When US President-Elect Joe Biden and Deputy Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris gave their victory speeches on Saturday evening, local time, the tally of Electoral College votes showed they had decisively passed the crucial 270-vote threshold, delivering them to the White House this January.
Tradition dictates the losing candidate also gives their own speech to concede defeat. But their vanquished opponent, Donald Trump, hasn’t done that.
We cannot psychoanalyse Trump from a distance, though I am sure many of us have tried. We can, however, apply psychological theories and models to understand the denial of defeat. My area of research — personality psychology — may prove particularly useful here.
Now watch Trump address the nation following the US election, where he talks about 'illegal votes' and 'winning' the election.
Reluctance to admit defeat, even when the battle is hopelessly lost, is a surprisingly understudied phenomenon. But there is some research that can help give an insight into why some people, particularly those who display a trait called “grandiose narcissism”, might struggle to accept losing. Put simply, these people may be unable to accept, or even comprehend, that they have not won.
Other psychological theories, such as cognitive dissonance (resulting from the discrepancy between what we believe and what happens) can also help explain why we double down on our beliefs in the face of overwhelming contrasting evidence.
If you think you’re better than everyone, what would losing mean?
Personality traits may provide insight as to why someone could be unwilling to accept defeat.
In this article, we’ll focus on grandiose narcissism, as characteristics of this trait seem most relevant to subsequent denial of defeat.
People who show hallmarks of grandiose narcissism are likely to exhibit grandiosity, aggression, and dominance over others. According to researchers from Pennsylvania State University, publishing in the Journal of Personality Disorders, this type of narcissism is associated with: