Evaluative diversity

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Primary sources Template:MEDREF Template:Off-topic Template:COI Template:Discrimination sidebar Evaluative diversity (also known as moral diversity) is the degree to which different decision-makers in a population exhibit preferences for different forms of evaluation. It is not mere diversity among virtues, laws, or measurable goals, but diversity among decision-makers in their proclivities to employ virtues, laws, goals, or something else entirely. In this sense, all decision-making involves evaluation, even if by machines which lack virtue, loyalty or motive; the alternative term "moral diversity" may be rejected to allow for the possibility that some evaluation does not qualify as "moral" (nor as "immoral").[1]

Diversity among decision-makers can be different from diversity among evaluation approaches—a single approach may best be implemented by an evaluatively diverse population.[2][3] Evaluative diversity is important in the field of leadership because its absence may impact the success of families, teams, institutions, businesses, and societies the way absence of biodiversity impacts ecosystems.[4][5] However, unlike race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability, evaluative diversity does not yet enjoy legal protected status.[6]

Relationship to moral relativism and moral uncertainty

Evaluative diversity figures prominently in the philosophical debates of moral realism vs moral relativism. According to moral relativists, we can neither recognize nor reliably converge upon objectively correct answers to moral dilemmas.[7] In contrast, moral realists believe that efforts to behave morally can have real objective basis, that we can make both mistakes and progress.[8]

If realist efforts to resolve moral disagreement result in evaluative discrimination, compassion may compel one to accept relativism instead.[9] The more commonly cited inference from disagreement to relativism, however, is the abductive argument that relativism is the best known explanation for observations of disagreement.[10][11] For example, the best explanation for why people drive on different sides of the road in different countries may be that neither side is objectively better than the other.

The abductive argument is valid only so far as disagreements are random, however.[12] For example, rather than infer that we cannot discern objective facts about guilt in criminal cases, a better explanation for the inevitable disagreement between lawyers in a courtroom is that disagreement is fundamental to the way courtrooms discover objective truth about guilt. Such disagreement would not qualify as the kind moral relativism assumes.[7] Evidence that evaluative diversity has consistent structure (i.e. that disagreement is mere opposition among components of a larger system of discernment) flips the conclusion of the abduction, making observed diversity evidence of an objective reality which inspires that consistency.[9] Each party in the disagreement, however, then faces the problem of moral uncertainty: What should they do to ensure that their evaluative diversity combines in the optimal way?[13]

Evaluative types in moral theory

Types of normative ethics correspond to types of evaluator. Consequentialism involves evaluating potential actions on the basis of expected consequences,[14] while deontological ethics involves evaluating them on the basis of accordance with objective rules,[15] virtue ethics, ethics of care, and role ethics involve evaluating them on the basis of accordance with subjective rules,[16][17][18] and pragmatic ethics involves evaluating them on the basis of potential to facilitate social progress.[19]


A wide range of measurement techniques have been used to show that decision-makers, especially humans, have diverse evaluative styles:

Measurement technique Styles distinguished
Consequentialism Virtue ethics/ ethics of care/ role ethics Deontological ethics Pragmatic ethics
Behavioral measures
The Milgram experiment Manipulable Not Manipulable
The Masserman monkey experiment Indifferent Empathic
The public goods game Free Rider Punisher
Interview techniques
Kohlberg's stages of moral development Pre-conventional Stage 3 Stage 4 Post-conventional
Moral personalities Caring Brave Deliberative
Survey instruments
The Big Five: Agreeableness Competitive Trusting
The Big Five: Openness Curious
The Defining Issues Test (DIT) Low development High development
The Moral Judgment Test (MJT) Inconsistent
The Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ) Care Authority/ sanctity
The Moral DNA Instrument Obedience Care Reason
GRINSQ Negotiator Relational Institutional Gadfly
Neurological measures
Structural fMRI ??? ??? ??? ???
Resting state fMRI Various Various ??? Various
Genetic measures
Twin studies Competitive Trusting Conservative Liberal
Algorithm analysis
Wallach & Allen Consequentialist Bottom-up Deontological Bottom-up
GRIN Negotiator Relational Institutional Gadfly
Social impact measures
Public goods game Teamwork
Macroeconomics Economic growth
Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory Individualism Power distance/ uncertainty avoidance
Organizational Culture Profile (OCP) Performance orientation/ emphasis on rewards/ competitiveness Supportiveness Social responsibility/ stability Innovation
Schematic of the Milgram experiment
Experimenter (E) and Accomplice (A) determining whether Subject (S) is one of the 61-66% who can be manipulated through the Milgram scenario into killing an innocent stranger...


