Tag Archives: social responsibility

Who Would Call Themselves “Evaluativists”?

There is a big difference between racists and self-declared racists. Most racists (which includes most people) do not realize they are racists, nor would they voluntarily accept the label. Likewise, as realistic examples of typical evaluativists, we have cited Cecil of Lee Daniels’ The Butler, the 80% of scholarship judges in Shanto Iyengar’s experiment found to discriminate on the basis of values instead of merit, and the subjects for whom Jennifer Mueller was able to manipulate business decision-making by manipulating their values. The experimenters confirmed that the evaluativism in these cases was not intentional; they didn’t realize they were behaving as evaluativists. Since the consequences included broken families, missallocated scholarship funds, and low-quality business decision-making, we might expect the experimental subjects would want to understand and correct their evaluativism.

Image attributed to Tobias But do people really want to correct their own biases? One cannot be blamed for what is beyond his/her control, and no one intends to be biased. At worst, failure to correct one’s biases reflects negligence, but one can hardly be convicted of negligence when it is not clear what it would take to eliminate those biases. Some people who claim to oppose evaluativism and racism may make that claim simply to escape blame. Like dealing with climate change, they may wait for someone else to tell them what to do about it, then complain that the proposal is impractical.

In my experience, people who would take responsibility for evaluativism are rare, and people who declare themselves “evaluativists” are of that caliber. Why else would they bother to take the stand that evaluativism either can’t or shouldn’t be eliminated? I’d bet they took responsibility for the problem, but turned to the dark-side because they found no other way out. If you are trying to solve the evaluativism problem, it might help to know what obstacles blocked your predecessors, so it is wise to examine the philosophy of self-proclaimed evaluativists.

This article examines three sets of authors who advocated for evaluativism:

These people seemed to have reached their positions independently, so it is interesting to note commonalities in their thinking:

All three sets of professors frame evaluativism as a solution to the ancient problem of epistemology: the problem of establishing genuine knowledge as distinguished from our other (unjustified) beliefs. The problem probably arose because the ancients found that they could collaboratively catch many of their errors by checking each other’s thinking. When this practice occasionally produced disagreements they could not resolve, the ancients wondered who was in error, and, if they were in error, which of their other beliefs were in error as well.

The ancients believed they were akin to gods in the sense of having viable independent minds, rather than realize they were mere parts of a larger knower such that some disagreements would be predictable based on the different functions of different parts (e.g. the liberal/ conservative divide). Had they been humble, they might have attempted to reverse-engineer the mechanics of the larger knower, so they could distinguish predictable disagreements from those that signal actual errors. Instead, the ancients came to one of the following three classical positions (a) we should doubt everything we think we know (“skepticism“), (b) we should count multiple sides of a disagreement as correct (“subjectivism“), or (c) we should keep fighting over who is correct until we all agree (“objectivism“).

All three positions are terrible. At some point, the relentlessness of the objectivist’s struggle becomes a waste, if not a counterproductive source of social strife. On the other hand, skeptics and subjectivists will not seek agreement, so they are less able to catch their errors. However, instead of acknowledging option (d), that we are parts of a larger knower which reduces error at the higher level by placing its parts in opposition (like attorneys taking opposing sides in a court), Field, Kuhn, Zachar, and Kendler framed evaluativism as the only alternative to the classical options.

The Philosopher

Field proposed evaluativism as the answer to the question of how one should justify such premises as “If Socrates is an old man, then Socrates must be a man.” Such premises are so pervasive that hardly any useful knowledge can be had without justifying them. A subjectivist might simply declare such beliefs justified, but Field rejected that approach (which he called “egocentric”) as chauvinistic. He also provided a list of reasons to reject several objectivist approaches, including making the point that we are surely justified in holding false beliefs if we have no access to better alternatives. He recommended that we declare our beliefs justified if and only if we evaluate them to be justified (i.e. “evaluativism”).

