A man and woman si across from one another in an interview setting.

What It Is

Appraisal is the art of determining not just what something is, but also what it is worth.

Four Factors to Appraisal

1. What you are looking for

2. How you define it

3. What you want to see

4. What you Expect to see

Four Forces That Influence Appraisal

1. Social Risk

2. Personal Feelings

3. Expectations

4. Situational Needs

Three Appraisal Types

1. Expert Appraisal

2. Spot Appraisal

3. Passing Appraisal

Consider the above while reading the following text.

Expert Appraisal

Expert Appraisal comes in many shapes and forms. We can think of a few immediately, like for example a jeweller appraising a ring, an interviewer appraising a candidate, or a judge and jury appraising the credibility of a witness.

While we may want to believe Expert Appraisal is detailed, lengthy, and evidenced based, that is of course not always the case.

What we can say about Expert Appraisal is that expert appraisers themselves are more likely to have studied criteria with which they make their appraisals, and possibly defined that criteria to be professionally unbiased and ethical.

Expert Appraisal is also often to some extent funded, and, therefore, when successfully performed yielding of some kind of profitable reward in the context of organizational situational needs.

Spot Appraisal

Spot Appraisal, on the other hand, is identified with lower attention to detail, shorter appraising time span, and possibly, but not always, less expertise (or intention of expertise).

You can think of Spot Appraisal as putting someone on the spot, or scanning the spot price of a financial asset.

The motivation for accuracy is lower than in Expert Appraisal because the potential reward or cost from accurate or inaccurate appraisal is respectfully lower or higher.

Consider an audition for a film part. In the first case three candidates show up and in the second 1000 candidates show up.

In which case would we expect more Spot Appraisals?

Passing Appraisal

Passing Appraisal is entirely inexpert in nature.

The intention here might be to impress a friend by making a joke.

Or react to a visual or audio stimulation in a way that optimizes personal powerful feeling.

Consider someone laughing at an unfortunate while doing their Christmas shopping, or smiling respectfully at the passing of an entourage of luxury cars.

It's especially important to remember Passing Appraisal when you are on the receiving end.

There is no expertise, no evidence, no professional intention, and little to no risk or reward in passing appraisal.

If you are on the receiving end of a Passing Appraisal and you grant it any value, stop!

Unless it's repeated with high frequency and consistent across individuals, there is little reason to pay attention to Passing Appraisal, and considerable risk.


In any appraisal there is risk. A jeweller appraising a gem for purchase, for example, risks paying too much and losing money.

An interviewer risks hiring a candidate that does not stay long with the organization, at cost to both the organization and the interviewer's reputation.

Social Risk is of particular relevance because most appraisals are not Expert Appraisals, with employment positions or courtroom outcomes on the line.

Most appraisals are passing or spot appraisals and this means social risk is the most common form of appraisal risk.

A comic book drawing of a gem appraiser appraising a gem

Personal Feeling

While social risk (or social gain) is the more common influence on appraisal (we could even call it political appraisal), personal feeling is by no means an unusual influence.

Consider a framework for judgment between humans that is ego based.

In this framework, people think instinctively in a relative context.

The trade off is zero sum. From the appraisers perspective, the appraised is either ahead or behind ['ahead' here could be defined against some generally subconscious personal interpretation of widely accepted social norms].

If ahead, the feeling is good. If behind, the feeling is bad.

Appraisal then becomes a personal thing.

Because, relatively speaking, unless your intention is to be an unbiased and accurate, it's likely preferable to you in terms of serotonin to view the person you are appraising in passing as lesser to you than greater.

And this explains the very human action of appraising others at the lowest possible valuation.

It is another way of feeling good, or in the political appraisal case (the risk case), a means of staying ahead.


Let's now consider the human mind as a machine learning model.

The senses gather information and the brain stores it.

When it's time to perform a passing or spot appraisal, the brain acts as a processor and calls on whatever information it has accumulated (with little regard to the quality of information).

We are now drawing conclusions not from intellectual evidence, but from visual and audio expectations and norms.

Social expectations and norms are typically more politically derived than intellectually derived, and they are not necessarily first best norms [consider the norms of female voting or driving rights, from only a few generations past].

The human machine learning model is the source of profiling, and is of course a big factor in majority privilege.

Unfortunately, it's also a factor in systemic Expert Appraisal, especially in the more difficult and often less pleasant appraisals that occur on the ground - for example when trained officers practice law enforcement.

It's critically important to consider expectations when you are being appraised.

If you can predict biases and misaligned expectations in your appraisers mental machine learning model, you can work to disprove them.


