Validating automated integrative complexity: Natural language processing and the Donald Trump test

Lucian Gideon Conway, Kathrene R. Conway, Shannon C. Houck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Computer algorithms that analyze language (natural language processing systems) have seen a great increase in usage recently. While use of these systems to score key constructs in social and political psychology has many advantages, it is also dangerous if we do not fully evaluate the validity of these systems. In the present article, we evaluate a natural language processing system for one particular construct that has implications for solving key societal issues: Integrative complexity. We first review the growing body of evidence for the validity of the Automated Integrative Complexity (AutoIC) method for computer-scoring integrative complexity. We then provide five new validity tests: AutoIC successfully distinguished fourteen classic philosophic works from a large sample of both lay populations and political leaders (Test 1) and further distinguished classic philosophic works from the rhetoric of Donald Trump at higher rates than an alternative system (Test 2). Additionally, AutoIC successfully replicated key findings from the hand-scored IC literature on smoking cessation (Test 3), U.S. Presidents’ State of the Union Speeches (Test 4), and the ideology-complexity relationship (Test 5). Taken in total, this large body of evidence not only suggests that AutoIC is a valid system for scoring integrative complexity, but it also reveals important theory-building insights into key issues at the intersection of social and political psychology (health, leadership, and ideology). We close by discussing the broader contributions of the present validity tests to our understanding of issues vital to natural language processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)504-524
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Social and Political Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


  • AutoIC
  • Automated Integrative Complexity
  • Integrative complexity
  • Natural language processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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