Are our Brains Wired to Make Automatic Judgments about Others?

Have you ever wondered why people discriminate against one another? Why we sometimes feel the need to be superior? And why does this need often manifest as judgment that degrades a certain group of people?

I mean, how many times have you heard someone demeaning or shaming another person for their skin color, hair type, or even their social status? And it doesn’t even stop there.

If you take a walk downtown, you will be put on a pedestal and judged for what you’re wearing, how you’re talking, and maybe even who you are with. It’s crazy to see that some people actually think they have that authority over you.

Let’s try and break it down and see the origin of that mentality.

There is a big difference between discrimination and judgment. Throughout modern history we have seen calls against discrimination in all its forms: from the battles against racism, to social equality movements, and, of course, in recent years, the call for gender equality. These are a lot of social issues that require big reforms in education, social, and human rights. In order to tackle these issues it would require gradual change towards justice. But, the first step is often the most critical; it sets the momentum required for actual social change. That first step in my opinion is raising awareness. Specifically, starting with how we can live in a society that naturally discriminates against one other.

Judgment stems from the notion of good and evil, or right and wrong. When we judge someone, we choose to believe one side of duality is superior to others. Our brains are wired to make automatic judgments about the behaviors of others so that we can move through the world without spending too much time questioning our own morality, sociability or even competence.

Awareness of this natural process is key to changing the way we react to others’ judgments of us, since we are often more alike than different. Judgment of other people is a lie we tell ourselves, to hide our own insecurities. It would be more constructive for us to work to build our own strengths and skills instead of comparing ourselves to others, but that’s a bigger leap to try and achieve on a mass scale. So let’s take it one small step at a time.

What often sets the standards of comparison are cultural conditioning and inherited discrimination. If we as a people come to realize this, we strip it of its power.

Status, color, race, hair, religion, gender, you name it, if you believe one group is better than another then you have been wired to think so through a grand marketing scheme. The way to fight back is language.

When we use judgmental language, our children, friends, coworkers and even strangers will often do the same. We are wired to fight fire with fire instead of water. If we truly want to end this cycle then we need to make sure that our children do not pick up racist, sexist, biased attitudes or judgment of others. Second, and equally important, when they do see this behavior they understand where it’s coming from and fight it through language.

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