Friday, June 10, 2016

Mythbusting: The Trump University is based on (some) bogus research

Trump University was in the news a lot, and it seems it may be the only thing that really got Trump riled up, as it's something he can't deny or denigrate... since it's his own. So instead, he denigrated everybody else... including the judge, which lead to furious denunciation by Republican leadership, who are put between the rock and the hard place of "supporting" their presumptive nominee WHILE wondering WTF happened that lead to this guy winning. The furor was so loud even Trump himself furiously backpedaled, claiming his comments were "misconstrued".

But we know EXACTLY what you mean, Mr. Trump.

In digging through some info about the Trump University, I came across its sales playbook dug up by Politico a while back. And it has some interesting information in it. Basically, they don't talk to the media, they don't let the lecturers over promise (any such incidents are reported to main office), and they will use psychological pressure to push you into buying their more expensive courses...

Including a bogus urban myth, such as "most persuasive words... from Yale University"

On page 99 of the document, you can find this:

Trump University Playbook, as posted by, see URL on top

The important part says:
The most persuasive words in the English language according to a study by the Psychology Department of Yale University are:  You, New, Money, Easy, Discovery, Free, Results, Health, Save, Proven, Guarantee, and Love
Except there was no such study. This is an urban legend.

The first version of this list had only ten words: You, Easy, Money, Save, Love, New, Discovery, Results, Proven, and Guarantee, and it dates back to 1963 in a column by "Bennett Cerf", who's legendary for coming up with apocryphal stories that there's more than a dozen mentions of him on, an urban legend (and debunking) website. He however, attributed the list to "big advertising agency". And there are signs that the list may have predated even that (as far back as 1961!) quoting a nonexistent "Marketing Magazine".

The version used by Trump University is from 1970 and first appeared in a column by L. M. Boyd and attributed to Yale university.

Except there was no such study. There was no sign of there ever was such a study at Yale. There was a "Yale Communication and Attitude Change Project" in the 1950's and 1960's, and Robert P. Abelson was a participant. If there was such a study at Yale, he'd know about it, and there wasn't.

Benjamin Zimmer and linguist and lexicographer, dug all this up in a week, through judicious research. The conclusion is simple... There was no such study. The list is bogus.  It was made up.

Makes you wonder what else is bogus about the Trump University, doesn't it?

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