<aside> 🚀 This begins Unit 1 of Values-Based Data Science & Design


What is Crowding Out?

In this course, we get very specific about what people pay attention to when making choices, and when paying attention to one thing makes it so you can’t attend to something else.

<aside> ◼️ An Example: Fear of Rejection vs. Courage and Honesty

Say you have a fear of rejection. It might stop you from being courageous or honest in some situations.

It's common in spiritual or psychological circles to treat that fear of rejection as an individual, psychological issue: perhaps you got your fear of rejection as a child, when your father left the family.

But your fear of rejection may also be rational and healthy within your social context! Rejection by a certain group could be a real possibility, and could destabilize your life.

If so, we can say that the way the group operates (and its presence in your life) is bad for courage and honesty. The group’s way of operating generates a rational fear of rejection among it’s members, and this crowds out people's courage- and honesty-values.


We use the term “crowding out” to refer to this phenomenon—when one consideration makes it impossible to attend to another. In this case, thinking how to avoid rejection takes precedence over thinking what’d be courageous or honest. We say that the courage and the honesty are crowded out by the fear of rejection.

We use the term “crowding out” whether the fear of rejection is rational/environmental or due to a psychological issue.

Why Study Crowding Out?

For most people, crowding out is only salient when it’s real bad: when one of their main sources of meaning is absolutely crushed by the environment or their psychology. In this course, we want to become acutely sensitive to crowding out. The truth is that we are crowded out hundreds of times a day! We want to notice even these subtle occurrences.


How to Study Crowding Out

So, to sharpen your sense for crowding out—to tune into those subtle occurrences—we have material and exercises. The main thing is this: a taxonomy of what you could consider when making a choice.


Below, I’ll step through the taxonomy, and then give you exercises where you apply it to your own motivations.

The Variety of Motives

At the root is the distinction between values and goals or fears. Sources of meaning like honesty and courage are about process, whereas fears (like the fear of rejection) are about outcomes. In general, if your values / sources of meaning are crowded out, it’s because of outcome-related considerations: goals and fears. (Goals and fears are interchangeable: a fear of rejection is the same as a goal of remaining accepted.)

<aside> 💎 There can be results/outcomes from sources of meaning, but they are diffuse results—results about living your best life—rather than definite outcomes to achieve or avoid. (Read more about this distinction in Making Values Concrete.)


Achieving Goals, Avoiding Fears strategizing