Saturday, February 27, 2021

Source of Social Division and Dysfunction: People-Appraisal Judgments and the “True Nature” Myth

A very common psychological phenomenon which I call “people-appraisal” occurs when we make judgments, typically without conscious awareness, about the intrinsic worth and goodness of someone’s true nature. 

This judgmental tendency is a root cause of divisiveness in societies which manifests in problems at many levels in our lives—fractured families, personnel problems in organizations, and inequities that create many other serious issues in across the world today.

There' s consensus in the field of psychology and sociology, that almost everyone in the world wants certain things including to be valued, to feel cared for (loved), and to matter in the world. Everyone also shares the same planet and has an imperfect human body, a fallible human nature, and a perplexing human mind that mystifies science.

Despite these very important similarities, we’ve been told stories our whole lives about ways we’re different from each other. We’re told that this knowledge helps us know the kinds of people to admire and approach, and which ones to dislike and avoid.

The things we learn from these stories form our perceptions, thoughts, and feelings about people. We are taught how to use people-appraisal to judge people by what they have and what they do. These judgments enable us to define not only who they are, but also the essence of what they are.

Judgments like these would be beneficial if they were to promote health, wellbeing, positive outcomes, and an adaptive path to our species’ future. Unfortunately people-appraisal and the stories about them far too often promote social division, failures, harm, and foster unwarranted fears and hostilities. This is a huge problem for individuals, organizations, and humanity as a whole. 

The mindsets people develop about judging the intrinsic worth and goodness of self and others is so fundamental to how human treat each other that I consider this issue one of the most important things for humanity to address, yet it is rarely discussed. Yes, a difficult thing to change, but awareness is the first step, and together I'm optimistic we can help nudge humanity to follow a more adaptive (less self-destructive) path in all aspects of life. 

An overview of people-appraisal is published at this link.

An extensive presentation is my People Appraisal blog