Tag Archives: social responsibility

Deception as a Means to Manage Evaluative Diversity

Someone more practical than me realized that there are many potential ways to manage evaluative diversity, some of which involve deception.

Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying Santa Claus.When I was very young, I ate peas because my Dad told me that they would “put hair on my chest,” and I was extra-well-behaved each December because I was reminded that St. Nicholas was watching. Children do need to be controlled, and any parent who doesn’t consider using deception to control their children is impractical.

To manage evaluative diversity essentially means to prevent one particular evaluative type from counter-productively overwhelming the others. Since the typical person has an evaluative bias, this typically requires moving decision-making from the individual-level to the group-level. Can that be accomplished through deception?

Churches, governments, and markets are three examples in which we move decision-making from the individual-level to the group-level, thus enabling management of evaluative diversity. However, all three institutions existed long-before any one was able to effectively articulate an argument about evaluative biases, so I submit that the only way they could have manage evaluative diversity is through deception: promising to do something else.

Markets, Governments and Churches

Markets have been criticized of late for failing to direct our aggregate power in socially productive directions. At the center of the criticism is a dispute over the purpose of markets: Do they exist to serve society or do they exist to make individual investors rich? Economists point at decade-long trends towards share buybacks and away from productive investments (like R&D and entrepreneurship) as evidence that the purpose of markets has shifted to the latter.

Yet, when we transfer our money (and thus our decision-making power) into market investments (e.g. retirement funds), the promise made to us is not “The market will find more socially-responsible ways to spend your money than you would on your own.” Rather, the promise which convinces us to submit is “The market will make you rich (or at least protect what wealth you have).” If markets exist to benefit society rather than to make the rich richer, then they do so by deception, and that deception may be wearing thin.

Governments have evolved as well. Early governments were dictatorial, citizens had no choice but obey, and governors claimed to apply greater wisdom to advance a greater good. As governments shifted towards democracy, people obeyed less because they considered their governments wiser than themselves, and more because they believed that they themselves controlled their governments. Accordingly, the responsibility assigned to politicians shifted from advancing the greater good to representing the interests of their constituents (against politicians elected by other constituents).

The major criticism levied against modern democracy is that it has become so polarized that politicians are driven less by wisdom than by a commitment to oppose each other (party against party, country against country). If the primary responsibility of a politician is to fight for the interests of their constituents, then this makes sense. If voters have enough individual wisdom to vote, then it also makes sense that voters would elect representatives who obey their constituents. However, wisdom is objective, so individually wise voters would not vote in opposing directions (which, as it turns out, voter do). Apparently, we are deceived about our individual wisdom, and that deception is wearing thin as well.

The promises offered by religions may look different from the promises offered by markets (i.e. to get rich) or government (i.e. to gain control). The ancient doctrines of religions teach that we are not wise as individuals. They teach that it is wise to relinquish some of our decision-making power to religious authorities or communities. As Maya Angelou put it,

While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.

Yet, if religious practitioners believe this teaching—if they doubt their own decision-making instincts because religions promise greater wisdom than individuals can muster individually—then why do religious practitioners shop-around to find a church or develop their own personal religion (perhaps combining the religions of their parents)? Clearly, there must be some other promise (i.e. other than the promise of wisdom) which draws modern religious practitioners to religious communities.

I submit that making a career path out of clerical service has turned religions into businesses, and religious organizations accordingly adapt to the demands of their markets. Thus, they promise affirmation, entertainment, friendship, charity, even political advocacy—whatever their unwise practitioners want. The story might have played-out differently if one religion refined its doctrine (or public understanding of its doctrine) so much that it was clearly superior to all conflicting doctrines. However, the statistics tell us that has not happened. Religious scholars failed to reveal the truth in any religion, so, in practice, religion relies on deception as much as government and markets do.

History shows changes in all three kinds of institutions, changes in the direction of trying to fulfill the deceptions which are used to control people. In becoming increasingly accountable to these deceptions, markets, governments and churches became increasingly trapped in them, distracted from accomplishing social good. It becomes less and less practical to come-clean and demand, “Ask not what your economy/government/church can do for you…”

The Alternative to Deception

“Deception” is a word with evil connotations, but deception can be very kind. I do not regret being controlled by my parents through deception. I needed to be controlled, and I doubt that other forms of control would have been kinder. Likewise, the deceptions of churches, governments and markets shifted us correctly from individual-level decision-making to group-level decision-making. Why not use deception to get there?

The problem with deception is its instability. The problem is not just that people who are being deceived eventually see through the deception, but that other people leverage the deception to twist the institution. At the extreme, we have Wall Street bankers who exploit regulatory loopholes faster than regulators can plug them, lobbyists who influence policy through earmarks and political blackmail, and evangelists who build flashy mega-churches where only a minority even attend regularly much less practice their religion the rest of the week. The people at the extremes get wealthy, so the extremes will not go away, and extremes are just the tip of the iceberg.

Many people who see problems with churches, governments or markets hope to reform them by building more sophisticated deceptions: new promises that no one yet knows how to exploit. Maybe that’s a good idea. Then again, the pattern seems to suggest that any deception, no matter how sophisticated, will eventually fail.