Evaluativism may be less-often chauvinistic than the egocentric approach because the evaluativist makes an actual and supposedly earnest effort to consider contrary perspectives. However, Field admitted that evaluativists with different values make different evaluations, so disagreement would persist and segregate. For example, he wrote: “In dealing with a follower of the Reverend Moon, we may find that too little is shared for a neutral evaluation of anything to be possible, and we may have no interest in the evaluations the Moonie gives.” In this example, supposing the Moonie is in error, the Moonie’s potential to catch the error as an evaluativist is so low that they would be in the same boat as subjectivists.

The Teacher

Rather than write about how people should think, Deanna Kuhn claimed to measure the following pattern in the way people actually do think:

  1. The least mature people claim that only one side in a disagreement can be correct (she labels them “absolutists” or “objectivists”)
  2. The next most mature people claim that all sides in a disagreement are equally correct (she labels them “multiplists” or “subjectivists”)
  3. The most mature people claim that multiple sides can be correct, but that one is more correct (she labels them “evaluativists”)

Kuhn’s later description of evaluativists as people who evaluate evidence according to their own personal values matched Field’s, but her measurement instrument did not match that definition: Evaluativists do not necessarily claim that multiple sides can be correct. Her instrument allowed only three categories, so one alternate explanation for her results would be that the most mature people resist siding with either objectivism or subjectivism, but do not necessarily side with evaluativism either. Kuhn never offered option (d), so her data cannot tell us whether the most mature people would pick (d) over evaluativism; nonetheless, it launched a new subfield of educational psychology which takes evaluativism as its gold-standard.

The Doctors

Zachar and Kendler did not pretend that evaluativism is an alternative to subjectivism—they contrasted it only with objectivism, and were concerned specifically with disagreements about what counts as mental illness. For example, consider the case of a patient who is depressed because he forgoes meaningful relationships in favor of working long hours to get promoted. The patient asks a doctor to prescribe anti-depressants and refuses any other lifestyle change or treatment. Before writing a prescription to resolve the depression, the doctor needs to determine whether the refusal to engage in other treatments reflects an illness that could be aggravated by being given the effective ability to self-prescribe.

The objectivist claims that there is a single correct choice, and we should eliminate disagreement; if some doctors would write the prescription in this case and others would not, then they should duke it out. In contrast, the evaluativist claims that each doctor gets to decide what counts as illness, so the only way for a doctor to make the wrong decision is to neglect to evaluate the situation (whatever that means to the doctor at the time). Where debates cannot be resolved, Zachar and Kendler conclude that doctors should be evaluativists—i.e. we should not designate controversial issues as deserving more intense examination. If patients can easily shift to a doctor willing to write a prescription, this would give patients the effective ability to self-prescribe in such cases.

It is tempting to suppose that self-declared evaluativists are simply unaware of the evidence that evaluativism produces exactly the sorts of harm they are trying to avoid (i.e. broken families, missallocated scholarship funds, low-quality decision-making, etc.). However, the self-declared evaluativists cited here are professors, highly intelligent people, and it is unlikely that they all made the same mistake purely coincidentally. Furthermore, they are not now warning other people from making the same mistake, engaging in tests to determine whether it was a mistake, examining the similarities of evaluativism to other forms of discrimination, nor testing the possibility that we are mere parts of a larger knower.

The God-Complex

It is more plausible that these self-declared evaluativists suffered from the same bias as the ancients: belief that we are akin to gods. The growing need to delegate decision-making to specialists, computers, or evidence-based protocols stands in tension with the still-believed myth that doctors should individually understand what they are doing. The need to accommodate belief in this myth could easily have prevented Zachar and Kendler from discussing the possibility that doctors are mere parts of a larger knower—that they ought to argue their sides in a court of medicine which establishes regulations under constant threat of appeal (this would quickly get so complicated that only computers would be able to prescribe medicine, leaving humans to be mere attorneys/ researchers).

