Category Archives: featured

Discrimination threatens families, churches, businesses, and nations

Witness evaluativism in the dinner scene from Lee Daniels’ The Butler:

Then consider the science behind why we act this way (note that this kind of discrimination needs to be managed differently because, while there is no race or gender we should not tolerate, one can easily invent values that we should not tolerate):

Finally, help spread the word. Just like racism, sexism, classism, lookism, and ableism, evaluativism will run rampant if we do not raise awareness.


Transcript of video, “Overcoming Evaluativism”:

The award-winning movie The Butler follows the life of Cecil, a butler at the white house. Cecil fought for civil rights by building the trust of powerful white men while his son, Louis, fought for civil rights with Martin Luther King Jr. by building conflict with powerful white men. Cecil and Louis disagreed, but the movie makes a compelling case that both approaches were essential to the advancement of civil rights.

“Evaluativism” is when we fail to appreciate disagreement, when disagreement frustrates us so much that certain topics, like politics and religion, become taboo at the dinner table. In The Butler, Cecil and Louis avoided communicating for years to avoid disagreement, and many people sadly witness this kind of evaluativism in their own families.

Evaluativism is irrational. Disagreement is so valuable that we are genetically designed to disagree with each other. Evaluativism interferes with this design, such that the values of young people like Louis tend to align with their genes only after they achieve financial independence from their parents, and only until they lose it again through old age. Likewise Cecil was unable to express his values to his boss because evaluativism interacted with racial privilege.

As with sexism and racism, we engage in evaluativism instinctively. Jennifer Mueller of Wharton manipulated experimental subjects’ values regarding creativity, and found that, although all groups endorsed the same values, differences in speed of endorsement revealed subconscious biases which influenced ratings of product prototypes. Subconscious biases make a big difference.

Is evaluativism weaker than sexism and racism? To the contrary, Jonathan Haidt of NYU found that college student have significantly less comfort with evaluative diversity than with diversity of race, appearance, class or religion. Likewise, Shanto Iyengar of Stanford found that evaluativism biases resume review seven percent more than racism does.

What would change if there were less evaluativism? We would probably see a decrease in the divorce rate, for one. You may think your marriage, and those of others dear to you, are bullet-proof, but the current divorce rate is high enough to merit precaution against evaluativism between spouses.

Politics is another area that would probably shift. The Pew Center found that between ten and twenty percent of Americans are “consistent liberals” or “consistent conservatives”. Consistency may be a strength, but not when these people accuse each other of threatening our nation. This is evaluativism tearing America apart as it tore Cecil’s family.

The problem is not that we disagree, but that we do not appreciate our disagreements. Perhaps we can gain appreciation by learning the reasons why our genes give us the evaluative diversity that they do.

You used to look like this: a single unified stem cell called a “zygote”. Then you divided into more stem cells… and more… and more. Why be so divisive? Why not remain united as a single-celled organism? The advantage to division became apparent when your stems cells began to specialize, like this stem cell turning into a neuron. The specialized cells of your body are very different from each other. Bone cells do things muscle cells could never do, and muscle cells do things bone cells could never do. But all of these cells are you, so you can do all of these things. You can do things that single-celled organisms could never do. That is the purpose of division.

I have three practical suggestions about how we can let our evaluative diversity serve its purpose:

  1. The first is to believe that it is not your job to be right. Only God is right all the time. Cecil and Louis were never both right—Cecil was right sometimes and Louis was right at other times. If you believe that you are supposed to become right more and more often, then you are aiming to become God. Instead, try to be like the opposing attorneys of a courtroom. If attorneys tried to be right all the time, defense attorneys would stop defending clients whom they judged as guilty, and prosecutors would stop accusing people whom they judged as innocent. Such attorneys would be playing God. Trying to be right would distract them from their real jobs. Your real job is to be yourself, and that will entail disagreeing with each other.
  2. I call my second suggestion “multi-level love“. This is my son Miguel. And this is a skin cell in Miguel’s hand. We’ll call this skin cell “Miguel Junior”. If Miguel sees that I love him, but never sees that I love Miguel Junior, then I am teaching my son that mere parts are not lovable, and that he would not be lovable if he were a mere part. That might pressure him into trying to be right all by himself. So I’m going to start modeling multi-level love right now by showing you what I love about Miguel Junior. Do you see that gap? That’s a wound. Now take a look at what cells like Miguel Junior do to heal a wound. See how he leaps from the comfort of his family to reach across the isle? How can you not love skin cells? I love my son, but I’ve got to say I would love Miguel Junior even if he were not a part of Miguel.
  3. My final suggestion is to devote journals and academic departments to test claims about interdependence. Your own body developed from in-dependent stem cells to in-ter-dependent specialized cells, yet some people expect to progress in the opposite direction. They think advancements in education and medicine should make us more flexible and balanced individually, so that all individuals will converge on the same ideal. We have journals and departments to test claims about race, why are there none to test these claims about evaluative diversity?