The alternative is to face the truth, to develop genuine social self-awareness, a realization that each of us is a mere part of something larger. We do not speak of the welfare of a muscle cell terms of its happiness, its freedom, its status relative to its neighbors, or even its personal salvation. We speak of the welfare of a muscle cell in terms of its ability to serve its function in the body. Similarly, when we achieve social self-awareness, our concerns will become, “What is my personal role?” and “Am I fulfilling it?”

We determine the functions of each part of the body through science, and that’s how we must determine the functions different kinds of individuals play in society. Your function may be to dream dreams, but dreaming is not the way to discern your purpose. To promise people the ability to choose their own function would, again, be a deception. Yet, many people currently cannot tell the difference between discovering true assignments through science vs. being manipulated with false science, so science must be made transparent, incorruptible, and accessible to all.

Social self-awareness is not an alternative to capitalism, democracy or religion—rather, it provides stable motive to engage in capitalism, democracy and religion. When each of us aims to serve our own function and we let objective science (rather than subjective whims) divide our labor, then markets, governments and churches will no longer rely on deception to motivate cooperation.

This is the critical battle of our age. A battle of education. A battle of making education transparent and egalitarian. A battle of raising education to the level of achieving social self-awareness. Markets, governments and churches can all have a hand in this battle. They should advance social self-awareness—but they probably won’t. The champions of this battle are more likely to be outcasts who see no other way forward than to tell the truth. In the end, truth will prevail.

Confusing Evaluativism with Sexism

Navy womenOver the past few years, the U.S. Navy has been sending women a recruitment mailer promising, “you can do all this while staying in touch with your feminine side — and while bettering your world along the way.” It was sent to women in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. But last week the mailer was scrapped over concerns that it perpetuates sexist stereotypes.

The stereotype, of course, is that all women have a not-expected-in-the-military side that men don’t. Rather than reserve the word “feminine” to refer to women, the brochure used it to refer to an evaluative disposition. Then women not of that disposition asked, “Am I not feminine?”

The Navy obviously intended a very inclusive message. They were not the first to use the word “feminine” in a way that allows for the possibility of feminine men. On GRINfree.com, we use the term “naturally relational” instead. Base on the sample used to validate the GRIN Self-Quiz, naturally relational people are twice as likely to be female as male, however, not all are female, and not all females are naturally relational. In fact, there were women of every type, over 60% of women being not naturally relational.

One might like to administer the GRIN-SQ in the military to confirm whether naturally relational people are relatively rare there. The purpose would not be to find a more precise word than “feminine” to use in recruiting—most potential recruits have never heard the term “naturally relational.” Rather, the purpose would be to balance its diversity the way ecologists balance diversity in an ecosystem.

The most adaptive teams include all four GRIN types. A society lacking naturally relational people, specifically, would experience reduced network localization, which essentially means command would be more centralized. An error in such a network can have broad consequences; in contrast, an error in a free market would take-down no more than one business, and competitors would quickly fill the gap.

Jared Diamond famously speculated that centralized command cost China dominion over the Americas. Two hundred years before Christopher Columbus’ voyage, China had an entire fleet of ships capable of crossing the Pacific, but they were all under the control of one emperor, and that emperor decided to destroy the entire fleet. Columbus was turned-down by many countries before he found a patron for his expedition—in Asia, he would have had only one potential patron, so he would have had only one chance.

Our military is an important part of our society. We will be at a loss if it lacks one of the kinds of people it needs to successfully innovate solutions to conflict and to its own evolution. Kudos to those who were smart enough to target for recruitment people who have been called “feminine.” I look forward to the day when common language includes terms which make this message easier to communicate.

Engaging Conflict

On March 18, Greg Carpenter and Chris Santos-Lang will present a workshop titled “Engaging Conflict” for the Wisconsin United Methodist Church Laity Convocation. Click the image below to see the slides:

engaging conflict

Greg and Chris will speak about resources to help churches with existing conflicts, but emphasize resources churches can use proactively to keep conflict from becoming destructive in the first place. For example, churches can build humility by:

  • Spreading Teachings which reveal the weaknesses of each type,
  • Listening to people different from oneself (use the GRIN model to discover/articulate differences)
  • Monitoring shifts in diversity and support for it

Chris will discuss the Books reviewed on this site. The following articles on this website are also relevant to the workshop:

People who want to help address evaluativism should be sure to contact Chris.

Why am I being punished?

If it’s not my job to be right…

…then why am I being punished for not doing the right thing?

Why am I in prison?
Why was I fired?
Why did my loved ones leave me?
Why do I have to pay?

Our video about evaluativism suggests that the first practical step to overcoming evaluativism is to believe that it is not your job to be right—rather, it is your job to be yourself. It says that people who aim to be right more and more often are aiming to be God, that we should instead be like lawyers in a courtroom, serving the cause of truth by sticking to our assigned opposing perspectives, knowing full-well that at least half of the opposing perspectives must be wrong in some way.

So, let’s suppose you were serving the cause of truth by sticking to your assigned perspective, it turns out that you were wrong, and now you are being punished… Should you become someone else?

The Prevalence of Punishment

First, let’s acknowledge how often punishment happens. Roughly 1.4 percent of men (5 percent of black men) and 0.1 percent of women in the U.S. are currently incarcerated. If we include probation and parole, the numbers multiply by four (about 6 percent of all men). Roughly 14 percent of working age men in the U.S. have been convicted of a felony at some point in their past, and over half of all men in the U.S. will be arrested at some point in their lives.

