Posted by: chrismaser | November 13, 2010


Appraisal is the act of evaluating something, of estimating its quality, amount, size, and other features, of judging its merits. As such, appraisal is an interesting coping mechanism in that it effectively prevents forward motion. It’s like being on the platform at the train station and being so afraid of missing the train that I spend my whole time checking and rechecking the schedule. I’m so engrossed in appraising the schedule I don’t even see my train come and go.

Another example of an appraiser is the shopper who goes to the grocery store to buy three items and has to read every comparative label in minute detail and then weigh and reweigh the data before making a choice. Thus, what would take one person five minutes to buy takes another forty-five minutes.

Like the shopper, many scientists are so afraid of making a mistake and of being criticized they get bogged down appraising the scientific details in an attempt to cover all of the bases and thus never say or do anything. I’ve also seen this happen with government employees, both state and federal. It often seems that no one wants to take the responsibility for making a clear-cut decision.

Appraisers cope with their fear of criticism by checking and rechecking and further rechecking the data, seldom willing to make a decision for which they’re accountable. In other words, when in doubt make another study, but refrain, at any cost, from saying or doing anything until all the data are in and carefully and “properly analyzed.” This, of course, will never happen, because—even if one could get all the data—the appraiser would still define “properly analyzed.” And always, the mantra is: Appraisal, always appraisal, which, simply means that, despite any and all data, no decision is to be made, regardless of the social-environmental consequences.


Series on Resistance to Change:

• Our Institutionalized Resistance To Change

• My Introduction To An Agency

• The Inception Of An Agency

• Stages In The Cycle Of An Agency

• When Dysfunction/Malfunction Creeps In

• Homeostatic Defense

• Coping Mechanisms

• Coping Mechanisms: Anger And Aggression

• Coping Mechanisms: Defensiveness

• Coping Mechanisms: Denial

• Coping Mechanisms: Displacement

• Coping Mechanisms: Filters

• Coping Mechanisms: Projection

• Coping Mechanisms: Rationalization

• Coping Mechanisms: Repression

• Coping Mechanisms: Resistance

• Breaking The Dysfunctional Cycle

• From Where I Stand

Text © by Chris Maser 2010. All rights reserved.

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This article is excerpted from my 1994 book, Sustainable Forestry: Philosophy, Science, and Economics. St. Lucie Press, Boca Raton, FL. 373 pp. It is updated in my 2012 book, Decision Making For A Sustainable Environment: A Systemic Approach. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. If you want more information about this book, want to purchase it, or want to contact me—visit my website.

If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.

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