Integrative Complexity of 41 U.S. Presidents



Although U.S. presidents are one of the most studied groups of political figures and integrative complexity is one of the most widely used constructs in political psychology, no study to date has fully examined the integrative complexity of all U.S. presidents. The present study helps fill in that gap by scoring 41 U.S. presidents' first four State of the Union speeches for integrative complexity and then comparing these scores with a large range of available situational and personality variables. Results suggest a tendency for presidents' integrative complexity to be higher at the beginning of their first term and drop at the end. This pattern was pronounced for presidents who eventually won reelection to a second term and was markedly different for presidents who tried to gain reelection but lost. Additional analyses suggested that presidents' overall integrative complexity scores were in part accounted for by chronic differences between presidents' complexity levels. Further analyses revealed that this overall integrative complexity score was positively correlated to a set of interpersonal traits (friendliness, affiliation motive, extraversion, and wittiness) and negatively correlated with inflexibility. Discussion centers upon the causes and consequences of presidential complexity.