That is not to say that women are less likely to face punishment. If we define punishment to include any suffering imposed by one person on another, then we realize that most punishment is not imposed by legal authorities. Other countries currently host thirty-seven ongoing military conflicts, each large enough to kill over 100 people per year. Meanwhile, over 35 million people currently live in slavery, and 22,000 children die every day from poverty. Our planet currently produces enough food to nourish every single one of us, so it is perfectly reasonable for the victims of all of these atrocities to wonder, “Why am I being punished?” That question may arise just as often to women, and in countries where incarceration occurs less.

Back in the U.S., 85 percent of romantic relationships will end in a break-up, and the median employment tenure is just 4.7 years for men and 4.5 years for women. Even if you call it “amicable separation,” every ended relationship is an instance of punishment where one party maintains, “You are not behaving correctly (at least not for me).” Instead of finding ways to leverage the diversity implied by our disagreements, people are believing that we are supposed to agree, that we are supposed to converge on the same values even when our physiological differences predispose us towards opposition. We punish each other for failing to meet this unrealistic expectation.

These statistics describe just the tip of the iceberg. Punishment begins long before physical separation. It begins with apathy. Only about a third of U.S. employees are currently considered “engaged” in their jobs. The other two thirds of us are either feeling punished or punishing our employers. Many relationships with loved ones are similarly on-the-rocks, as are relationships between citizens and their government. We might not be hosting ongoing military conflicts in the U.S., but we are still a besieged nation. Punishment is happening all around us every day, even if most of us are not physically in a prison.

So, if you are feeling punished, then you are not alone. Given the prevalence of punishment, it doesn’t make sense to take it personally. The best explanation for why punishment is so widespread is that we, as a society, are not very good at dealing with each other. That is a social problem—not your personal fault.

Here’s the good news: Just as you wonder, Why am I being punished? cavemen used to wonder, Why do I have fleas? As a society advances, both questions become asked less and less often. We’re just slower at ridding ourselves of punishment.

Social Reform

Even if punishment is just an infestation not yet fully stamped-out in modern society, those of us who are being punished will still wonder, What should I do about it? Should I change?

The effect of punishment had better not be to reform the person being punished. If the person being punished simply made an error, then the solution is education rather than punishment. On the other hand, if the conflict being resolved did not result from error—if it instead resulted from differences in physiological predisposition—then to reform the perpetrator would decrease opposition, thus reducing diversity and handicapping society.

Rather than reform convicts, the effect of punishment should be to reform society. Punishment enables social reform by providing separation and shifting resources. Convicts pay the price to make social reform possible. That’s really unfair. Society owes a debt to individuals who suffer punishment, and we should repay that debt by accelerating the social reforms their punishments fund. This is obvious regarding punishment of the innocent, as in the stories of Socrates and Jesus of Nazarath, but is equally true when punishing the guilty.

For example, suppose a child becomes addicted to a drug: Although we confine the child to rehab to address the immediate danger, we ultimately must reform society so that it does not provide children with access to such drugs. A bored child is sent to her room for getting into mischief, but we ultimately need to reform society (perhaps a dysfunctional family or classroom) so that the child stops being bored. A debtor loses his home so a bank can stay in business, but we ultimately need to reduce the ability of sellers to convince consumers to make inappropriate purchases.

Why is it that half of the people who are released from prison return within three years? It is because society is not reforming fast enough. Imagine a man who pays a mechanic to fix his car. When he returns, the car still doesn’t work and the mechanic asks for more money. “I payed the price,” the owner demands, “You said it couldn’t be fixed while the peace was being disturbed, so I stayed away. I gave years of my life in a prison. Was that for nothing?” We should be ashamed to ask that man to pay the price a second or third time.

At one time, it seemed reasonable to blame crime on individuals, but the big insight about evaluative diversity is that no individual is complete—we are best as parts of something larger, something diverse. No one is righteous when the stability of their lifestyle relies on punishing the other parts of that something larger.

Privacy and the Threat of Punishment

One of the GRIN types, natural negotiator, has a special relationship with the threat of punishment. Natural negotiators are achievers, so they are empowered by a shift towards capitalistic systems in which they can compete; however, competition is empowering only if everyone plays by fair rules. Thus, negotiators want there to be enough fear of punishment to dissuade their competitors from breaking the rules. If the governments we construct make rule-breaking the best strategy for getting ahead, then we are systematically oppressing natural negotiators. Therefore, we need to take punishment seriously.

The point of punishment, from the perspective of the negotiator, is not to get revenge, but rather to reduce calculated future crimes. In other words, the punishment is not directed at the person being punished; it is directed at people who have not yet committed the crime. Again, the goal is not to reform the convict, but rather the goal is to reform society, to scare everyone else into not committing crimes. The best way to figure-out when punishment would discourage future crimes would be to ask a jury of peers, and that is what we do.

On the one hand, such juries need to make sure the punishment is not too mild. If the crime can be leveraged to make billions on the stock-market, then the risk of spending ten years in jail might not be enough to dissuade the crime. Even if a convict is reformed, it could be a mistake to release him/her early because that release could encourage a different person to commit a crime (expecting a similar chance at early release). When we view punishment as a threat, it would be wasteful not to make it harsh.

On the other hand, if punishment is so frequent that it seems inescapable, then people will figure they might as well commit the crime. Therefore we cannot punish every hurtful act. We also have to be very careful about discrimination: if black men, or Muslims, or psychopaths are highly likely to get punished, then the punishment system may encourage them to be criminal. To make punishment work as a deterrent against future crime, we must collect strong evidence, so that the innocent can expect to avoid punishment even if they happen to fit a certain profile.

Collecting strong evidence requires reducing privacy. Partly that is about ubiquitous cameras, but its also about getting inside people’s heads because we need to know their motives. When we use punishment to deter crime we are punishing a motive—we are punishing someone for expecting to be able to get away it. That insight inspired the movie Minority Report in which privacy is so far gone that people could be punished even before the crime was committed.

Minority Report was onto something, but rather than punish the person, we should reform society. For example, if we know that Jack thinks he can get way with robbing the local convenience store, rather than punish Jack, we can improve the security system of the local convenience store (and make sure Jack knows about it). It doesn’t seem like a violation of privacy when the knowledge is used merely to identify security holes. That is where we are headed: a world that doesn’t need punishment to deter fowl-play.


We have told you that it is not your job to be right—rather it is your job to be yourself. Yet such behavior seems idealistic in a world filled with punishment. Interracial friendships likewise seemed idealistic in a world filled with racial slavery. Some people currently think punishment is unavoidable just like people used to think racial slavery was unavoidable, so being yourself can be an act of courage and faith.

If a natural negotiator is punished for trying to profit, should they stop trying to profit? No. Do not be reformed. It is the rules of profit that should be reformed.

If a naturally institutional person is punished for following their religion, should they stop following it? No. Do not be reformed. It is the religions that need to reconcile.

If a natural gadfly is punished for thirsting so much for change that they frustrate others, should they stop thirsting for change? No. Do not be reformed. Society should embrace progress so fully that gadflies are too busy facilitating change to waste time frustrating the establishment.

If a naturally relational person is punished for protecting their loved-ones, should they stop loving? No. Do not be reformed. The problem with love is that not everyone is loved enough.

It might not be right to try to profit, to follow a religion, to thirst for change, or to protect loved ones. Any of these activities can be wrong. But it is not your job to be right—it is your job to be yourself.

The short answer to the question, “Why am I being punished?” is that you are part of something larger, and you are serving that something larger by taking the hit. It is not fair, and should happen less and less often. In an ideal world, people would never do anything that would justify punishment—the only place it would be useful to talk about guilt and innocence would be in a history class. We are moving closer to that ideal world. In the meanwhile, you may be guilty, but the blame falls on all of us for not moving to the ideal world sooner.

Moral Diversity vs. Evaluative Diversity

The Righteous MindIn his most recent book, The Righteous Mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion, Jonathan Haidt (pronounced like “height”) reminds the reader at various points that he is telling his story in a roundabout way because typical readers would reject straight-up truth. The first four chapters are devoted to evidence that the average non-psychopath is irrational, able to learn truth only “in love” (as Ephesians 4:15 puts it). The Righteous Mind debuted at #6 on the New York Times best seller list for nonfiction hardcover, so, if you find it difficult to believe the claims in the summary below, you might want to try the roundabout version instead.

The Purpose of Division

Why are good people divided? Haidt devoted an entire chapter to defend the theory of group selection which entails that diversity will evolve if diversification is advantageous for groups. On page 365, Haidt summarized his conclusions about this advantage:

I suggested that liberals and conservatives are like yin and yang—both are “necessary elements of a healthy state of political life,” as John Stuart Mill put it.

In a similar way, bone cells and muscle cells are both necessary to the functioning of the human body, and it is for the good of the body that its cells divide and specialize.

To test the theory that diversification is advantageous for groups, one would want to compare the success of groups with different levels of diversity. Such evidence was collected by Douglas Wilde, a professor of design at Stanford University. His students divided into teams to develop designs submitted to intercollegiate competitions which were judged by blind-review. In some years, Wilde allowed students to form their own teams; in other years he forced them to team up with people who tended to think differently. Wilde, and the design professors who replicated this experiment at other colleges, found that forcing teams to be evaluatively diverse increased both internal conflict and win rates.

Instead of citing the research by the design professors, Haidt cited the research of Richard Sosis who found that the average religious commune founded in the nineteenth century United States was six times as likely as the average secular one to last over 20 years. Again, the research compared the success of different groups, but Sosis’ measure of success was longevity, while Wilde’s measure of success was win rate. Wilde’s measure would be irrelevant if we encountered a society that could survive well-enough with poor designs (i.e. had no competitors or environmental disasters pending to require rapid improvement of social designs).

The problem with Sosis’ research is that he did not manipulate or measure diversity. It is debatable whether the religious communes were more or less diverse than the secular ones. Communes are intrinsically anti-conservative—they are rebellions against the status-quo—yet religious communes have a commitment to norms. Thus, religious communes might be more likely to attract both liberals and conservatives, and it makes sense to expect them to be more diverse. Some of the greatest religious role-models created new norms while rebelling against the norms of their day (e.g. Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Confucius), yet Haidt offers an explanation which implies that religious communes would be less diverse (pg 342):

A commune that valued self-expression over conformity and that prized the virtue of tolerance over loyalty… would have lower moral capital than a commune that valued conformity and loyalty. The stricter commune would be better able to suppress or regulate selfishness, and would therefore be more likely to endure.

