Review Article

Personal values in human life

Received:
Accepted:
Published online:

Abstract

The construct of values is central to many fields in the social sciences and humanities. The last two decades have seen a growing body of psychological research that investigates the content, structure and consequences of personal values in many cultures. Taking a cross-cultural perspective we review, organize and integrate research on personal values, and point to some of the main findings that this research has yielded. Personal values are subjective in nature, and reflect what people think and state about themselves. Consequently, both researchers and laymen sometimes question the usefulness of personal values in influencing action. Yet, self-reported values predict a large variety of attitudes, preferences and overt behaviours. Individuals act in ways that allow them to express their important values and attain the goals underlying them. Thus, understanding personal values means understanding human behaviour.

  • Subscribe to Nature Human Behaviour for full access:

    $99

    Subscribe

Additional access options:

Already a subscriber?  Log in  now or  Register  for online access.

References

  1. 1.

    Williams, R. M. American Society: A Sociological Interpretation (Knopf, New York, 1970).

  2. 2.

    Schwartz, S. H. A theory of cultural values and some implications for work. Appl. Psychol. 48, 23–47 (1999).

  3. 3.

    Kluckhohn, C. in Toward a General Theory of Action (eds Parsons, T. & Shils, E.) 388–433 (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1951).

  4. 4.

    Rokeach, M. The Nature of Human Values (Free Press, New York, 1973).

  5. 5.

    Schwartz, S. H. Universals in the content and structure of values: theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. Adv. Exp. Soc. Psychol. 25, 1–65 (1992).

  6. 6.

    Allport, G. W. & Vernon, P. A test for personal values. J. Abnorm. Soc. Psychol. 26, 231–248 (1931).

  7. 7.

    Hitlin, S. & Piliavin, J. A. Values: reviving a dormant concept. Annu. Rev. Sociol. 30, 359–393 (2004).

  8. 8.

    Maio, G. R. Mental representations of social values. Adv. Exp. Soc. Psychol. 42, 1–43 (2010).

  9. 9.

    Rohan, M. J. A rose by any name? The values construct. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Rev. 4, 255–277 (2000).

  10. 10.

    Schwartz, S. H. in Handbook of Value (eds Sander, D. & Brosch, T.) 63–84 (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 2015).

  11. 11.

    Knafo, A., Roccas, S. & Sagiv, L. The value of values in cross cultural research: a special issue in honor of Shalom Schwartz. J. Cross Cult. Psychol. 42, 178–185 (2011).

  12. 12.

    Hitlin, S. Values as the core of personal identity: drawing links between two theories of self. Soc. Psychol. Q. 66, 118–137 (2003).

  13. 13.

    Roccas, S., Sagiv, L., Schwartz, S. H. & Knafo, A. The Big Five personality factors and personal values. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 28, 789–801 (2002).

  14. 14.

    Roccas, S., Sagiv, L., Oppenheim, S., Elster, A. & Gal, A. Integrating content and structure aspects of the self: traits, values, and self-improvement. J. Pers. 82, 144–157 (2014).

  15. 15.

    Roccas, S. & Sagiv, L. Personal values and behavior: taking the cultural context into account. Soc. Personal. Psychol. Compass 4, 30–41 (2010).

  16. 16.

    Sagiv, L. & Roccas, S. in Values and Behavior: Taking a Cross-Cultural Perspective (eds Roccas, S. & Sagiv, L.) (Springer, in the press).

  17. 17.

    Schwartz, S. H. & Bardi, A. Value hierarchies across cultures: taking a similarities perspective. J. Cross Cult. Psychol. 32, 268–290 (2001).

  18. 18.

    Schwartz, S. H. in The Ontario Symposium: The Psychology of Value Vol. 8 (eds Seligman, C., Olson, J. M. & Zanna, M. P.) 1–24 (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc, New Jersey, 1996).

  19. 19.

    Benish-Weisman, M. The interplay between values and aggression in adolescence: a longitudinal study. Dev. Psychol 51, 677–687 (2015).

  20. 20.

    Vecchione, M., Döring, A. K., Alessandri, G., Marsicano, G. & Bardi, A. Reciprocal relations across time between basic values and value-expressive behaviors: a longitudinal study among children. Soc. Dev. 25, 528–547 (2016).

  21. 21.

    Schwartz, S. H. et al. Refining the theory of basic individual values. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 103, 663–688 (2012).

  22. 22.

    Schwartz, S. H. et al. Value tradeoffs propel and inhibit behavior: validating the 19 refined values in four countries. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 10.1002/ejsp.2228 (2016).

  23. 23.

    Davidov, E., Schmidt, P. & Schwartz, S. H. Bringing values back in: the adequacy of the European Social Survey to measure values in 20 countries. Public Opin. Q. 72, 420–445 (2008).