Sexual diversity is one example of interdependence. Mushrooms have no sexual diversity—they are all female. Each is basically identical to her mother, so there is hardly any hope of progress across mushroom generations.

In contrast, flowers can reproduce sexually. When daughters are unique mixes of mother and father, there can be progress, but each flower is both male and female, so it risks pollinating itself, which would put flowers in the same boat as mushrooms.

The blue-banded goby switches back and forth between male and female, so it cannot impregnate itself, but sex change would be very difficult outside water, so mammals get to keep the sex they were born with. Granted, each still has to find a mate, and that can take years in the case of humans.

Bees, on the other hand, have only one sexually active female per hive. She mates once, collects about six million sperm, then lays about one-thousand eggs every day for the next six years. This lets most bees focus on concerns other than reproduction.

Currently, some human beings shift evaluative type like gobies, but others are more like mammals and bees. Which should we expect to go extinct? the small businesses where one person wears many hats, or the large corporations in which people lock into specializations? Science should help us reach better-informed answers.

Science can also help us monitor diversity and see where it is helpful. As an example, consider Christian churches. Here we see differences between the diversity mixes of Christians and non-Christians in the United States. These differences are amplified when we look at people who convert toward or away from Christianity. Some evaluative types bridge Christian and non-Christian social circles, but others seem to be victims of evaluativism. Here we see mixes among Americans with artistic careers, Americans with enterprising careers, Americans who identify with child or elder care, Americans who identify with sports, Americans who identify as conservatives, and Americans who have been accused of a crime or other serious betrayal of trust. The same measurement techniques could be applied to monitor the evaluativism of particular congregations, workplaces, clubs, and school programs.

We can also monitor consequences of evaluativism. For example, studies at many universities have now confirmed that the prevention of self-segregation when forming design teams raises interpersonal conflict, but ultimately yields superior results.

The evaluativism that tore Cecil’s family apart threatens our own families, churches, workplaces, and nation, but we don’t have to be frustrated by disagreement. If we study interdependence, we can discover its value, and maybe that discovery will allow us to disagree like attorneys—in a spirit of appreciation.

Measuring Support for Invisible Stigmatized Identities

Evaluative diversity is in a category of diversity known as “invisible stigmatized identities” which also includes sexual orientations, learning styles, economic backgrounds, and mental conditions. So far, we have identified three approaches to managing environments to support such diversity:

  1. We could follow the approach of ancient religions, and build humility by regularly reminding people of the inadequacies of their own personal types
  2. We could follow the approach of biodiversity, and monitor the environments we maintain, implementing interventions when measures exceed thresholds
  3. We could follow the approach of the gay-pride movement, and talk about who we are and how we feel, so that love will translate into support

The second approach may be a prerequisite for the third. Harvey Milk’s push to disclose sexual orientation was controversial in the 1960s, because ”coming out of the closet” was typically met with rejection and even abuse. Even today, young people are advised not to disclose their sexual orientations to their parents until they leave home.

On the other hand, Belle Rose Ragins has advanced the theory that humans have “a primary psychological need to create social identities that reinforce coherent self-views.” Hiding core aspects of one’s identity would frustrate the satisfaction of that psychological need. Thus, while it might be hazardous to disclose one’s identity in the most caustic environments, it might be hazardous to not disclose core aspects of one’s identity in supportive environments. I would want to know which kind of environment my children are in (and will be in) before advising them about whether to disclose their evaluative types. That requires measurement.

In her dissertation, The Disclosure Process of an Invisible Stigmatized Identity, Jessica Hudson demonstrated two kinds of measures we can use to distinguish between caustic and supportive environments: measuring perception of support, and measuring impacts of disclosure.