In Wilde’s research, the superior teams had heightened internal conflict, but Haidt’s explanation of Sosis’ research implies that we should expect the opposite. This may just be an example of Haidt trying to tell the story in a roundabout way. The bottom line is that Sosis’ research would need to be repeated with actual measures of diversity. Until then, we have Wilde’s results to support Haidt’s final conclusion that diversity is advantageous.

Proximate Causes of Division

From an evolutionary perspective, one could say that the cells of our bodies specialize into diverse types because this brings advantages to the body as a whole, but it is also correct to say that cells specialize because they are genetically programmed to do so. Genes are a proximate cause. In a similar way, while Haidt points to group-selection as the ultimate cause of division, he also points to research indicating that genetic and physiological differences (products of evolution) predispose us to disagree with one another.

After summarizing some of the research described in greater detail in John Hibbing and Kevin Smith’s Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences, Haidt attempts to navigate the controversial issue of how our natures interact with nurture. This comes to a head in the recounting of Keith Richards’ testimony that he became a liberal when he was betrayed by the choir master of his school (pg 330):

Richards may have been predisposed by his personality [and genes] to become a liberal, but his politics were not predestined. Had his teachers treated him differently… he could have ended up in a more conventional job surrounded by conservative colleagues and sharing their moral matrix.

Of course a sufficiently controlled environment can manipulate the typical person into developing values contrary to his/her own genetic predisposition. Haidt also mentions that sufficiently controlled environments can flip a switch he calls the “hive switch” to shift a person’s values temporarily. He discusses oxytocin regulation, but dopamine regulation and ego depletion would be other such switches. However, Haidt stops short of discussing what the costs of manipulating people’s values might be.

Assuming one were to manipulate an environment to promote conservativism, it would see a decline in liberalism. If this sufficiently unbalances the society, then, according to the theory Haidt quoted from John Stuart Mill, it would collapse like an unbalanced ecosystem. That is one example of a cost. It is a cost to the group.

But we should also consider the consequences for an individual like Keith Richards. How would he like to have values contrary to his predispositions? Would he be frustrated like a short basketball player, a gay person in a heterosexual marriage, or someone with high IQ who cannot access the Intenet? Keith Richards is the lead guitarist of The Rolling Stones—it is difficult to imagine him being so successful in that role without genes predisposing him against conservativism—how would it have felt not to exercise those genes? Here’s one theory:

Theory #1: In more tolerant environments, people are more likely to hold values which align with their genetic predispositions and those who have such alignment experience better mental well-being (e.g. greater engagement in their career, family and community, and less depression, apathy, guilt, and desire to commit suicide).

To test this theory, psychologists would measure the values, predispositions and mental-well-being of people in environments with different levels of evaluativism. The benefits of this research could be huge: if it confirms the theory above, we could use it to improve mental well-being for our children and grandchildren. Most of the people with jobs today are not happy with their jobs, and our own lives might not be so bleak if our grandparents had conducted this research. So we have to ask, “Why have no psychologists tested this theory?”

Haidt’s subtitle “Why good people are divided by politics and religion” seems to ask about the causes of intolerance. If it turns out that intolerance has such significantly negative health consequences, that discovering them would motivate us to be more tolerant, then it is fair to say we are intolerant because psychologists have not measured those consequences. Psychologists have determined that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and that gay youth facing anti-gay environments are more likely to attempt suicide, but this just a beginning to measuring the consequences of intolerance. Homophobia isn’t the only form of discrimination, and mental distress includes more than just suicide.

A 2014 study by Shanto Iyengar and Sean Westwood found that 80% of us, if asked to judge a scholarship competition, would discriminate against applicants with opposing values. That kind of discrimination is called “evaluativism” and the researchers offer every reason to believe it is pervasive, producing every manner of frustration. For the 13 years previous to that study, the only major study comparing kinds of discrimination was Haidt’s own study with Evan Rosenberg and Holly Hom. They found that people discriminate far more on the basis of values than on the basis of demographic differences, such as race, class and religion. His conclusion, in 2001, was that values diversity (which they called “moral diversity”) creates so much discrimination that it must be a bad kind of diversity.

In The Righteous Mind Haidt cited his 2001 study only in a footnote to his recommendation about how to make a team, company, school or other organization more “hivish, happy and productive” (pg 277):

Increase similarity, not diversity. To make a human hive, you want to make everyone feel like a family. So don’t call attention to the racial and ethnic differences; make them less relevant by ramping up similarity and celebrating the group’s shared values and common identity.

Again, Haidt implies that our aim should be to minimize internal conflict. As Haidt would predict, in years when Wilde didn’t draw attention to evaluative diversity, his students self-segregated and experienced less internal conflict. But the hivishness and happiness did not improve production; the consequence of self-segregation was inferior designs. Furthermore, if we do not raise awareness of evaluativism in awarding scholarships (and presumably jobs as well), Iyengar and Westwood’s research indicates the awards will be significantly and systematically biased. Aiming to minimize conflict is short-sighted.