The god-complex of Kuhn and her followers was made almost explicit in the name they gave their typology: “personal epistemology.” This name suggests that knowledge should be pursued at a personal level, in contrast with “social epistemology,” which investigates why persons should defer to larger knowers (e.g. markets, juries, electorates, doctrines, research fields). Only God can afford to discard social epistemology, but teachers (Kuhn’s audience) are still made responsible for educating particular individuals (i.e. paid per student), rather than for raising the general intellectual ability of society. Like doctors, teachers are expected to accomplish what no individual can accomplish.

Field’s audience, in contrast, would not condemn him for claiming that personal knowledge has limits; his audience celebrated Godel’s Incompleteness Proof and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Field could have concluded that he knows “If Socrates is an old man, then Socrates is a man,” in the same way a neuron knows that mass is conserved: it is part of a larger knower which reduces its error over time (i.e. to ask about the current knowledge of the neuron is to analyse the situation at the wrong level). Field instead insisted that he is an independent knower (like a god) apparently because his method consists in explicating what feels true, and we really do feel less interdependent than we actually are. The problem is that our feelings are misleading. For example, even though we think we oppose discrimination, Shanto Iyengar found that 73% of us have implicit racist biases and 80% have implicit evaluativist biases.

There are many situations in which our intuitions fail; for example, learning to drive a car backwards. At first, the student is distracted by an intuition which tells him/her to turn the wheel in the wrong direction. The student overcomes that distraction through science: running the experiment of turning the wheel in either direction and trusting the feedback (over intuition). Likewise, we overcome the intuition which tells us race is a good indicator of character by actually conducting the experiment of getting to know people of diverse races.

To overcome our intuitions that we have individually complete minds (like gods) and that it will be best to avoid people who tend to disagree with us, it may help to conduct the kinds of experiments Douglass Wilde conducted at Stanford. Wilde demonstrated that the teams which produce the best designs are those which have the greatest internal conflict due to diversity. But Wilde’s experiment does not provide a constant reminder that our intuition is misleading, like looking over your shoulder when driving backwards does. Like experiments that debunk our intuitions that the world is flat, or that time advances at the same pace for everyone, Wilde’s results are easily forgotten in practice.

To correct our bias, we may need constant monitoring of evaluativism and its impact on social success. Until that is achieved, even brilliant people may be inclined to move in exactly the wrong direction. It is dangerous for some people to drive a car without corrective lenses, and it is plausible that social leadership is similarly dangerous until we develop a way to correct our misleading intuitions. Leaders got by without such technology in the past, but new technologies give modern leaders opportunities to make errors that are less survivable.

The examples we have examined demonstrate that people who call themselves “evaluativists” are not necessarily unintelligent or uneducated. They deserve respect for bothering with the topic at all. Yet their conclusion is not supported by evidence—it stems purely from biases ingrained in our society and in our intuitions. Those who would oppose evaluativism should take heed: You are engaging in a war against the current mode of humanity, a war against our natural egocentric arrogance. Anyone unprepared to face that obstacle may end-up turning to the dark-side.

Military Applications of the GRIN Model

A social group’s ability to innovate is limited by its GRIN diversity, and the GRIN Model (Gadfly-Relational-Institutional-Negotiator) helps us to measure and manage that diversity.  Thus, if you think the goal of the military is to dominate others, then you might expect the primary military application of the GRIN model would be to reduce enemies’ capacities to innovate, while defending one’s own.

However, the goal of the military should not be to conquer everyone else, nor merely to defend oneself; the goal of the military should be to mitigate the motives for war.  In other words, the military and state departments share the same ultimate goal—the military is just more inclined to pursue it through technology.  This is the greater application of the GRIN Model: It allows us to understand the causes of war, and to end them.  That turns out to involve protecting and growing innovative capacity, especially among one’s enemies.

New concepts facilitate new science.  This post will demonstrate how new science, which thus far confirms the GRIN model, corrects misconceptions which previously led to inferior strategies for resolving conventional warfare and terrorism.  The post will then discuss how the GRIN model enables exploration and implementation of a potentially superior strategy for achieving the military endgame.

