This is part 4 of a 5 part essay. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Valuation of Self and Others
The valuation of self is closely tied to self-awareness. One could argue that there are two extreme cases that illustrate the spectrum on which humans exist. The neurotic on one hand has an extremely depressed view of his own value, as a result of being very critical of self, whereas the narcissist has an extremely optimistic view of their own value as a result of poor self-awareness. In both cases, the person is inaccurate in their self-valuation, and suffers consequences due to this factor.
Neurotics minimize their strengths and magnify their weaknesses in their own internal perception of self. This can lead to two broad spheres of results, on one hand one has the neurotic person who achieves great success as a result of constantly improving self, and seeking better results. On the other hand one has those neurotics that view their weaknesses as too great to overcome and as a result do not work to improve themselves. In the first of these situations, the neurotic can often become a high achiever, whereas in the latter they often fail to achieve at all. The former type of neurotic often has a large gap between their perceived value and their objective value, while the inverse is true of the latter.
Narcissists maximize their strengths and are to varying degrees ignorant of their weaknesses. This can also lead to two broad spheres of results. The narcissist that is also a high achiever and as a result of this has a smaller gap between their self-perceived value and their objective value. On the other hand the narcissist that is a non-achiever, and has a large gap between their self-perceived value and their objective value.
A common observation in the valuation of self is to what one is comparing. A person in isolation can be valued differently, than a person who is valued in contrast to another. This is similar in part to how a company has a stand-alone valuation, and a benchmark valuation, the latter being when the company’s metrics are compared with that of other comparable companies. The latter is also vulnerable to the contrast effect, where a person is viewed as more or as less due to the stature of another person or another group.
When valuing others the factors that affect valuations are much the same, except that one is working from much less information. One can compare this to “insider buys” in a stock market, where someone in an advantageous position within a company, such as a member of the executive team, or the board buys shares in the open market. This is often viewed as a positive signal to the market as it means someone with a greater degree of knowledge of the company views this time as a good time to buy. When we value ourselves, we have access to every single piece of data, when we value others we have much less.
The psychological system 1 and system 2 factors outlined by Daniel Kahneman, where one can often make rapid valuations based on available visual characteristics, that have a greater margin of error than the same valuation conducted through system 2. A ready observation of pedestalization for instance, is that such valuations have been conducted in a system 1 fashion, with little attention being paid to identify the underlying axioms and premises of such a valuation.
The characteristic of system 1 is that it trades speed for accuracy, much in the same manner that shooting from the hip does for firearms. When conducting such a valuation or superficial analysis, one must always be mindful that the probability of error increases at every level of the judgment. Not only do we have access to limited data, we will tend to value what little data we have very highly, but we lack enough to identify a pattern within the observations, our sample size is very small, and we are prone to make rapid decisions. Thus, it follows that our snap-valuations of others will be heavily biased by these factors. When the context factor is added, for instance by the person being put in a position of power, in an environment with a high volume of social proof, or other situation our valuations will increase, if the converse contexts take place, our judgment of their value will be less. Continue reading