It is not the writer’s intent to make light of the purpose, value or features of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), a cognitive test “with the ability to assess several cognitive domains…a proven and useful cognitive screening tool for many illnesses…”
On the other hand, the test “is not meant to be a gauge of intellectual performance or cleverness,” as Philip Bump recently noted at the Washington Post.
Nor, even if one scores “30 out of 30,” is it something to brag about.
It is the latter, the self-serving misuse of the test, in addition to the inaccurate and exaggerated description of its difficulty to enhance one’s alleged “stable genius” credentials, and the use of the test results to demean and question the mental acuity of his political opponents — as Trump has done and continues to do – that is raising eyebrows and lends itself to ridicule and mockery.
Some of the test’s questions: Draw a three-dimensional object such as a cube or a chair; identify and name three animals (such as a lion, a rhinoceros, a snake, a camel); read and recall a short list of simple words and digits; count back from 100 subtracting 7 each time; recall the date and the place, city one is in.
After “acing” the test two-and-a-half years ago, Trump bragged about his “perfect score” and hasn’t stopped boasting – and embellishing and exaggerating the test and its difficulty – since then.
Shortly after taking the test, Trump insinuated that Clinton, Bush and Obama had to leave the resolution of the North Korean problem to him, Trump, “a president that scored the highest on tests…”
At a Republican National Committee dinner, Trump reportedly discussed
the test noting that “he had to identify animal sketches at the start of the test, which he said was fairly easy. Later in the exam, Trump said he had to partake in a word recall exercise that was substantially more difficult.”
Trump said, “Let me tell you, those last ten questions are hard…There aren’t a lot of people that can do that,” according to Business Insider.
Just two weeks ago, Trump called into his mentor’s (Sean Hannity) Fox News show to once again brag about his mental prowess. “And they were very surprised,” Trump said referring to the doctors’ “surprise” at his test results. “They said that’s an unbelievable thing. Rarely does anybody do what you just did,” Trump crowed.
As Philip Bump points out at The Washington Post, “Having medical professionals be amazed that you performed normally on an evaluation of your cognitive abilities is not exactly the endorsement it might have seemed like…”
And of course, Trump could not stop himself from belittling his presidential opponent and from challenging him to take the same “extremely difficult” brain-measuring test.
Finally, during a long, ramblng, sweaty interview this weekend with Fox’s Chris Wallace, “a painful affair from start to finish,” Trump once again displayed his bombast and his ignorance.
Allured and agitated by Wallace’s question “Is Joe Biden senile?”, Trump took the bait and launched into an incoherent rant, forcing Wallace to rein him back in with:
“…if I may, sir, respectfully, in the Fox poll, they asked people, who is more competent? Who’s got — whose mind is sounder? Biden beats you in that.”
As he did with Hannity, Trump again challenged Biden to take the test: “Let’s take a test right now. Let’s go down, Joe and I will take a test. Let him take the same test that I took.”
When Wallace told Trump that he (Wallace) also took the test, and “it’s not the hardest test. They have a picture and it says ‘what’s that’ and it’s an elephant,” Trump exclaimeds “No, no, no… You see, that’s all misrepresentation…Because, yes, the first few questions are easy, but I’ll bet you couldn’t even answer the last five questions. I’ll bet you couldn’t, they get very hard, the last five questions.” (Down from “the last ten questions are hard,” claim he made at the RNC dinner.)
Wallace was ready and shot back, “Well, one of them was count back from 100 by seven.”
When Trump tells Wallace, “… you couldn’t answer — you couldn’t answer many of the questions,” Wallace asks, “Ok, what’s the question?” Trump conveniently answers, “I’ll get you the test, I’d like to give it. I’ll guarantee you that Joe Biden could not answer those questions.”
The Guardian summarizes it best:
In his own man-childish way, Trump thought he was proving his point about senility and sharpness and toughness. And so many other things.
But with every new interview, it sounds like he’s just asking his mommy to please take him home.
Philip Bump has been writing frequently about Trump’s cognitive test results and also cautioning about mocking the test or its results:
…the seemingly easy nature of the test [is] not a reason that Trump’s passing it should be pooh-poohed. After all, the lingering question was one of Trump’s cognitive abilities and whether he was affected by the early stages of mental decline, perhaps in the form of dementia. Mocking as easy a test meant to detect that thing is as dumb as mocking someone for passing a blood test.
But the flip side of this is that this is not a test you should brag about — any more than you should brag about passing a blood test….[no one] should see Trump’s perfect score on the test as indicating anything other than “this person’s brain is not showing obvious signs of deterioration.”
Bump adds, “But if one wishes to point out the folly of bragging about doing well on such an easy test, feel free”
An article in Market Watch provides more details on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) test, which was developed by Dr. Ziad Nasreddine in 1996.
It also reveals that the test is copyrighted and that “it is prohibited to publish the MoCA test and/or instructions and/or a link leading to these in newspaper and magazine articles (including electronic articles).”
One reason given is that such wide publication and online sharing would allow people to potentially practice the questions to perform better in the test, diminishing its diagnostic value.
Nasreddine and his colleagues are growing increasingly concerned that the test “might not be as accurate anymore.”
The test can be widely viewed online with proper “Googling.”