Two Years of Ups and Downs: Barack Obama's Patterns of Integrative Complexity, Motive Imagery, and Values

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Abstract

President Obama's weekly radio addresses to the nation during his first two years in office were scored using thematic content analysis (TCA). TCA is a method for deriving quantitative data from qualitative materials through the use of detailed scoring manuals applied to oral or written texts by trained, reliable scorers. We scored the addresses for integrative complexity (IC), motive imagery (MI), and universal values. Obama's mean IC was second highest among recent presidents. His IC fluctuated in response to situational parameters, rising when he was negotiating and maneuvering his policies through Congress, falling when stress was high and a problem seemed amenable to a simple solution. His MI showed Achievement as his predominant motive. Achievement, Security, and Power were highest in his value hierarchy, which remained stable throughout the period; surprisingly, his ranking of Self-Direction was much lower than a previously published pan-cultural average. Last, we identified six clusters, time periods when his IC and Power imagery moved in opposite directions. The implications of this pattern for cooperative versus adversarial approaches in problem solving are discussed.

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