Perhaps the worst tragedy to come from ignoring differences is implied by a 2009 twin study by Peter Hatemi, Carolyn Funk, Sarah Medland, Hermine Maes, Judy Silberg, Nicholas Martin, and Lindon Eaves which found that people’s values are less likely to align with their genetic predispositions while they remain in their parent’s homes. This does not indicate intentional discriminationparents are unaware of evaluative differencesyet even accidentally preventing one’s child from aligning with his/her genetic predispositions could diminish his/her mental well-being. What parent would want to remain ignorant of differences, if accepting those differences could save their child from wishing he/she were dead?

Again, the truth is so harsh that one can understand why Haidt might want to soften the blow. Would you believe a psychologist who told you that our failure to understand differences has made normal parenting is so oppressive that getting away from parents faster could save children from wanting to commit suicide?

Moral Diversity vs. Evaluative Diversity

Aside from his 2001 study, Haidt’s most important experiment may have been the development of the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ) which measures peoples beliefs that morality is about each of the following six values: Liberty/oppression, Fairness/cheating, Care/harm, Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation.

This research created a stir because moral psychology was previously dominated by the theory that there is one best moral type. As it turns out, people who rate themselves as politically conservative tend to consider all six values in their definition of “morality,” whereas people who rate themselves politically liberal tend to emphasize Care/harm and discount the last three values, and people who rate themselves as libertarians tend to emphasize Liberty/oppression and discount the last four values. Thus, the MFQ demonstrates that political types are moral types. Since it is unacceptable to conclude that one political type is better than the others, the dominant theory moral psychology was overturned.

In chapter 8, Haidt admits that his list of values might not be complete; in fact, one of the six values was not on the original list, so it has already been revised once. Given what we know about GRIN types, one might think the next revision should be to add “Originality/orthodoxy” and “Effectiveness/ inefficiency.” While some people do value original ideas and effective strategies, it is debatable whether the value qualify as “moral.” For example, the debate over whether the ends justify the means may be seen as a debate over whether Effectiveness is a moral value.

As part of his roundabout story-telling, Haidt saves his own definitions of morality and moral capital until the last two chapters:

Moral capital refers to the degree to which a community possesses interlocking sets of value, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, and technologies that mesh well with evolved psychological mechanisms and thereby enable the community to suppress or regulate selfishness and make cooperation possible.

The values of Originality and Effectiveness do not necessarily suppress selfishness, so they would not qualify as “moral” values by this definition. They would probably qualify, however, under Ayn Rand’s definition of “moral.” Does Haidt have a scientific basis for dismissing Rand’s perspective? Haidt admits that Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity do not qualify as “moral” by liberal definitionsdoes he have a scientific basis for dismissing the liberal perspective as well? To the contrary, Haidt concludes that the diverse perspectives are interdependent, so he is painted into a corner.

Haidt describes himself as a liberal who wants to understand conservatives on their own terms, so it makes sense that he would accept a conservative definition of “morality,” and it makes sense that this definition would produce a survey instrument that focuses on conservative values. Reaching across the isle is noble. However, a partisan definition is still a partisan definition, even if entertained by a psychologist from the opposing party.

The advantage of the term “evaluative diversity”  over “moral diversity” is to escape the non-scientific bias that will necessarily result from having to define “moral”. All values are evaluative, whether they are moral or not. Thus, evaluative diversity includes Liberty/oppression, Fairness/cheating, Care/harm, Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, Sanctity/degradation, Originality/orthodoxy, and Effectiveness/inefficiency (and perhaps more).

Unfortunately, there is no field of “evaluative psychology.” The field Haidt inherited and now leads is called “moral psychology”and that isn’t his faultso he finds himself asking people “Is it [morally] wrong for a brother and sister to have sex?” Depending on their own definitions of “morality” (or whether they even bother to have one), some people may find such questions nutty. I’m not God—why ask me? However, Haidt has already revolutionized his field. Asking him to strike the word “moral” from its name might be asking too much.

A Recall on Moral Education

Sometimes the products we buy turn-out to be better than we expected,

… and sometimes they turn-out to be worse.

By Ragesoss (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsOn rare occasions when products turn-out to be so much worse than expected that they actually damage their owners, we issue a product recall. For example, in 2004 Merck announced a recall of the anti-inflammatory drug, Vioxx, because a new study found that Vioxx promotes strokes and heart attacks. As another example, we are now told that orange juice is one of the foods health conscious people ought to moderate. Rather than a recall issued by orange-juice-makers, this recall came as a reversal in the recommendations of dietitians.

Moral education is another market where errors can be made. Beliefs distributed through moral education are products, and it is possible to teach dangerous beliefs. For example, it was once taught that left-handedness should be avoided and that conflicts should be resolved via duels. Those teachings needed to be recalled. This essay considers the possibility of another recall to respond to evidence that moral education causes evaluativism.

The Complaint Against Moral Education

We should start by considering a special problem with implementing a recall on moral education. Recalls are typically justified by new scientific discoveries, but aren’t morals matters of opinion, or, at worst, theological matters beyond the scope of science? Even if moral education does cause evaluativism, who’s to say it shouldn’t?

