Psychology of Judging – What it Reveals about Us

Do we judge? If we do, why do we judge? What is Judging? What’s the psychology behind judging? When we judge, does it reflect others or us? Is there a judgement about judging? Can we make a better choice?

Let us explore.

Do we judge?

Yes, we all do. We are predisposed to this natural tendency. It is part of human nature.

Why do we judge?

Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.

This quote sums it up all. Judging is easy and does not require much thinking or reasoning. Our brains are wired to make automatic judgments about others’ behaviors so that we can move through the world without spending much time or energy in understanding everything we see.

Understanding is harder as it requires deep thinking, patience, compassion and an open mind.

What is Judging?

Human behavior specialist Dr. John Demartini refers to this phenomenon as “self-righteous” and “self-wrongeous” (“The Breakthrough Experience”)

Judging is simply our attempt to create a hierarchy of better than/less than, superior to/inferior to and to define worth to everyone/everything that we deal with. We have the innate urge to be right, to be better, to be superior always. Our binary view of the world around us necessitates us to be either right or wrong; so we tend to Judge.

What’s the psychology behind judging?

There are several theories in Psychology that explain the phenomenon of Judging. Let us have a look at a couple of them:

  • Attribution Theory:

It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you place the blame.

Humans are motivated to assign causes to their actions and behaviors. In social psychology, attribution is the process by which individuals explain the causes of behavior and events. Attributions are thoughts we have about others that help us make sense of why people do the things they do.

As exists Attribution Theory, there exists Attribution biases too (like Fundamental attribution error etc.) More often, the focus is on the behavior, ignoring the situation or the context or the circumstances which lead to that behavior.

  • Projection (Seeing Our Darkness in Others):

Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.

As per Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, “Although our conscious minds are avoiding our own flaws, they still want to deal with them on a deeper level, so we magnify those flaws in others.”

We can only see in others what we have inside ourselves. First, we reject, then we project.

Jung stated the Shadow as the unknown (unconscious) dark side of our personality. According to Jung, the shadow (being instinctive & irrational) is prone to psychological projection; in which a perceived personal inferiority is recognized as a perceived moral deficiency in someone else.

American-British psychologist Raymond Cattell (known for his psychometric research) identified 16 factors or dimensions of personality (the source of all human personality). All of our personalities are actually made up of the same traits; we differ only in the degree to which each trait is expressed. According to Cattell,. People simply express these traits in different ways, at different times, and in different areas of their lives. Some may be dominant and some may be dormant.

When we judge someone for something, we are actually judging ourselves as the very same thing — we just haven’t fully owned or accepted that trait yet (within us).

When we judge, does it reflect others or us?

When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself” (How We Judge Ourselves is How We Judge Others) – The world around us is our mirror.

Judging someone does not define who they are; it defines who we are. More often than not, the things we detest and judge in others are a reflection of the things we cannot accept about ourselves. The yardstick we use for ourselves is the yardstick we use for the world. “The way you measure yourself is how you measure others, and how you assume others measure you.”

If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” What we see in others is quite often what we see in ourselves. And what irritates us in others may be what we don’t like in ourselves.

Is there a judgement about judging?

Judging is relative, our constant comparison or validation of everything that we perceive with what we believe. Our beliefs may have been a function of our own personality traits, our conditioning (at multiple levels like societal, cultural or religious), our own life experiences, etc. So judging is never absolute to others (being judged) from their frame of reference.

So are the people (or their situations) that we judge part of this equation? Certainly not. So how can we measure (judge) something with a yardstick that cannot completely handle what it measures? It cannot be foolproof.

Judging shuts us down and prevents us from understanding the full situation or a new truth that is not known yet.

Can we make a better choice?

Through judging, we separate. Through understanding, we grow.

~Doe Zantamata

While in judging, one gets stuck in a loop; one can evolve by consciously trying to come out of that loop.

  • Be Open: Before we judge, let us seek to understand with an open mind.
  • Be Curious: We can remain in curiosity that there is something about the situation that we may not fully understand.
  • Be empathetic: Let us be empathetic & give the benefit of the doubt to others for their situation or the circumstances (that may not be in our full awareness).
  • Be Self-aware: Practice to be self-aware through self-forgiving, self-acceptance, self-compassion. The more we understand ourselves, we can understand others. Knowing our tendencies will help us assess fairly, patiently, compassionately.

It’s unwise to say “stop judging others” — as all our attempts against (our innate) human nature may go in vain (as it’s not as straightforward as it appears). Instead, we can learn to become more ‘self-aware’ when we ‘judge’, and through that awareness move on to learn more interesting thought patterns. We can also be more appreciative and compassionate of the world around us for what-it-is (than trying to fit it into our optics).

Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

~Ian MacLaren (aka Rev. John Watson)

PS: Greatly indebted to renowned Psychologists like Carl Jung & others without whom I would not have been able to give a form or shape to my thoughts & life experiences.


Visweswaran Balasubramanian
Visweswaran Balasubramanian
I am Visweswaran, working as a Practice Manager with Oracle Corporation in Bangalore, India. I have done my Post Graduation (PGCHRM) with XLRI, Jamshedpur, and my Engineering with JNTU, Hyderabad (India). I have close to 18 years of IT experience that is diversified in the fields of Technology, Project Management, Talent & Competency Management, Human Resources Management & Program Management (current role). I have been exploring the fields of Philosophy, Psychology and their relatability from the perspective of Science for more than a decade. It’s my inquisitiveness, passion, and a quest for knowledge in learning & exploring, my inherent need to give a form or shape to my existence in synthesizing those learnings with my life experiences; that gives me the fulfillment in realizing my essence & purpose. I view the world around me as a reflection of my altered states of consciousness that enables me to see patterns in everything and to experience the feeling of oneness with the universe.

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