Some experiments are designed to make subjects behave immorally. For example, the Milgram experiment is designed to manipulate subjects into trying to deliver a lethal electrical shock to an innocent stranger.[20] Repetitions of this experiment consistently show that 61-66% of people can be manipulated through this situation,[21][22] thus allowing categorization of people into two types: those who can be manipulated vs. those who cannot. A similar experiment in rhesus monkeys was published in the following year. Fifteen monkeys were trained to get food by pulling one of two chains. The experimenters then added a “bystander” monkey visible through a one-way mirror which received an electric shock whenever the first chain was pulled. Ten of the monkeys developed a preference for the non-shock chain, one starved itself for five days, and another for twelve, thus dividing the monkeys into at least two evaluative types. [23]

In the public goods game with punishment, an experimentor observes subjects playing a game in which they can choose to contribute to an investment that will benefit them all and they can choose to invest in punishing other players who choose not to contribute. The experiment finds that some people consistently do not contribute to investment unless punished (free riders), and some people consistently punish those who do not contribute.[24] This divides people into three types.

Kohlberg's six stages
The field of moral psychology has advanced several paradigms, including a developmental approach...

Interview techniques

Since at least 1894, psychologists have been publishing categorizations of the way people describe the ways they evaluate, especially attempting to distinguish adults from children in terms of their judgment, but the existence of more than two evaluative types made it difficult to model evaluative diversity as similar to IQ.[25] Lawrence Kohlberg addressed that difficulty in 1963 by modeling evaluative diversity as reflecting a series of developmental stages (a la Jean Piaget). Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development are:[26] 1. Obedience and punishment orientation, 2. Self-interest orientation, 3. Interpersonal accord and conformity, 4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation, 5. Social contract orientation, and 6. Universal ethical principles.

Stages 1 and 2 are combined into a single category labeled "pre-conventional" because there is little empirical evidence that they are distinct, and stages 5 and 6 are combined into a single category labeled "post-conventional" for the same reason. Psychologists can consistently categorize subjects into the resulting four types using the "Moral Judgement Interview" which asks subjects why they endorse the answers they do to a standard set of moral dilemmas.[27] Subjects consistently give reasons which interviewers recognize from one of the four categories.

Rather than confirm the existence of a single highest stage, Larry Walker's cluster analysis of a wide variety of interview and survey variables for moral exemplars found three types: The "caring" or "communal" cluster was strongly relational and generative, the "deliberative" cluster had sophisticated epistemic and moral reasoning, and the "brave" or "ordinary" cluster was less distinguished by personality.[28]

Survey instruments

Between 1910 and 1930, in the United States and Europe, several morality tests were developed to classify subjects as fit or unfit to make moral judgments.[25][29] Test-takers would classify or rank standardized lists of personality traits, hypothetical actions, or pictures of hypothetical scenes. As early as 1926, catalogs of personality tests included sections specifically for morality tests, though critics persuasively argued that they merely measured awareness of social expectations.[30]

The Agreeableness and Openness dimensions of Big Five personality scales (developed from 1963-1985) are measures of evaluative preference. The two extremes of agreeableness are competitive (which requires comparative forms of evaluation) vs. trusting (which facilitates social forms of evaluation). The two extremes of openness are conventional (which implies evaluation based on coherence with norms) vs. curious (which facilitates innovative forms of evaluation). Big Five scales have been studied at great length, so these two dimensions offer strong linkage between research about evaluative diversity and other areas of psychology.[31]

Meanwhile, Kohlberg inspired a new wave of morality tests. The Defining Issues Test (DIT) scores relative preference for post-conventional justifications.[32] and the Moral Judgment Test (MJT) scores consistency of one's preferred justifications.[33] Both treat evaluative ability as similar to IQ (hence the single score), allowing categorization by high score vs. low score.

The Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ) is based on moral intuitions consistent across cultures: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation (liberty/oppression may be added). The focus on pre-conscious intuitions contrasts with Kohlberg's focus on post-conscious justifications, although the questions do ask respondents to rate what they consider morally relevant post-consciously (i.e. this is not a behavioral measure). The purpose of the questionnaire is to measure the degree to which people rely upon different sets of moral intuitions (which may coexist), rather than to categorize decision-makers, but the first two foundations cluster together with liberal political orientation and the latter three cluster with conservative political orientation. Thus, this survey allows categorization of people into a plurality which may reflect evaluative types more accurately than does political orientation by itself. [34][35]

The Moral DNA survey by Roger Steare asks respondents to rank their virtues, then divides respondents by three virtue clusters: obedience, care, and reason. The survey was developed for use in business settings, especially to raise awareness of ways perceived workplace discrimination diminishes effective evaluative diversity.[36] The GRIN Self-Quiz (GRINSQ) is based on the gadfly, relational, institutional, and negotiator algorithm types, but also demonstrates significant statistical relationships with agreeableness, openness, the MFQ, religion, political orientation, occupation, and identification with sports, romance, and accusation. Like a species classifier, it also classifies some respondents as "unidentifiable," which may help to discover new evaluative orientations.[9][37] To facilitate sensitivity to evaluative diversity, the GRINSQ was released into the public domain and made available online with automated anonymous scoring.[38]

MRI image highlighting anterior cingulate cortex
Certain features of brain scans have been found to predict evaluative preference...


A 2005 twin study by Alford, Funk, and Hibbing found that genetic factors accounted for 53% of the variance of an overall score of conservative attitudes based on 28 different political issues such as capitalism, unions, X-rated movies, abortion, school prayer, divorce, property taxes, and the draft.[39] Numerous other studies conclude that genetic factors account for 33-51% of variance in the agreeableness dimension of the big five.[40] These findings may merely confirm the first law of behavior genetics: "All human behavioral traits are heritable."[41] Larger sample sizes will be needed to identify particular genes involved, and thus permit DNA tests to contribute to identification of evaluative preferences.[42][43]


Consistent with behavioral geneticists' consensus about the heritability of evaluative orientations, a number of structural fMRI studies have found significant relationships between features of brain scans vs. self-reported political orientation, personality, and answers to the Moral Foundations Questionnaire.[44][45][46] Political party choice was correctly predicted 82.9% of the time based on neurological measures alone.[47][48] Such work demonstrates that brain morphometry could contribute significantly to measurement of evaluative diversity, but interpretation of which specific brain structures are involved in which ways is currently controversial due to lack of accepted methodological standards.[49][50]

Analyzing resting state fMRI scans, Adelstein et al. found significant correlations between each of the Big Five and Resting-State Functional Connectivity (RSFC) between various brain structures and nine seed coordinates in the anterior cingulate cortex and precuneus. Openness correlated with RSFC to coordinates in the left lingual gyrus, left and right middle temporal gyrus and other structures largely associated with the default mode network. Agreeableness correlated with RSFC to coordinates in the right precentral gyrus and other brain structures, and non-agreeableness correlated with RSFC to coordinates in the left and right medial frontal gyrus and other structures.[51]

Algorithm analysis

Schematic of supervised machine learning
Evaluative preferences can be defined in terms of algorithm types, such as machine learning. Machine learning converges towards a hypothesis/behavior which maximizes a performance measure...

In Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong, Wallach & Allen divided machines into three types, based on how they conduct evaluation. Bottom-up machines make judgments unpredictable to their programmers (e.g. evolving software). All other machines (top-down) were divided into deontological machines (which can be relied upon to implement programmed rules) vs. consequentialist (which can be relied upon to maximize a programmed measure). A standard calculator would be an example of a deontological machine, while machine learning for trading stocks would be an example of a consequentialist machine.[52]

The GRIN model developed by Christopher Santos-Lang renamed deontological and consequentialist machines "institutional" and "negotiator" respectively to avoid implying that all deontological and consequentialist theories of ethics can be implemented in machines, and split the bottom-up category into "gadfly" (which are unpredictable because they use randomness generators) vs. "relational" (which are unpredictable because of network effects).[1] A mutator in evolutionary computation would be an example of a gadfly, while a class 3 or 4 cellular automaton would be an example of a relational machine. Santos-Lang noted that machines often have subcomponents of other types. For example, a stock trading negotiator may implement a genetic algorithm, and thus contain gadfly mutators, and mutators may in turn have institutional and relational subcomponents.

Social impact

World map of GDP
Changes in a country's evaluative diversity mix impact its Gross Domestic Product (GDP)...

Much as one can indirectly detect shifts in biodiversity based on impacted variables, such as carbon dioxide levels and pH, a number of experiments have identified indirect measures of effective evaluative diversity.

Hofstede's cultural profile for the United States
Geert Hofstede has been monitoring indicators of evaluative diversity by nation since the 1970s...

One result of the public goods game experiment is that teams fail to collaborate when there are no punishers, or when punishers are not permitted act as punishers.[24] Thus, measures of collaboration indirectly indicate evaluative diversity which includes punishers' preferred form of evaluation.

Recent increases in GDP in China, India, and the United States have been attributed to programs designed to nurture and support innovators. Thus measures of economic performance may indirectly indicate evaluative diversity which includes their preferred form of evaluation. [53] [54] [55] [56][57]

Measures of organizational culture (or "national culture") are often impacted by evaluative diversity as well. For example, the "individualism" measure in Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory indicates the degree to which evaluation is collective vs. individual, and "uncertainty avoidance" indicates the degree to which evaluation is conducted through comparison to established norms.[58] The "performance orientation", "emphasis on rewards", "competitiveness", "supportiveness", "social responsibility", "stability", and "innovation" measures of the Organizational Culture Profile (OCP) likewise indicate the degree to which the organization supports goal-oriented, empthy-oriented, norm-oriented, and novelty-oriented forms of evaluation.[59]


In Unto Others: the Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (1998), Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson demonstrated that evaluative diversity could evolve through group selection. In particular, they dismantled the idea that natural selection will favor a homogeneous population in which all creatures care only about their own personal welfare and/or behave only in ways which advance their own personal reproduction.[60] Tim Dean has advanced the more general claim that moral diversity would evolve through frequency-dependent selection because each moral approach is vulnerable to a different set of situations which threatened our ancestors.[61] This is similar to the claim that diversity of blood-type evolved as a hedge against diverse diseases. The need for various modern teams to be competitive, supportive, stable, and/or innovative suggests that conditions which favor evolution of evaluative diversity persist today, and therefore that loss of evaluative diversity would handicap society.

The intelligent design account of the origins of evaluative diversity is attributed to Saint Paul who claimed that God gave each of us different gifts (and, consequentially, different lack of gifts) so that our ability to mature would depend upon collaborating like parts of a body.[62] In other words, to promote love between us, God designed us to be individually incomplete in complementary ways. In claiming that our differing gifts empower us to mature towards correct evaluation, Paul warned that homogeneous populations are susceptible to evaluative misinformation.[63] Similarly, according to the genesis story documented by Moses, God chose to create diversity among humans to promote our social nature.[64] That this diversity included evaluative differences is implied by Adam's intimation that he would not have eaten the forbidden fruit if left to his individual judgment.[65]

Famous arguments

A variety of arguments have been made against the various forms of evaluation. The prevalence of these arguments is evidence of the importance of their distinctions. Furthermore, the arguments together entail that each form is flawed such that no single form can obsolesce all others.[1]

Fresco by Johann Michael Rottmayr
In many cultures are warnings that good evaluation must come from something greater than oneself...