Conventional Warfare

Conventional warfare and terrorism have different causes.  The motive for conventional warfare resides in those of us who are natural negotiators (the ‘N’ of the GRIN model).  The essence of a natural negotiator—his/her moral imperative—is to grow wealth and power. In business, we say we “grow market share,” and we represent that share as a slice on a pie chart.  There are only two ways to grow a slice of the pie:

  1. Grow the entire pie through innovation, or
  2. Steal market share from competitors.

Conventional warfare is the process of engaging in this second strategy: stealing other’s share and preventing others from stealing your own.

It is unfortunate that people label this “greed” because the same motive—the growth motive—could instead grow the pie for everyone by advancing innovation; conventional warfare stems from a fundamentally good motive that is twisted by dysfunction in our innovation systems such that investment in competition becomes more rational than investment in innovation.  If the dysfunction were repaired and investment in innovation were proven to be the more promising path towards growth, then conventional warfare would no longer be motivated.  This is the ideal solution: All countries of the world innovating such amazing products and services that we all want to trade, rather than fight, with each other.

However, that is not the typical military response to conventional warfare today.  Instead, the successful response has been to make investment in competition less attractive by raising its cost.  This is a game of threats: Enemies do not expect to profit by attacking because they expect attacks to be met with retribution.  This response doesn’t actually allow others to profit through innovation, but it works because it makes competition unprofitable.

Most people are not natural negotiators, so they are less inclined to base decisions on profit, and they underestimate this cause of conventional warfare.  The naturally institutional, for example, allow institutions to guide their decisions.  Assuming that their enemy thinks likewise, they blame war on institutions.  By revealing that most people do not evaluate institutionally, scientific confirmation of the GRIN model reveals that any institution would be twisted to war.  It shows us that blaming Islam or Communism or Capitalism merely distracts us from the real causes of war.

People who are naturally relational do not think in terms of profit either.  They allow emotional bonds to guide their decisions.  Assuming their enemy does the same, they expect to end warfare by building emotional bonds across borders.  By revealing that most people do not evaluate relationally, the science confirming the GRIN Model shows that such bonds are not sufficient to prevent war.

Emotional bonding or destruction of contrary institutions could prevent war if everyone were forced to evaluate institutionally or relationally, but forcing everyone to think in the same ways would limit GRIN diversity.  We may instinctively believe everyone should think like ourselves, but the GRIN Model demonstrates that all four types are interdependent, such that society benefits from GRIN diversity.  Thus, the confirmation of this model helps us counteract that misleading instinct.

Terrorism

The motive behind terrorism is different from the motive behind conventional warfare.  Terrorism is sustainable only because people are willing to suffer personal loss for the sake of an ideal.  This motive resides in natural gadflies, rather than in natural negotiators.  The moral imperative of gadflies is to rebel against misapplied power, against injustice, hypocrisy, ineptitude, and imperfection.  Rather than aim for wealth and power, or the preservation of an institution, or love, they aim for the possibility of social progress.  Most, if not all, institutions originated through some revolution built on this motive.

Recently, we have called such revolutions “terrorism” because we realize (with terror) that the typical military response to conventional warfare does not mitigate gadflies’ motive to war.  In fact, the game of threats fuels terrorism.  Gadflies are enraged when market leaders use threats to secure their disproportionate shares of the pie.  Then terrorism allows negotiators to compete against market leaders indirectly—when a market leader is taken down by a terrorist, everyone else divvies the spoils—so disadvantaged negotiators compete (without retribution) by fostering an environment which promotes terrorism

Apple (when it was not the market leader) launched an advertising campaign appealing to natural gadflies: “Here’s to the crazy ones.  The misfits.  The rebels.  The troublemakers.  The round pegs in the square holes.  The ones who see things differently.  They’re not fond of rules.  And they have no respect for the status quo.  You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.  About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.  Because they change things.  They push the human race forward.  And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.  Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

It actually is possible for market leaders to prevent natural gadflies from changing the world.  However, not all natural gadflies will give up without a fight, so preventing world change ultimately requires waging a war against terrorism.  Steve Jobs didn’t have to resort to terrorism, but not all gadflies are so fortunate—especially not gadflies in third-world countries dominated by first-world countries.