The complaint against moral education is not based on scientific evidence that one option is more moral than another—rather, it cites evidence that moral education messes with the brain in such a way that it limits humans from recognizing what is moral. Mind-control and manipulation are within the scope of science, so science can justify a recall on moral education if it finds that moral education is a kind of mind-control.

In this case, the relevant scientific evidence is that:

  1. Humans have moral disagreements,
  2. Rather than reflect mere differences of opinion, these disagreements sometimes reflect physiological differences such as genes and brain structure (a.k.a. “evaluative type“),
  3. Some of the evaluative types are interdependent
  4. Some man-made environments are optimized for people of specific evaluative types, thus discriminating against people of other types (this is a form of “evaluativism”)
  5. Like many other forms of discrimination, evaluativism is currently out of control
  6. Evaluativistic environments impact the chemistry of the brain, causing people of various types to experience depression, apathy, lack of self-control, and other limitations to moral faculties
  7. Modern centers of moral education produce evaluativism that divides interdependent types

The complaint against moral education is premised on these findings—if you conduct research which disconfirms the findings, the complaint is withdrawn. The paper linked above suggests that moral education can be reformed, such that it no longer produces evaluativism, divides interdependent types, and handicaps our collective moral faculty. New scientific work would be required to prove reform has succeeded; a recall is what to do while waiting for that proof.

The Scope of the Recall

If moral education is counterproductive—if it is actually hurting us—then we should stop engaging in it until it is reformed. That’s a recall. Recalls are stopgap measures. For example, once we find a way to mitigate the dangers of orange juice, then the recall will be lifted and we will be free to drink as much orange juice as we like. Reasonable efforts to test potential reforms are exceptions to a recall. For example, if someone develops tiny robots that regulate sugar in our bloodstreams, someone will need to drink orange juice while using these robots to determine whether they succeed in mitigating the dangers of orange juice drinking. Testing efforts which do not include measurement, however,  do not qualify as exceptions to a recall.

In addition to being temporary—limited in duration—recalls are limited in scope. For example, the recall on orange juice is not a recall on all liquids. There are fairly clear boundaries on what qualifies as “orange juice” for the sake of the recall. The discovery which justifies the recall on orange juice is about liquid calories, so the recall extends to all sugary drinks (including soda and other juices), but does not extend to oranges, vitamin C tablets, or the use of orange juice in a marinade.

The scope of “moral education” for the recall justified by the evidence discussed above includes only attempts to teach people to form independent moral judgments. When we teach people to specialize in a mere aspect of moral decision-making, we may actually support interdependence between people of different specialties. For example, one might teach someone to predict consequences, but to rely on others to determine which of the predicted consequences is best. Likewise, one might teach someone how to follow best practices, or to empathize, or to innovate, but to rely on others to complete other aspects of moral decision-making. When we imply that everyone should develop all the skills, or that not all skills are needed (e.g. that one can get by with mere best practices, or empathy, or innovation), we are implying that everyone ought to be able to engage in moral decision-making independently.

Teaching people to form independent moral judgments is like teaching neurons to live without the help of bone cells, muscle cells, and all the other interdependent cells of the body. That would be counterproductive education because abandoning the rest of the body and setting-out on its own would be hazardous for the neuron. It would also be hazardous for neurons to set out in groups. That’s analogous to what people do when they become convinced that they can form good moral judgments without the help of people of other evaluative specialization—they set out with people of their own type. Conservatives group with other conservatives, and liberals group with other liberals. That’s evaluativism. The recall on moral education ends when measurements demonstrate that moral education no longer produces evaluativism.

An Example: Churches

This article concludes with a description of how such a recall would look in churches. First, it needs to be said that the recall does not target churches—moral education also takes place in secular schools, workplaces and families. Second, church includes many other activities including fellowship, worship, charity, and ritual. Third, to boycott churches would be an evaluativistic form of moral education, teaching by example to segregate attenders from non-attenders.

All that said, churches are one of the leading centers of moral education and segregation in the United States, even though the bible explicitly informs Christians that we are evaluatively interdependent like the parts of a body, that we develop moral competence together, rather than as individuals. Christians generally believe that Christ opposes discrimination (especially against genetic traits), and churches have a rich history of fueling reform efforts. Moreover, Christians generally do not doubt that reform is needed in churches.

Although a recall of moral education would not include a boycott of churches, it might require churches to fail to meet the expectations of certain “customers.” One reason to become a “customer” of a church is to protect one’s legacy by instilling one’s own values in the people who will inherit that legacy. Customers with that motive would be inclined to “shop” for a church where they could bring their family to witness a preacher condemn evaluative types contrary to their own and see a room of people nod in agreement. Such a person might even settle for a church that seems to affirm their evaluative type simply by not criticizing it (i.e. to protect oneself from having one’s family exposed to opposing churches). In either case, the customer expects the church to help them influence the values of the guests they bring. Under a recall, churches would refuse to meet that expectation. Any church which delivers the expected mind-control services would be violating the recall.

“Don’t accuse me of ‘mind-control’ or even of having a ‘legacy’,” Christians might object. “I am merely expressing appreciation for the truth I inherited.”

