Shortly after the President passed the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, a reader emailed with two questions:
- Does this mean that the President has the cognitive capacity required of a national leader?
- How does a score on this test relate to the complexity level scores you have been describing in recent posts?
A high score on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment dos not mean that the President has the cognitive capacity required of a national leader. This test result simply means there is a high probability that the President is not suffering from mild cognitive impairment. (The test has been shown to detect existing cognitive impairment 88% of the time .) In order to determine if the President has the mental capacity to understand the complex issues he faces as a National Leader, we need to know how complexly he thinks about those issues.
The answer to the second question is that there is little relation between scores on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment and the complexity level of a person’s thinking. A test like the Montreal Cognitive Assessment does not require the kind of thinking a President needs to understand highly complex issues like climate change or the economy. Teenagers can easily pass this test.
- National leaders’ thinking: How does it measure up?
- National leaders’ thinking: U.S. Presidents
- If a U.S. President thought like a teenager…
- President Trump on climate change
- President Trump on immigration
- President Trump on intelligence
Benchmarks for complexity scores
- Most high school graduates perform somewhere in the middle of level 10.
- The average complexity score of American adults is in the upper end of level 10, somewhere in the range of 1050–1080.
- The average complexity score for senior leaders in large corporations or government institutions is in the upper end of level 11, in the range of 1150–1180.
- The average complexity score (reported in our National Leaders Study) for the three U. S. presidents that preceded President Trump was 1137.
- The average complexity score (reported in our National Leaders Study) for President Trump was 1053.
- The difference between 1053 and 1137 generally represents a decade or more of sustained learning. (If you’re a new reader and don’t yet know what a complexity level is, check out the National Leaders Series introductory article.)
 JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Sep;175(9):1450-8. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.2152. Cognitive Tests to Detect Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Tsoi KK, Chan JY, Hirai HW, Wong SY, Kwok TC.