With respect to perception, she found significant correlations to mental health (measured using Derogatis’ Brief Symptom Inventory) for:

Such measures of perception may be a step removed from measurement of actual support, but Hudson’s research shows they are nonetheless meaningful.

Theoretically, it is even better to measure actual health impacts of disclosure. In an environment of persecution, such as an evaluativist school, church, or workplace , one would expect significant negative correlation between disclosure and mental health, since persecution more directly targets people who have disclosed their identities. However, at DePaul University, Hudson found no significant correlation between disclosure and mental health. This demonstrates reduced persecution compared to the 1960s, and, if Ragins is right, DePaul University could go even further to achieve significant positive correlation.

It is left to the rest of us to create benchmarks for schools, workplaces and churches by implementing such measures broadly. This will allow us to recognize the accomplishments of people who aim to create supportive environments. The measured success of such leaders also provides evidence which can justify following them.

Here are versions of Hudson’s measures, adapted to measure support for evaluative diversity at a university. Scores would be calculated as follows:

  • Perceived Stigma= q1+ q2+ q3+ q4+ q6+ q7+ q8+ q9- q5- q10
  • Perceived Social Support= q11+ q13+ q14+ q15+ q18+ q19+ q20+ q21+ q22+ q23+ q24+ q26+ q27+ q29- q12- q16- q17- q25- q28- q30
  • Perceived Institutional Support= q32+ q33+ q36+ q37+ q38+ 3q9+ q40+ q42+ q44- q31- q34- q35- q41- q43
  • Disclosure= The sum of q45 through q50
  • Psychological Symptoms= The sum of q51 through q103
  • Impact of Disclosure on Health= The correlation between Disclosure and Psychological Symptoms

Join the movement to promote tolerance of creativity, love, obedience, and ambition

We all know society would be handicapped if there were no creativity, love, obedience, or ambition, yet these evaluative dispositions face discrimination in practice. Creative people are called “deviant.” Those who embrace love are accused of cronyism. The obedient are called “dogmatic,” and the ambitious are called “greedy.” When it comes to our most intimate relationships, studies show that we are even more inclined to segregate along these lines than on the basis of race.

Each social movement has its time. Thomas Jefferson called slavery a “moral depravity” and a “hideous blot,” but in 1814 urged Edward Coles not to free his slaves. Jefferson believed that America was not ready to face the truth about racism, and that Coles would damage both his slaves and his country if he abandoned them to fend for themselves. In the late 1960s, Americans similarly debated whether coming-out would harm homosexuals and society. Today, the biggest research question in the field of evaluative diversity is, “Are we ready to face the truth about evaluativism, and, if not, what stands in our way?”

In one sense, we already know the answer to that question: As with every social advance before it, most people will hope for the end of evaluativism only when they see a critical mass of other people who exhibit that same hope. In another sense, the answer is up to you. If you want to end oppression and allow social flourishing now, here are ways you can make yourself counted among the hopeful:

  1. The most powerful way to promote tolerance may be to complete the GRIN Self-Quiz (GRINSQ) and share the badge it generates with your friends and loved ones.
  2. Forward posts on this site (especially the video) to your friends using the Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, and email links at the bottom of each post.  Sign up to get new posts by email.
  3. Tell journalists about “evaluative diversity,” “evaluativism,” and “social interdependence.” Mention these new concepts on your blog.
  4. If you are a leader, start monitoring the GRIN-dynamics of your team to establish baselines.
  5. If you are a researcher, consider refining the GRIN model, developing tools to measure GRIN-freedom (e.g. wearable EEG), and exploring the impacts of GRIN-diversity (e.g. in prison populations and computer simulations).
  6. If you are an artist or writer, consider creating work which confronts the belief that society would be better-off if everyone evaluated in the same (“most educated”) way.
  7. If you are theologian, discuss what your tradition can teach us about GRIN-diversity (humanity has been facing it for thousands of years, after all).

If you have other ideas about how to promote tolerance, please contact us.

Find yourself with the GRIN Self-Quiz

The GRIN Self-Quiz (GRINSQ) measures your perception of your own evaluative nature. You can share your results or keep them completely confidential—it’s up to you. You need not pay anything nor reveal any personally identifying information.