A man walks up stairs at the Brooklyn Downtown subway station.

While riding a subway car, you are being appraised by a passerby who has been reading a newspaper known for its emphasis on crime stories. Reading that paper or thinking about those stories is not in your job description, and not something you do, but you have read this article, and you are now able to perceive they are thinking of you warily, in the context of the paper they have been reading. You ask them if they know where you can purchase a newspaper you know has a more positive reputation. Your passing appraiser pauses thoughtfully, and then considerably relaxes. You are now being considered in warmer and more positive light. Other people on the train, who were aware of your appraisers negative scrutiny also relax.

The same expectations come into play when it's you making the appraisal.

Consider a YouTube presentation, with a valuable perspective delivered in an unusual way.

In this case, the audience will often turn away, or at least discount the value of the information.

Did they miss out?

That depends on their situational needs; however, we can surmise if their viewing intentions included a learning process they did indeed miss out.

But the point is that we prefer advice that looks and sounds like good advice more than good advice.

To our political intelligence, presentation is everything.

Ray Dalio calls this believability, and that's as good a moniker as any.

So what can you do to ensure your analytical intelligence is not clouded by your political intelligence, and why would you want to do that?

We will talk about some reasons you might want to ensure your appraisals are accurate when we talk about investor appraisals.

Here are a few methods to ensure more accurate appraisal.

Think about why you are appraising. Are you just having fun, or are you seeking knowledge or opportunity? Be aware of your natural biases. Consciously noting the presence of your political intelligence will empower your analytical intelligence when it is needed. If you are seeking good advice (or information) and you encounter low believability consider closing your eyes, or reading the text instead of listening.

On the other hand, if it's you being appraised and your believability is low, find out why and work to raise it.

If given social norms and your own natural constraints, raising your believability is not easily achieved, and you need or want your ideas to be heard, find someone with high believability to present.

Being Appraised

As we can see above, appraisal is subjective. How we value other humans depends on factors like social risk, personal empowerment feeling, and utility (what we need).

This perspective is highly relevant when we are being appraised.

Not only because appraisal is feedback, which enables us to align our goals and define our objectives; but because it's also progress.

We need to be valuable to others in order to survive and thrive.

If you want to be appraised at your highest valuation, consider these factors when you present yourself.

1. How can you reduce the social risk your appraisers could encounter if they put a high valuation on you or your vision?

2. How can you present in a way that does not disrupt your appraisers personal empowerment feeling?

3. What do your appraisers need in the situation they are in?

4. Do they need you?

5. Can you be useful to them?

6. Do they know that?

7. Does your appraiser deserve to appraise you?

Voluntarily allowing people to appraise you is does them great honour, be sure they deserve it.

Making Yourself Useful

A man cooks dinner.

Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.

~ Albert Einstein

In the above quote, Albert Einstein emphasizes a focus on the needs and wants of the appraiser, which we can call the utility perspective.

It's important to note his advice depends on the utility perspective outweighing or positively aligning with the perspectives of risk and personal feeling.

In the case where it appears your appraisers have more to gain from interaction with you than to lose, Einstein's advice is pretty good.

It's also pretty good if your natural presence in your surrounding environment works against the risk and personal feeling perspectives.

In the latter case, follow these steps:

1. Master a skill.

2. Find someone who needs it.

3. Overcome their biases.

4. Show them you can help.

Easier said than done right, especially in a global pandemic.

Remember. You are now bringing something to the table.

People who don't respect that are optimizing social risk, political position, or feelings of personal power.

In many cases, familiarity breeds respect and diminishes hostility; but in many others it doesn't.

Don't be afraid to distance yourself from people who don't respect your efforts.

There are a lot of people in this world, and every one of them has needs.

Remember Life is Not Supposed to Be Easy

Remember, life is not supposed to be easy, we are supposed to be strong.

Because life isn't easy, if you are skilled or reasonably intelligent the probability is quite likely someone out there will appraise you highly, not based simply on anthropological familiarity, but because your offering is helpful.

So by all means create something valuable.

Put that value in a place where people can see it.

Demonstrate your usefulness.

Don't pay attention to people who want to label you with a low valuation.

That's not about you.

They are either pleasure seeking or acting from political motivation.

Because they don't believe they need you, the combination of their social risk/reward calculation and personal feeling reading are trumping the utility perspective.

That does not mean there are not hundreds of thousands of people in the nearest big city that could use your help.

If you want to be appraised well, find people that need you and present to them in a way that minimizes social risk, and does not negatively impact their personal power feeling.

But be mindful of your value.