Against individualism

Evaluative processes can be grouped into individual vs. collective. While it may be impossible for individuals to completely reject individualism, it is often criticized on the basis that morality must come from something greater than oneself (e.g. from God or evolution). The arguments often state either that individuals lack the ability to predict or control consequences or that reliance on one's own relational virtue yields vice (e.g. love yields favoritism). The first form the argument (a.k.a. Black Swan Theory), was articulated mathematically in Pascal's Wager,[66] and finds rigorous empirical justification in evidence for Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and the Butterfly Effect which together entail limits on the viability of consequentialist approaches.[67][68] The second form of the argument has been confirmed in experiments by Paul Slovic where empathic decision-making was shown to reduce social welfare.[69] These arguments apply as much to machines as to other kinds of decision-makers, but their most compelling articulations may have been in major world religions and philosophies:

Form 1: Depending upon venue, debate may cite one or more of the following time-tested authorities to argue that we lack the power as individuals to do what should be done: Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote

Form 2: Debate may cite one or more of the following time-tested authorities to argue that we lack the virtue to be good individually: Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote

Both forms: Template:Quote

File:Statue of Lady Justice in Frankfurt.jpg
Many cultures have warned that reason-based evaluation fails...

Against reason

Evaluative processes can be grouped by their loyalty to faith vs. reason. While it may be unreasonable to completely reject reason, reason-based approaches are often criticized on the basis that reasoning faculties cannot be perfected. Godel’s incompleteness theorem demonstrates that some truths will always escape proof simply because of the nature of reason itself.[70] Other varieties of the argument highlight problems of language (e.g. words mean different things to different people), or inability to recognize errors in one's own moral reasoning.[71] Scientists have confirmed that humans face this latter problem.[72] The general argument applies as much to machines as to other kinds of decision-makers, but its most compelling articulations may have been in major world religions and philosophies:

Variety 2: In addition to citing modern philosophers of language, debate may cite the following time-tested authorities to argue that language undermines our moral reasoning: Template:Quote Template:Quote

Variety 3: Depending upon venue, debate may cite one or more of the following time-tested authorities to argue that inability to recognize errors undermines our moral reasoning: Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote

Multiple/Neither: Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote

Statue of Buddha
Many cultures have honored prophets who reject social norms...

Social innovation

Evaluative processes can be grouped by whether they involve implementing inherited norms vs. reforming them. While it may be absurd to completely reject inheritance of norms, it is commonly argued that reformers can improve inherited norms either because perfect norms have yet to be introduced or because norms have degraded. Evidence for this argument comes from history of social change[73] and from measures of innovation's economic impact.[74][75]

Depending upon venue, debate may cite one or more of the following time-tested authorities to argue that one should attempt to serve as a "prophet," endorsing changes to inherited norms: Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote

Pieter Bruegel's depiction of Greed
Many cultures have warned that attempts to maximize good things eventually result in corruption...

Against measurement

Evaluative processes which attempt to advance along measurable scales are often criticized on the basis that they predictably backfire by escalating competition and desire. In the words of the movie War Games, “The only winning move is not to play.” Escalating desire, known as hedonic adaptation, and escalating competition have both been confirmed empirically.[76][77][78][79] The argument against such forms of evaluation applies as much to machines as to other kinds of decision-makers, but its most compelling articulations may have been in major world religions and philosophies:

Form 1: Depending upon venue, debate may cite one or more of the following time-tested authorities to argue that escalating desire causes attempts to advance along measurable scales to backfire: Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote

Form 2: Depending upon venue, debate may cite one or more of the following time-tested authorities to argue that escalating competition causes attempts to advance along measurable scales to backfire: Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote

Both/Other: Template:Quote

The Hammurabi code
Why do time-tested rule sets undermine their own objectivity?