As with conventional warfare, the naturally institutional and relational misunderstand the motives behind terrorism, and the GRIN model can correct this misconception.  Change is not central to the moral imperatives of non-gadflies, so they see no sense in the claim, “Terrorism is better than no change at all.”  Non-gadflies assume this claim is insincere, uneducated, or insane, so they do not expect to be able to end terrorism by opening alternate avenues for gadflies to explore change.  Scientific confirmation of the GRIN model reveals the fallacy of this assumption

Finally, the End of War!

The most significant application of the GRIN Model is to eliminate the motives for both kinds of war by making successful innovation easier.  Successful innovation requires four activities:

  1. Generation of novelty,
  2. Discerning better innovations from worse,
  3. Sustenance of proven innovations, and
  4. Network localization.

Each GRIN-type specializes in one of these activities.  Thus, innovation will be most successful where GRIN diversity is maintained.  Thus far, the results of experiments which manipulate the composition of design teams have been consistent with this theory.

Societies need all four kinds of people.  A society without gadfly evaluators would be dramatically less able to make paradigm-shifting innovations—it would get stuck in a rut.  A society without relational evaluators would tend to consolidate its power, thus dramatically decreasing the number of potential innovations it could entertain at once.  A society without institutional evaluators would be dramatically less able to retain successful innovations—it would have to keep reinventing the wheel.  A society without negotiator evaluators would be dramatically less able to distinguish good innovations from bad—its facility for innovation would wander aimlessly.

The secret to achieving higher rates of useful innovation is to protect GRIN diversity as one would protect biodiversity in an ecosystem.  At the most basic level, this involves measuring changes in diversity, and counteracting whichever conditions diminish it.  Inevitably, protection of endangered types involves conditions less-favorable for other types, so types naturally conflict, and societies which do not value their diversity tend to become dominated by people of one type who force others “into the closet”.

When facing an enemy which suppresses is own GRIN diversity, the first step may be to educate that enemy about the benefits of GRIN diversity.  Not only does protection of GRIN diversity lead to prosperity, but it is also compassionate and endorsed by enduring institutions.  The second step is to demonstrate ways one can protect GRIN diversity—show how successful techniques of GRIN diversity management have been implemented in your own nation, companies, families, and in those of allies.

The military endgame will have been achieved once we all know that we are (and always will be) interdependent.  That knowledge will lead those in power to empower others.  Competition will be replaced with innovation.  Thus, the ultimate military strategy is to accelerate the rate at which the GRIN model is encountered and tested.  Tactically, that includes research, building consensus among researchers, curriculum development, translation, and distribution.  Militaries already have competence with all of these tactics—it is just a matter of applying those competencies to general understanding of the motives behind war.

This material is cross-posted from the Peace and Collaborative Development Network

Microevaluativism and Macroevaluativism: A Romeo and Juliet tragedy

You’ve heard of microeconomics, which deals at the level of specific transactions (e.g. price-setting), and of macroeconomics, which deals at the level of entire economic systems (e.g. unemployment rate).  Discrimination also operates at the micro- and macro- levels, and tragedy befalls anyone who attempts to address one but not the other.

Romeo, Juliet, and CinderellaThe stories Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet provide classic examples of discrimination operating at these levels.  Romeo is a Montague, but Juliet is a Capulet.  At the macro-level, the Montagues and Capulets are segregated—they don’t have much opportunity to get to know each other, so they have to accept on faith that everyone from the opposing camp is ultimately bad.  However, Romeo and Juliet happen to fall in love.  When they discover each other’s identities, they must deal with discrimination on a micro-level, confronting their personal biases against people of the other kind.  They overcome discrimination at the micro-level, but not at the macro-level, so their love is doomed.