Sometimes when you are attempting to be well-received, people wonder why, and your efforts backfire.

Nevertheless, a bet on utility is usually a good bet.

Opportunity and Appraisal

Like all assets, the value of opportunity is subject to the laws of supply and demand.

If you have many opportunities, they will mean less to you.

If you have few, they will mean more.

There is one class of people, however, who view opportunity not just in the context of supply and demand, but also in a profit seeking context.

These are the investor class.

Investors specialize in Expert Appraisal, and hunt opportunity relentlessly recognizing that many opportunities are unique.

An opportunity to an investor can be many things.

1. A source of income

2. A source of prestige

3. A means of satisfying other social demands

4. A challenge

What can we learn from the wealthiest class of people in the world?

Appraising When You Are Looking For Opportunity

1. Clearly define what you want

2. Clearly define what you don't want

3. Clearly define your risk profile

4. Construct an appraisal criteria, or several sets of appraisal criteria

5. Define principles within which you will conduct your appraisals

6. If you take pride in professionalism, include moral and ethical factors in your appraisals (the criteria you will or will not appraise against)

7. Set ideal levels for detail, evidence, and time

If you intend to behave as an investor, remember to clarify what you want to get out of the investment.

There is no shortage of wealthy people in the world who tell you on their death beds they wished they had spent more time growing healthy relationships with family and friends.

This is the type of benefit that can be gained early from accurately and intelligently defining what you want to get out of any opportunities you find and act on.

What you don't want is of course on the other side of the coin from what you do want.

Your risk profile, which includes financial risk, social risk, health risk, family risk and so on, is a critically important appraisal metric.

It helps you focus on opportunities that won't get ugly on you, and understand the parts of your character you can work on to get what you really want.

Defining in writing your appraisal criteria will entrench them in your mind and enable you to better spot matching opportunities in fast moving opportunity flows.

You can then arrange to appraise them expertly.

When expertly appraising, set optimal time and detail levels, and detail which evidence is relevant, and how you can get it.

Consider a financial long-term investment in a stock.

Does the background matter?


What about the financial metrics, are they important?


Do ethics matter?

Unless you're happy getting sued, ethics matter.

What about morality?

What about sleep at night?

Does time matter?

Time matters, stock prices move, optimal opportunities are fleeting.

Similar criteria can be applied to every appraisal, whether you are looking to make money, forge friendships, or discover undiscovered thought.

Self Appraisal

A woman contemplates herself meditatively.

The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.

~ Henri Bergson

Self appraisal is possibly the most important appraisal of all.

What we see in the world, is a reflection of what we understand.

Often what we see in other people is limited to what we see in ourselves.

The selfish man is rarely gifted in understanding the unselfish man, and the opposite is true.

How can one imagine the counterfactual - the case where he was endowed with or developed a different set of values and feelings?

That's not easy to do.

But it's inherently important in accurate appraisal, because life moves forward in a sea of human collision; and accurate appraisal, therefore, must be predictive.

Moreover, our internal personal growth determines how satisfied we are with ourselves and each other, and that determines potential for positively yielding interaction with others.

In the same way that a plant grows toward the light, accurately appraising inwardly reveals direction.

How can you grow in the direction you want to, if you don't know what that direction is?

When Looking Inwardly, Consider What You Are Looking for, Define It, and Watch Out for What You Want To See.

When looking inwardly, consider what you are looking for, define it, and watch out for what you want to see.

Don't be too hard on yourself, but at the same time remember, you must first identify obstacles before you can climb over or go around them.


However you want to apply appraisal in your life, it's clear it is a powerful and important skill; as relevant in navigating your life as a compass on a ship in stormy seas.

Take some time as soon as possible to consider appraisal in more detail.

"Appraise. Originally, appraise meant simple fix the price of. It came from the Old French verb aprisier 'value,' which is ultimately a parallel formation with appreciate; it is not clear whether it came directly from late Latin appretiare, or whether it was a newly formed compound in Old French, based on pris 'price.' Its earliest spellings in English were thus apprize and apprise, and these continued in use down to the 19th century, with the more metaphorical meaning estimate the worth of gradually coming to the fore. From the 16th century onwards, however, it seems that association with the word praise (which is quite closely related etymologically) has been at work, and by the 19th century the form appraise was firmly established. Apprise 'inform,' with which appraise is often confused (and which appears superficially to be far closer to the source pris or pretium price), in fact has no etymological connection with it. It comes from appris, the past participle of French apprendre 'teach' (closely related to English apprehend)."

~ John Ayto, "Dictionary of Word Origins"