The subjectivity of judgement

What do all of these have in common?

  • Valuable
  • Quality
  • Fair/equal/equitable/just versus unfair/inequality/unjust
  • Moral/ethical/right/acceptable versus immoral/unethical/wrong/unacceptable
  • Useful
  • Normal versus abnormal
  • Broken, needs to be repaired, needs to be fixed
  • Pleasing versus disgusting

When’s the last time you found yourself saying something like:

  • I have no idea why someone would buy that, that’s worthless.
  • That chair was really poor quality.
  • I’ve been nothing but pleased with my purchase.
  • That’s not fair.
  • She got what she deserves.
  • That’s simply unacceptable.
  • That’s not normal.
  • It’s broken and we need to fix it.

None of these concepts exist in a vacuum. These are all subjective judgments that individuals make.

  • What’s valuable to me is worthless to many people.
  • The characteristics that imbue high quality to me are irrelevant to many people.
  • What I perceive as fair and unfair, some people agree, some perceive the opposite.
  • What I perceive as acceptable and unacceptable, again, some people agree, some perceive the opposite.
  • What’s normal to me, is abnormal to someone else.
  • What seems broken to me, is perfectly fine to someone else.

Our brain is wired to think others see the world as we see it. That can cause a lot of trouble, especially when judgement is involved. It can be quite frustrating when we think other people are blind to a grave injustice. It can be quite frustrating when other people don’t fix things that we think are broken. It can be quite frustrating when others propose policies that we perceive as unfair. But the simple reality is that other people haven’t come to the same conclusions.

The only way we can hope to come to agreement in judgement is to align what motivates our individual judgement. Without alignment we’ll never see eye to eye. Even if we align purpose we may still disagree in judgement, but at least we have an objective standard with which to base our assessment and hopefully come to a consensus.

Never take for granted the subjectivity of human judgement. Instead, embrace it and you can benefit from the diversity in perspective.