In contrast, Cinderella stories have happy endings (at least in versions following the popularization by Disney).  Again, two lovers come from socially segregated groups—different socioeconomic classes.  That’s the macrodiscrimination.  Again there is a necessary grappling with personal biases when their identities are revealed.  That’s the microdiscrimination.  The difference in the plot of Cinderella stories is that one of the lovers has so much social power that ending their microdiscrimination automatically ends the macrodiscrimination; if the prince will not discriminate against people like Cinderella, then neither can anyone else in the kingdom.

For macrodiscrimination to fall with microdiscrimination seems too good to be true.  They are typically two separate struggles which require separate solutions.  Microdiscrimination typically ends by achieving humility, but humility is achieved one person at a time, while macrodiscrimination is system-wide.  In contrast, macroevaluativism typically ends through institutional reform—for example, the end of macroracism required the abolition of slavery—but institutional reform is not sufficient to end microdiscrimination which continues even subconsciously in certain individual brains.

 

A More Realistic Scenario

For those who intend to overcome evaluativism (i.e. discrimination against people of different kinds of values), it is important to understand the difference between microevaluativism and macroevaluativism, and to appreciate the need to fight on both fronts.  Here’s a realistic modern example: Suppose you teach your daughter that education is valuable, and send her to a nice college where she meets a bright physics student, and they fall in love.  Her lover is a natural gadfly, and develops the opinion that college does not provide very good education—it exists mostly for dogmatic purposes that are wasting his youth—so, in his senior year, he drops out of school (like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg did) to join a start-up company.  His business has a remarkably good start, and the lovers get married.

Then the company hits some bad luck.  It struggles for about ten years before petering out.  Your son-in-law applies for other jobs as a scientist or engineer, but is disqualified because he did not complete his degree.  He applies for jobs unrelated to science, and is able to get some temporary and part-time work, but jobs are designed for particular IQ levels, and employers are reluctant to award full-time positions to anyone mismatched.  He becomes depressed.

The system seems to expect people of his IQ to have certain credentials, but getting the credentials requires much more than just taking an IQ test.  He cannot simply finish his senior year; college students quickly forget most of what they learned in school, so he would need to retake all his prerequisite classes as well.  These complications reinforce his conviction that his education had no educational value, and he cannot stand to subject himself to such hazing all over again, this time with eyes wide open and no scholarship or parental contribution to pay the bill.  He’s the kind of guy to stand against hypocrisy and injustice, not the kind to suffer them.

Your daughter is not naturally a risk-taker, but she overcame her bias against gadflies to fall in love with this man.  Now she is falling out of love.  Managing microevaluativism is an endless job—we say it has been “overcome” when the struggle gets easy, but it is always possible for the struggle to become difficult again.  She previously managed her bias through empathy, but empathizing with someone who is trapped makes her want his release, and it is exhausting to want what she cannot control.  Like most other human beings, your daughter’s brain is designed to stop empathizing when exhausted.  Her marriage has become a trap for her because being herself with her husband impacts her brain in a way that prevents her from being herself.

Your son-in-law doesn’t want to trap anyone, so he projects a front designed to minimize her pain; he enjoys life as much as he can while waiting for his big break to magically arrive.  They don’t talk about his career.  In fact, they don’t talk much at all.  Each has his/her own support-network of friends, and spends more and more time with those friends as things get worse and worse.  He comes home late each night.  They sleep in the same bed, but that’s about all the interaction they have.  It’s better than hurting each other.

You are part of your daughter’s support-network, and like everyone else in both support networks, you are fighting microevaluativism.  You struggle to convince yourself that this guy’s values are not messed-up, that they do not create an impasse, that the evaluative diversity of your daughter and son-in-law is a gift which brings strength to society and to their marriage.  You can make progress at accepting them both in your own heart, and that may help them to accept each other.

However, your son-in-law is also a victim of macroevaluativism, and is dragging your daughter down with him.  To filter job-applicants by educational credentials perpetuates classism—which is the justification for financial aid—but also perpetuates evaluativism against natural gadflies, some of which will rebel against the education system.  To supplement your struggles with microevaluativism, someone needs to address the macroevaluativism by reforming the job-applicant filtering process.

