Spitzer’s Resignation Remarks: Hints of depression and need for achievement

March 13, 2008

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s 376 word resignation speech was linguistically simple and and personal.  Overall, 10.6% of his words were 1st person singular (I, me, my) which puts him in the depression range.  Although on the borderline of depression, he used a high number of positive emotion words (4.8%) and relatively few negative emotion words (1.6%) — almost all of which were part of our sadness/depression category (1.3%).

He clearly is someone with a very high need for achievement (4.0% of he words are from this category — almost a record).  This dimension of his personality can be seen in his phrases such as “my private failings with my wife…”  “…I tried to stand for…”  “I go forward with the belief…”  “…which I believe can build a future of hope and opportunity…”

As a side note, many people in the midst of a scandal or emotional upheavals avoid 1st person singular, as in “mistakes were made.”  This is particularly true in the first days after it has become public.



5 Responses to “Spitzer’s Resignation Remarks: Hints of depression and need for achievement”

  1. What struck me was how it was all par for a politician’s course. If you didn’t know what had happened and listened to his short speech casually, in its entirety, you would have thought he was talking about what a wonderful upright moral man of courage and integrity and conviction he is – something about how all his life he’s stood up and blah blah blah – and how much good he has done in the world. You had to listen really hard to realize he’d done anything wrong!

    If that’s depression, it would be a relatively benign form, allowing for large political and sexual activity, the presence of mind to put a positive spin on negatives, and no doubt a large book publishing deal in his near future. I don’t know the guy and always dicey to predict the future, but I’m guessing the guy isn’t at much risk of killing himself.

  2. Yi-Tai Seih Says:

    Anyone who is not familiar with Spitzer’s scandal may think his resignation as an inspiring speech, as Martin mentioned above. Other public scandals which are similar to Spitzer’s, however, showed the same linguistic pattern as him. Therefore, it is distinguishable to that kind of speech related to scandal through comparing their linguistic patterns.

    In terms of this linguistic pattern, why those people involved in sexual scandals took more 1st person singular and positive emotion words? One alternative interpretation is “Wording Feedback”. That means, Spitzer, that kind of public person may tend to eliminate his cognitive dissonance by twisting his original linguistic style, in order to support his fragile self-esteem cracked by his scandal. So he took more positive words and 1st person singular as his psychological feedback to reinforce his mental power when he apologized in public. This is a typical response of wording feedback.

  3. […] speeches, 4% of his words have to do with need for achievement. That’s very high. (Compare with Elliot Spitzer’s achievement language in his resignation speech.) Obama and Palin refer to achievement least often, and Biden is somewhere […]

  4. The style of writing is very familiar . Have you written guest posts for other blogs?

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