ethics, judgment, perception

Pitfalls of the Judgmental.

The judgment we confer on people governs our treatment toward them. Being judgmental says more about the judge than the judged.

If we judge someone as kind, we instinctively respond kindly; in the same vein, if we judge someone to be mean then we react in either an indifferent or a negative way.

In order to understand ourselves, we must attempt to know what do we comprise of. Please bear with me gentle Reader, I assure you, I will return to the main point once we cover a few technicalities.

If you are still with me, let’s begin.

Apart from our physical self, we also have what we call the soul or the inner self. In technical terms, we refer to it as the ‘Psyche’. Human curiosity has pursued the investigation of both body and soul through centuries over numerous civilisations.

It has led us to mind-blowing explanations of what our biological and psychological matter is made of. To watch the smallest unit of life breath under a microscope is truly humbling. A feat impossible to accomplish with my eyes alone.

Through the ages, almost all the civilisations, have toyed with the subjects concerning our brain. Disciplines such as psychology and neuroscience have been employed to fathom the intricacy of the brain in general and human brain in particular.

The development of the brain marked our evolution from an animal to a higher animal. It transformed society (from hunter-gatherer to agricultural), invented technology (like the wheel) and even evolved our body (our thumb).

Luigi Galvani. Lithograph. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Luigi Galvani, during the 18th century, accidentally discovered bioelectromagnetics when an electric spark made a dead frog’s leg twitch. Bioelectromagnetism is the study of the interaction between electromagnetic fields and biological entities.

The nerve cells, unlike any other cells, are like wires made of organic matter instead of metal, and we have a working model of a simulated brain in Indiana under Prof. Larry Yaeger.

To understand our brain, neuro-physicist Dr John Beggs and Prof. Yaeger took two opposite approaches. Dr Beggs builds neuron clusters from scratch and Prof. Yaeger writes software simulations that model behaviour and the evolution of brains.

He observed that every neuron is tied to a polygonal creature, this creature though is dependent on its environment can also interact with other polygonal creatures in the neural circuit.


Let’s take Lego for example. One brick is a polygonal structure and the tiny bumps which are called studs in Lego are the neurons. The neurons make up the brick however, the brick can interact with several other bricks and hence several other neurons.


Our Lego structure depends on the kind of bricks we choose and how we connect them. It is also important to note that the number of bricks will determine what we eventually make as a coherent whole.

How does this apply to Judgment-making?

Imagine the following two scenarios:

  1. At the park, we observe a woman wiping the bench clean before taking a seat. If we know someone who shares that habit, we instinctively smile. If we don’t then we may find her rather eccentric, hence we may avoid eye contact. Let’s say, we observe her a while longer and find that the morning dew had dampened the bench and that’s probably why she wiped it; the smile of familiarity now might fade, similarly, her eccentricity will transfigure into her rationality and we no longer would feel afraid of her.
  2.  At the same park, we notice a man drop a piece of paper. If we think he littered on purpose then we might cuss under our breath and act indifferent or we may interpret it as a mistake and draw his attention to it. Let’s say, he admits that he meant to litter, we may not feel very optimistic about him. Let’s say, he tells us that the paper contains the details of his divorce, now we may almost feel pity for him and forgive his indecency. And then he tells us that he is glad the paper came through, he can’t wait to marry whom he loves. At this point, I would not know how to react, but I am sure most would say congratulations.

We make connections in our own minds based on what we see, no matter how limited that might be.

The bricks of Lego are our observations and dispositions. We noticed the woman cleaning the bench, that is the first brick, we connect it to a memory of a person who shares that quirk, second brick. We smile – our response to our stimuli. This is our Lego structure so far.

We further observe the dew on the bench, third brick; we deduce that the quirk was a rational decision, fourth brick. We now remove the second brick and connect the rest, if we are sympathetic toward rationality because we share or at least appreciate it, fifth brick.

If we dislike people who are concerned with trifles because someone we know has bothered us with it, sixth brick, then we may continue being indifferent. The memory of our experience and the consequences of it may even encourage us to let our feelings be known, which is the Lego structure in this case.

Even though she simply wiped her bench, we still drew so many conclusions. We made the structure based on the bricks present in our minds; those polygonal structures, interacted with each other and we put our hard hats on.


The second scenario also demonstrates that our understanding of civic sense may dispose us to believe that his act of littering was immoral. Upon further investigation, we may find that he has received devastating news.  Further still, we may find that this dude is extremely cool about what is considered one of the greatest tragedies of life. That may fill us with pride or pity, depending on what our experience with divorce or love is like.

By the way, did you notice that we no longer care about the litter?

The more you know, the more you don’t.

With every new piece of information, our brain perceives different things. So to judge someone by just one incident is impractical. We haven’t considered the other factors that led to that incident; a simple drop in temperature can change our perception of things.

The world as we see it is not entirely accurate, ask anyone who wears glasses. We see the world in HD only with our glasses, without them it is all blurry; not that we don’t like blurry but it’s different and that’s the point. I shouldn’t be behind the wheel without my glasses, it won’t end well.

The more information or Lego bricks we receive, the clearer the picture gets. If the scientists were to stop at organs, we wouldn’t have known what a gene looked like, let alone its functions.

I was once told that the biggest room in the world is that of improvement. Nothing we perceive is completely true. There is a lot that needs investigation. Every atom of the universe is connected in the same way as our actions.

A tree has roots as well as branches and each part is critical. The root interacts with the nutrients in the earth, while the branches with the elements of the air. The hairs on the root absorb water and the leaves absorb sunlight. One tree is indirectly related to all four classical elements of the universe: Earth, Air, Water and Fire; and directly related to everything in it, us included.

Judge the sin, not the sinner.

Not one object or entity exists in our world in complete isolation. Then isn’t judging someone over a few days or even years an unfair response? The aphorism, ‘The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge’, can be boiled down to one word, snobbery.

Watch Alain De Botton explain the consequences of snobbery:



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