The institutional reform required to make hiring processes non-evaluativist would be as intense as the reform that was required to make the cotton industry non-racist (i.e. to abolish slavery).  It would likely create economic disaster for some businesses, so even just discussing such reform could be threatening to some people.  Most people simply want to reduce the pain—they have no intention to threaten anybody—so they avoided deeply discussing the situations of slaves and now avoid deeply discussing your son-in-law’s career and marriage.  Unlike in the Cinderella story, there is no prince who has the power to reform the system by himself (although someone who employs scientists might be able to bend the rules of the hiring process for your son-in-law, if nepotism is allowed—in that way, all forms of discrimination could be more painful for the poor).

 

What is the solution?

We are fortunate to live in an age in which we can be encouraged by progress already made against various forms of discrimination.  We can be assured that the situation is not hopeless, and can use the history of social progress as a map for future advances.

Macroevaluativism and microevaluativism cause each other.  Social stress causes discrimination to flare-up, which causes more social stress.  The quality of your son-in-law’s relationship with his wife (and with you) depends upon his dignity, which, in turn, depends upon the quality of his relationship with society.

Progress made on microevaluativism will unravel if macroevaluativism is not also addressed.  For this reason, we need large national/international organizations to address various forms of discrimination through institutional reform.  On the other hand, we also need to address microevaluativism because discrimination comes in forms laws cannot punish.  For example, studies have shown that subconscious racism influences clinical decisions, robbing minorities of life-saving prescriptions.  We can see that pattern statistically, and even identify doctors most likely to make racist decisions, but not all of those doctors’ decisions are racist, and we cannot tell which particular prescriptions are inappropriate.  Likewise, if we do not overcome microevaluativism, job applicants will misrepresent their natures, and diverse teammates will not leverage each other’s strengths—no laws can fix these inefficiencies.

It may not be practical for a single advocate to fight on both fronts simultaneously, but that’s OK.  It is appropriate that advocates for interdependency are interdependent.  Don’t consider yourself adequate to address evaluativism alone.  Be part of something larger.

Evaluativism’s Victim: The Relationship to Ageism

Evaluativism is our instinctive irrational frustration with people who have values contrary to our own. It is irrational in the same way it would be irrational for a prosecuting attorney to wish the defense attorney stopped showing up at court. Evaluative diversity makes society more successful on average, which is good for everyone (see Evaluativism 101). Thus, in one sense, evaluativism makes victims of us all.

In another sense, however, evaluativism hurts certain individuals more than it hurts others. It creates conflicts, and certain people lose those conflicts. The people most likely to win–parents, teachers, bosses–are people with privilege. This is where evaluativism aligns with ageism (and perhaps other forms of discrimination).

Variance Components by AgeThe above graph from an article by Peter Hatemi and his colleagues in the July 2009 issue of the Journal of Politics show the results of comparing the political values of identical and fraternal twins separated at birth vs. raised together. Such twin studies tell us whether our values come from our genes, from siblings’ shared environments (e.g. parenting), or from something else. For example, if the values of identical twins are more similar than the values of fraternal twins, then genes must play a significant role. Such studies have been conducted for decades and confirm that genes play a significant role in all human behavioral traits–what’s different about this graph is that it breaks-out the results by age.

The surprise here is that the significance of the role of genes (i.e., the blue bars) varies by age. It plays a minor role until the mid twenties, but becomes the dominant factor by age 50. A similar pattern is found with religious values. The values of identical twins raised apart gradually become more similar as they get older, even if they do not interact with each other.

I asked John Hibbing whether this indicated that younger people are oppressed, and he thought “oppressed” might be too strong a word. Maybe it just takes humans 20-50 years to find themselves. Maybe older people are more stubborn. Maybe society is blessed that many 50-year-olds can remember what it was like to be on the other side of the fence.

On the other hand, we wouldn’t educate our populace by forcing people to experience other races, sexes, and disabilities. Even if society would be better for it, such education would put undue stress on students. Many homosexuals do know what it was like to exhibit a different sexual orientation, but we count that as oppression, rather than as education.