Rules against rule-following

Legalistic evaluative processes, based on obedience of time-tested rules, are often challenged by rules which demand engagement in subjective, emotional, inconsistent pursuits defying the objective standards of rule-following. The mandate for exploration in science, for example, requires evaluation "beyond the rules."[80][81]

Depending upon venue, debate may cite one or more of the following time-tested authorities to argue that the best evaluation goes "beyond rules": Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote

WWJD bracelet
Would Jesus wear a What would Jesus do bracelet?

Imitating non-imitators

Evaluative processes based on imitation of virtuous role-models are often challenged by role-models who do not imitate other role-models, who violate the conventions of relationship, or who for other reasons cannot be imitated in practice. Such models of virtue apply as much to machines as to other kinds of decision-makers, but the most compelling examples may have been in major world religions and philosophies: Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote Template:Quote

"Evaluative diversity" vs. "moral diversity"

Some scholars reserve the label "moral" for a special class of decisions, implying that not all evaluation is moral. For example, Sober and Wilson have suggested that there is nothing moral about not pricking one's toes with a pin if one prefers not to prick one's toes with a pin; when following one's natural proclivity no moral codes/conventions are required.[82] Taking perhaps the opposite stance, Elliot Turiel distinguishes morals from pure conventions. For example, the decision to drive on the right-hand side of the road lacks the moral content of a decision to share food with the hungry.[83] Furthermore, while it is uncontroversial that one could identify the evaluative orientations of decision-making machines, it could be controversial to claim that all such machines are moral agents.[1]

Evaluative discrimination and closeting

Many people are able to exhibit a range of evaluative orientations, much as they can pretend to prefer a different sexual orientation. As Mitch Kapor put it,

Closetted woman
Insensitivity can "closet" evaluative minorities, forcing them to endure uncomfortable brain states...


Some forms of discrimination (perhaps unintentionally) inhibit the action of specific neurochemicals which the brain would otherwise use to exercise its preferred form of evaluation. As examples, the human brain uses dopamine and oxytocin in reward-focused and empathic evaluation, respectively, and certain kinds of social pressure can inhibit the action of these chemicals, thus forcing people to evaluate in other ways.[84][85] It is not yet known what portion of his/her life the average person spends evaluatively "in the closet," but the fact that evaluative diversity was not formally recognized as early as diversity of sexual orientation implies that evaluative discrimination historically exceeded heterosexism and may be more institutionalized. As examples, jobs designed to require originality, emotional labor, obedience, or attempts to maximize a measurable variable (e.g. profit) discriminate against employees who do not prefer the associated kind of evaluation.[37] On the other hand, evaluative discrimination is sometimes documented via studies of bias against particular evaluative types (e.g. against creativity).[86]

As with many other forms of discrimination, people face a tendency to segregate based on evaluative orientation. An 18-year study of engineering design teams at Stanford University found that graduate students tend to segregate during team selection, and that use of personality quotas to diversify team-composition yielded twice as many design prizes.[87] Meanwhile, other studies have confirmed that people are more inclined to migrate away from neighborhoods not dominated by their own evaluative orientation (measured against a two-type conservative/liberal model),[88] which may explain why the portion of Americans who reside in "landslide counties" (i.e. winning elections by greater than a 20% margin) has increased by 25% over the last 30 years.[89] How polarized we should be remains controversial; Jonathan Haidt has shown that, at least under the social climate which prevailed during his research, casual and intimate interaction among college students is more likely to be stunted by evaluative diversity than by demographic diversity (e.g. of race or religion) so that efforts to fight evaluative segregation could ironically discriminate against people who prefer to evaluate via norms.[90]

There are currently no laws prohibiting evaluative discrimination, and its prevalence may present a substantial obstacle to implementation of any such law. Until this gap in our legal framework is filled, psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen has endorsed use of mental-health definitions to extend the designation "disability" to evaluative minorities whom society cannot closet (e.g. people not wired for empathy).[91] Such designation has been used both in workplace-discrimination suits[92] and recruitment quotas.[93]

See also


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