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The Need to Evaluate


Explanations > Needs > The Need to Evaluate

Need | Example | Related to | Discussion |  So what?




We judge and evaluate the world around us, rather than just accepting it as it is.

We cannot help but judge other people, deciding whether what they do is good or bad, clever or stupid, selfish or altruistic, and so on. We also judge ourselves, and often differently to how we judge others. Some people are harsh on themselves, while others easily make excuses for themselves while being quick to assume the mistakes of others are due to personality defects.

We also evaluate non-human things that happen, for example assessing the weather, movement of cars, and so on, comparing what we see with our expectations and so helping to predict the future.


A driver is stopped by a police officer. They evaluate the intention as hostile and judge the police officer as vindictive. This makes them slightly aggressive. The officer judges them as unpleasant and gives them a ticket.

A person meets someone at a party. Within five minutes they have summed them up.

A negotiator notices that the other person is acting as if they are competitive. They act calmly and in a friendly way, and soon change the other person's evaluation, leading them to become more collaborative.

Related to


Part of Related to
Control Status, Win



As we experience and make sense of what happens, we pass our sensations through a number of filters. First we seek patterns to recognize what we sense. Then we do a threat assessment, followed by a check to see if anything useful or of interest is going on. We also evaluate what is happening against values and other rules, to determine whether it is right or wrong, good or bad.

Evaluation let's us decide on an appropriate response. If there is danger, we must react. If there is opportunity, we may choose to act upon it. If there is wrong, we may be outraged. Whatever the situation, to be able to react we must constantly evaluate.

Responses to threat and opportunity vary a great deal with the individual, their perception and the way they tend to react. Responding to wrong is often socially driven, where norms say we should put wrongs right. Reacting to the wrongs of others can cause a dilemma where this would cost us personally or put us in danger. As with other needs conflicts, this leads to a choice where one need is prioritized over others. It is in such decisions that personality comes to the fore, for example in the choice between sustaining a relationship and criticizing a friend.

Judging others is important in determining and creating status. If we decide that others are inferior, we get a sense of increased status. This is boosted further if others agree, which is a key reason why people gossip about one another, often in a highly evaluative way. When I persuade other people that you are inferior, then they will afford me higher status, both in relation to you and also for my skill at evaluation.

So what?

Watch the evaluations that you are making, especially about yourself and about other people. Think about why you are doing this and how you could change this to your greater benefit. Those who are less judgemental often find it easier to get on with others and so have more friends.

In persuading, guide the evaluations of others. This is a key part of selling, where the sales person helps the customer evaluate products. A reason this works is asymmetrical knowledge, where the sales person has superior knowledge and consequently take the part of the helpful consultant, advising on which product to buy (with the assumption that at least one product will be bought).

When you judge others, they often know this and may push away from you if they disagree or feel you are lowering their status. This is important for teachers who can become more effective by making positive evaluations that encourage their students to collaborate and learn.

See also

Values, Theories about decision-making, Coping Mechanisms

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