Furthermore, the alignment with genes is low for the old as well as the young. It is awfully suspicious that the pattern so closely matches the ages in which people lack privilege. In fact, Hetami found that alignment of one’s values with one’s genes happens in the early 20’s only for people who leave their parental home. This suggests that the parental home, rather than age, is the trigger–that the parental home provides a kind of brainwashing that temporarily blocks people from discovering their own values.

It turns out that oppression is so rampant that it would be naive not to blame it for this pattern. Shanto Iyengar had 1021 people judge applications for a scholarship. As expected, the result proved that judges have an irrational bias against resumes that included hints of racial minority, but it also proved that they have an even stronger irrational bias against resumes that show hints of an opposing ideology (e.g., President of the Young Republicans).

Through other tests in the study, Iyengar found that this bias is instinctive and more of a hate bias against opponents than an affinity bias towards people with similar values. Young homosexuals are advised not to come-out to their parents until they are financially independent; given that parents, teachers, and bosses instinctively favor children, students and employees who exhibit their own values, it seems equally advisable for the underprivileged to temporarily adopt the values of their oppressors.

As mentioned at the top of this article, evaluativism is irrational. Parents, teachers and bosses who suppress evaluative diversity by discouraging the expression of contrary values handicap their families, companies and nations, thus ultimately shooting themselves in the foot. Ideological opponents are extremely valuable. Causing opponents to temporarily abandon their values is not equivalent to taking years from their lives, but it does greatly diminish their value to society. In that sense, evaluativism is foolish in the same way as slaughtering one’s workforce or killing endangered species.

To compensate for their instinctive evaluativism, authorities should create cultures of appreciation by demonstrating a commitment to learn about evaluative diversity. We should do this for our own sake, but also out of compassion for the underprivileged who are especially victimized. Hatemi’s results appear to exemplify intersectionality–where the intersection of two kinds of discrimination (in this case, evaluativism and ageism) produce a whole new kind of oppression (divergence from genetic predispositions). This should make us ask to see twin studies broken-out by race, class, gender, and sexuality as well.

What makes the intersection with ageism special may be that ageism is so widely experienced. All adults can recall being young, and many would resist subjecting themselves again to the authority of parents, teachers, and bosses. Hatemi’s results further warn that those who enjoy privilege now are likely to lose it in old-age. Evaluativism seems to be something we cannot avoid forever, unless, of course, we address it before we find ourselves on the receiving end.

Our Responsibility to Manage Evaluative Diversity


Published in this month’s Computers & SocietyOur Responsibility to Manage Evaluative Diversity, summarizes Moral Ecology Approaches and the GRINSQ validation study. Responding to Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, it describes the responsibility of the information technology industry to protect evaluative diversity (much like the responsibilities of the energy and manufacturing industries to protect biodiversity).

We all need to be aware of the value of diversity, but certain industries have special responsibility because mass-production can have especially high impact (good, as well as bad) on ecosystems. Massive swathes of decision-making are already designed in bulk by software makers and distributors such as Samsung, Apple, Accenture, Tata, Deloitte, Foxconn, HP, IBM,  Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Dell, Oracle, PWC, Yahoo, Baidu, KPMG, Ernst & Young, SAP, Wikimedia, Symantec, eBay, Tencent, and Infosys. If  no trusted-third-party monitors specific impacts, these kinds of companies will likely take blame by default. On the other hand, the discovery of social responsibility also provides opportunity to differentiate themselves.

If you cannot access the article from the Computers & Society website, you can find a cached draft here.

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. If you are a leader, start monitoring the GRIN-dynamics of your team to protect against sudden degradation.
  3. If you as a social organizer, host a musical-chairs party or an interdependent meal.
  4. If you are a researcher, consider refining the GRIN model, contributing to post-publication peer-review, 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).
  5. 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).
  6. Anyone can forward posts on this site (especially the video) to friends using the Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, and email links at the bottom of each post.  Sign up to get new posts by email.

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