Click to begin

The GRIN Self-Quiz is intended to supplement other measures of evaluative diversity (e.g. genetic tests, behavioral tests, fMRI, etc.) by providing initial screening at very low cost: just two-minutes to make twenty-four pairwise choices.  To promote tolerance, we need to offer inexpensive ways for our loved-ones and other teammates to discover their natural preferences.

Your freedom, as well as that of your loved-ones and coworkers, depends upon self-awareness.  Distributing a link to the quiz is an obvious first step for any manager or parent seeking to honor evaluative diversity in their team or family.  We can begin to understand the ways we may discriminate against each other only after we recognize the ways we differ.

You are free to use the GRIN Self-Quiz with attribution for research or other purposes. The validation study can be found here.  A nice explanation and worksheet for manual scoring can be found in Chapter 2 of GRIN Free – GRIN Together: How to let people be themselves (and why you should).

GRIN FREE — GRIN Together: How to let people be themselves (and why you should)

by Christopher Santos-Lang

Expert scholarship related through stories, this book empowers readers to free themselves from GRIN-closeting, free their loved-ones from GRIN-discrimination, and maintain environments where GRIN-diversity can flourish.


Part 1: GRIN Free

Chapter 1: Discovering How to Be More Free
The story of how evaluative diversity is being discovered.

Chapter 2: Identify Yourself
A self quiz which allows readers to benchmark themselves.

Chapter 3: Natural Gadfly
The legacies, social value, and needs of natural gadflies.

Chapter 4: Naturally Relational
The legacies, social value, and needs of the naturally relational.

Chapter 5: Naturally Institutional 
The legacies, social value, and needs of the naturally institutional.

Chapter 6: Natural Negotiator
The legacies, social value, and needs of natural negotiators.

Chapter 7: Discovering Other Orientations
How to extend the GRIN model.

Chapter 8: Monitor Your Freedom via Smartphone
Emerging technologies for promoting GRIN-freedom.

Part 2: GRIN Together

Chapter 9: GRIN Ecosystem Management
Applying lessons from biological ecosystems

Chapter 10: Altruism
How flourishing societies balance individualism

Chapter 11: Mysticism
How flourishing societies balance reason

Chapter 12: Social Change
How flourishing societies balance inherited norms

Chapter 13: Expecting the Unexpectable
How flourishing societies balance negotiation

Chapter 14: Rules Against Rule-Following
How flourishing societies balance institutions

Chapter 15: Imitating Non-imitators
How flourishing societies balance relationship

Chapter 16: Deviating from Deviance
How flourishing societies balance gadflies

I’d like to secure a literary agent before finishing this book, so it will benefit from the agent’s input. If you’d like to recommend a literary agent, please contact me. If you’d like to see it published, please join the newsletter list.  The larger the list, the more potential publishers will expect publishing this book to be worth their investment.

Ancient tools for managing evaluative diversity

The Teachings are a set of tools used to balance evaluative types in Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam, Science, and perhaps other institutions as well. The fact that all eight of these institutions employ this same set of tools raises the question of whether it is possible for a society to flourish long-term without the Teachings, without the humility they facilitate, and without the active evaluative diversity which humility permits.

Humility is itself a balance between relinquishing power and maintaining one’s identity. Being humble is different from being closeted (i.e. when one hides one’s identity), but it nonetheless resolves conflict. If humility is spread across all evaluative types, then none is oppressed and there is a truly rich collaboration. Thus, among social creatures, humility is extremely valuable. However, it may be difficult to obtain without the help of the Teachings.

Less institutional tools exist for managing evaluative diversity, but the Teachings are time-tested, so excluding them from one’s management strategy could be risky. As their name suggests, to implement the Teachings involves communicating them. That may require translating them into other languages, explaining them, motivating learners to attend to them (especially when the communication is a reminder), and/or creating learning capacities and environments.

The full set of Teachings includes:

To balance individualism: The Teaching of Altruism
To balance reason: The Teaching of Mysticism
To balance inherited norms: The Teaching of Social Change
To balance negotiation: Expecting the Unexpectable
To balance institutions: Rules Against Rule-Following
To balance relationship: Imitating Non-imitators
To balance gadflies: Deviating from Deviance