What cognitive metrics do we use? The biases in that design could lead to significant unexpected or even intentionally skewed results.
The people get the leaders they deserve. Strive to ensure quality education and mental health of the people and the leaders will reflect that. Do the opposite and we’ll get what we currently have.
In addition to a genuine compassion exam?
Should those who make these cognitive tests pass a cognitive fitness test too?, or should they make their own tests and pass it themselves?. It seems the one position which ought to be held by the wisest and the most courageous is left to be determined by everyone who knows little or nothing about the requirements of the position.
Actually, an age limit might ensure this.
Difficult. Who decides who is fit?
Congress should have to do the same thing!!
Yes, but probably nobody would pass it.
No, because if we can’t judge that for ourselves, then what business do we have voting at all?
I’m coming around to the idea that there should be a test for voting citizens too. We have citizenship for immigrants to make sure they can participate properly, so why not native born? The problem is, of course, who sets the questions. we found that out in the UK where it includes nonsense like sporting trivia and obscure history factoids.
Should voters pass such a test?
People running the test would rig the test to favor their candidate. This is a continuing problem in debates and elections.
“The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency.” –Eugene McCarthy
Might want to test the voters who are doing the electing as well.
We are not smart enough to do this. Whoever is in power would control who is fit and who isn’t. Way too much bias.
Voting is what decides who gets elected, otherwise it’s no longer a democracy.
To be honest, if any testing should be done, it should be moral/ ethical/ empathic ability; weed out the sociopaths and psychopaths, which will be not a few.
Current vetting processes are conducted by the various political parties whose vested interests may have more to do with political agendas (left or right) than finding candidates who will serve us for the greater best interests of all people.
I expect if you weed out psychopaths there wouldn’t be any politicians; the important thing is to have systems in place to minimise any damage they might do.
Yes and ESPECIALLY drug tests for all elected officials. Don’t want to throw people under the bus but working in politics in the past. I’ve seen some behavior that was ironic considering their platforms.
On the other hand, screen for drugs, alcohol, wayward sex and some sort of standard for cognitive abilities, I’m not sure there’d be enough qualified people left! </joking/not joking>.
There seems to be a general idea that the leader of the people should themselves be of the people. A lot of scientists have advanced the view that they with their proven intellect should rule, whenever they try to gain power they usually fail dismally. They are considered arrogant, lacking life experience, odd, devious, amoral and untrustworthy. The evil scientist is a popular theme in film and literature.
Art C. Domingo says
Of course, they should be pre-qualified. The situation of democracy the world over is going down, because without a principle of governance, the basic flaw of democracy, i.e., leaders are elected by popularity and not by their capability prevails. And this is exacerbated by the influence of money in politics.