Internalizing evaluations

Having submitted my Executive Summary for the Penn/Milken business plan contest yesterday, I've moved on to the designing the system architecture I proposed. This morning I've been focused on the ways the contributions of participants get evaluated. One facet of that process I'm modeling explores where we take an evaluation when we internalize it. It's not lost on me that I'm using a spatial metaphor that's very amenable to exploring in a virtual immersive environment. Here's the framework I developed for visualizing the places in our psyche that we take evaluations that we receive from others:

When others tell us how well we worked in process (formative assessments) or how our final outcome rates (summative assessment), we've suddenly got a lot on our plate. First we need to discern if we understand what we are being told. Then we may determine whether we accept the feedback or not. We may then notice how we feel about it, whether it agrees with our own evaluation and how we might put the imposed feedback to good use. All those considerations influence our rejection or internalization of the evaluation.

If we choose (usually unconsciously) to let the evaluation in, there are four places we can go with it:
  1. Upgrading our hindsight - If the evaluation yields a constructive effect, we can review some of our past incidents with a new frame of reference. We can begin to take more responsibility, admit our own mistakes and stop blaming others as much.We can learn from the past to make better predictions about the future and foresee better ways to react next time if presented with a similar challenge. However, if the evaluation produces a destructive effect on us internally, we will fortify our defensive rationalizations, blame others with more conviction, and refuse to admit our own mistakes. We will make the same old predictions, react routinely and suffer the same consequences of our mistaken outlook.
  2. Making better progress - With a constructive effect, we can use what we've been told about our process and/or results to take different approaches. We can realize how to be more efficient, discerning, clever or productive. We can suddenly see how we were getting in our own way, making things more difficult for ourselves or passing up valuable shortcuts. With a destructive effect however, we will second guess ourselves, doubt our abilities and hesitate to take any risks. We will become less efficient, observant, ingenious and productive. We will get in our own way and make things more difficult for ourselves.
  3. Expanding our horizons - If the effect on us is constructive, we can utilize the evaluation to understand where other people are coming from, to relate to their outlooks and value different lenses for looking at the same situation. Our own ability to diagnose problems, size up situations and judge opportunities will be upgraded by internalizing the additional frames of reference in the external evaluation. However, if the effect is destructive, our new familiarity with others' outlooks will breed contempt, intolerance and distance in relationships. We will misdiagnose, misperceive and misjudge more often.
  4. Deepening our experience - When the effect of an evaluation is constructive, we can internalize it as a facet of our identity. We can be as good as that assessment, live up to that expectation and represent that quality in our choices. If the effect is destructive, we can internalize the evaluation as proof of our being a mistake or a real loser. We will argue for our limitations to control our options on the basis on being defective, deviant or deficient.
With so many places to take internalized evaluations, there's no predicting how people will take feedback and what they will make of it. However, this model defines lots of ways to be there for them, lend support for their changing their minds and helping them find relief from chronic problems.

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