For many Christians, this is an honest objection that should be acknowledged, but the fact that some people shop for church undermines the theory that churches merely preserve truth. If we were not trying to propagate our own values regardless of whether they happen to be true or not, then we would join whichever church is closest and debate there until the truth won out. Once churches have measurably demonstrated that they can teach morals without producing evaluativism, they will be free to resume their preservation of moral truth, for they will have untangled truth-preservation from the mind-control services sought by legacy builders.

I do not believe that mind-control is the dominant motivation for most Christians, nor for churches. I think that most of us see no biblical justification for “church shopping,” and that any mind-control which takes place in our churches is an accidental side-effect we would gladly see expelled. We agree with the Qur’an where it says “Let there be no compulsion in religion” and with the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution which protects religious freedom (even of our own children). However, to suspend moral education would frustrate any church members who want to establish their own values in others. We need to acknowledge that pre-existing mess, so the clean-up crew doesn’t get blamed for any unavoidable division that results from clean-up.

The other major difficulty with implementing a recall of moral education in churches can be the subtle ways in which moral education takes place there. When a pastor preaching a sermon tells the congregation precisely how moral judgments should be made, when the pastor declares that no one should be ambitious, or legalistic, or subjective, or questioning, when the pastor points to politicians with some such attribute and instructs the congregation to vote against them, it is obvious that the preacher is engaging in moral education. However, moral education in churches is often more subtle.

My own pastor pointed to the book of Hebrews as an example of that subtlety. He said that the book of Hebrews has a conciliatory tone, that it simply lays out a set of facts and leaves the listener to draw their own conclusion about how those facts should impact their moral behavior. No one would doubt that the book of Hebrews aims to convince people to change their moral behaviors, but any book, sermon or hymn with such subtlety makes its claims about morality indirectly. Thus, any misinformation about morality it produces would be lies of omission.

Rather than say that no one should be ambitious, a subtle pastor might teach about a scripture that exposes a weaknesses of the ambitious evaluative type (every type has weaknesses—that’s what makes them interdependent). The pastor might explain indisputable facts about the context in which that scripture was first heard and how it would have been understood in its original language. The pastor might never say, “All of you should avoid ambitious decision-making—do not elect ambitious people,” and might not even directly claim that the scripture should be followed. The pastor will not deny that there are many other scriptures to consider. Yet many people of the congregation will hear a moral lesson loud and clear. It is moral education by omission.

Education by omission can happen in hymns and rituals as well. I know of a thriving church that is so concerned that the ritual of communion will convey the wrong message that they always preface it by explaining that no one should feel pressured to participate. It would be nice to be able to mark out the boundaries of the range of topics in which preachers can speak their mind without worrying about engaging in counterproductive moral education, but moral education in churches so often happens by omission that the only way to be safe is to preface each church service the way this church prefaces communion.

The preface might go something like this (pastors can work out their own versions—given that the preface is recited every week, they might also want have a written explanation prepared):

The Bible tells us, ‘Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.‘ You may have come here today to make teachers of me, of our liturgists, our choir, the hymn writers, and those who wrote and translated the Bible, so I need to warn you not to get the wrong idea. God made each of us different, so perfect teaching would require delivering different lessons to different people. We want to figure-out how to provide teaching like that and to confirm it works, but are not there yet. You will not get reliable teaching from us today. We will simply have to forgive each other for failing to be perfect as we worship and study together.

Without such a preface, members of the congregation will likely assume that the leaders of the service intend to engage in moral education. They will likely hear moral lessons where none were intended. At times, a leader may slip—he/she may forget about the need for reform or may grow impatient waiting for proof that reform has been accomplished—then this preface becomes their request for forgiveness. The need for forgiveness is inevitable because failure to discuss morality could delay reform, yet appropriate boundaries of such discussion will not be known until reform proves successful.

Finally, we must ask who should issue the recall. Should pastors create their own prefaces, should entire denominations compose standard disclaimers to be recited at each service, or should some external body, such as the government, warn citizens that churches promote evaluativism? A congregation might want all three. If the pastor volunteers their own preface, the church will experience no embarrassment when the denomination and government issue recalls as well, yet the higher-level recalls may be necessary because not every pastor will issue the recall locally.


Most people who developed and prescribed Vioxx had every good intention. When scientists discovered that it promotes strokes and heart attacks, no one thought any less of those who discovered it. Likewise, the well-intended efforts of moral educators in the past remain heroic, despite new evidence that their efforts turned-out to be counterproductive.

Once Vioxx was found to be dangerous, to continue selling it would have been wrong. It would have been wrong to say, “I’m going to keep prescribing Vioxx, because I don’t have the resources to test these claims about strokes and heart attacks for myself.” Those who distribute a product—even if they are giving it away for free—have a responsibility to follow-up on evidence that the product my harm its owners. In the case of tobacco products, this responsibility may have driven some people to quit their jobs.

When facing the discoveries cited above, it is natural to ask what they mean for moral educators. Hopefully, you will see that moral education can and will be reformed. Like orange juice, moral education is wonderful in many ways, so we are willing to invest in finding ways to mitigate its dangers. Yet, until reform has proven to mitigate the dangers of moral education, to continue with moral education as usual would be immoral. This article aims to avoid overreaction. It discusses the limits of a recall on moral education, and proposes ways to minimize inconvenience while waiting for proven reform.