  24. 24.

    Schwartz, S. H. & Rubel, T. Sex differences in value priorities: cross-cultural and multimethod studies. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 89, 1010–1028 (2005).

  25. 25.

    Fontaine, J. R. J., Poortinga, Y. H., Delbeke, L. & Schwartz, S. H. Structural equivalence of the values domain across cultures: distinguishing sampling fluctuations from meaningful variation. J. Cross Cult. Psychol. 39, 345–365 (2008).

  26. 26.

    Miles, A. The (re) genesis of values examining the importance of values for action. Am. Sociol. Rev. 80, 680–704 (2015).

  27. 27.

    Hogg, M. A., Adelman, J. R. & Blagg, R. D. Religion in the face of uncertainty: uncertainty-identity theory of religiousness and religious extremism. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Rev. 14, 72–83 (2010).

  28. 28.

    Ysseldyk, R., Matheson, K. & Anisman, H. Religiosity as identity: toward an understanding of religion from a social identity perspective. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Rev. 14, 60–71 (2010).

  29. 29.

    Schwartz, S. H. & Huismans, S. Value priorities and religiosity in four Western religions. Soc. Psychol. Q. 58, 88–107 (1995).

  30. 30.

    Bilsky, W. & Peters, M. Estructura de los valores y la religiosidad: una investigacion comparada realizada en Mexico. Revista Mexicana de Psicologia 16, 77–88 (1999).

  31. 31.

    Fontaine, J. R. J., Luyten, P. & Corveleyn, J. Tell me what you believe and I’ll tell you what you want: empirical evidence for discriminating value patterns of five types of religiosity. Int. J. Psychol. Relig. 10, 65–84 (2000).

  32. 32.

    Pepper, M., Jackson, T. & Uzzell, D. A study of multidimensional religion constructs and values in the United Kingdom. J. Soc. Sci. Study Relig. 49, 127–146 (2010).

  33. 33.

    Saroglou, V. & Hanique, B. Jewish identity, values, and religion in a globalized world: a study of late adolescents. Identity 6, 231–249 (2006).

  34. 34.

    Saroglou, V. & Galand, P. Identities, values, and religion: a study among Muslim, other immigrant, and native Belgian young adults after the 9/11 attacks. Identity 4, 97–132 (2004).

  35. 35.

    Kusdil, M. E. & Kagitcibasi, C. Tuerk oegretmenlerin deger yoenelimleri ve Schwartz deger kurami [Value orientations of Turkish teachers and Schwartz’s theory of values]. Turk Psikoloji Dergisi 15, 59–80 (2000).

  36. 36.

    Saroglou, V. & Dupuis, J. Being Buddhist in Western Europe: cognitive needs, prosocial character, and values. Int. J. Psychol. Relig. 16, 163–179 (2006).

  37. 37.

    Saroglou, V., Delpierre, V. & Dernelle, R. Values and religiosity: a meta-analysis of studies using Schwartz’s model. Pers. Individ. Dif. 37, 721–734 (2004).

  38. 38.

    Roccas, S. & Elster, A. in Religion, Personality, and Social Behavior (ed. Saroglou, V.) 193–212 (Psychology Press, New York, 2014).

  39. 39.

    Longest, K. C., Hitlin, S. & Vaisey, S. Position and disposition: the contextual development of human values. Soc. Forces 91, 1499–1528 (2013).

  40. 40.

    Knafo, A. & Sagiv, L. Values and work environment: mapping 32 occupations. Eur. J. Psychol. Educ. 19, 255–273 (2004).

  41. 41.

    Kristof-Brown, A. L., Zimmerman, R. D. & Johnson, E. C. Consequences of individual’s fit at work: a meta-analysis of person-job, person-organization, person-group, and person-supervisor fit. Pers. Psychology 58, 281–342 (2005).

  42. 42.

    Kohn, M. L. Social class and parent-child relationships: an interpretation. Am. J. Sociol. 68, 471–480 (1963).

  43. 43.

    Kohn, M. L. & Slomczynski, K. M. Social Structure and Self-Direction: A Comparative Analysis of the United States and Poland. (Blackwell, Oxford, 1993).

  44. 44.

    Kohn, M. L. & Schooler, C. Work and Personality: An Inquiry into the Impact of Social Stratification. (Ablex, New Jersey, 1983).

  45. 45.

    Kohn, M. L. et al. Complexity of activities and personality under conditions of radical social change: a comparative analysis of Poland and Ukraine. Soc. Psychol. Q. 63, 187–207 (2000).

  46. 46.

    Arieli, S., Sagiv, L. & Cohen-Shalem, E. Values in business schools: the role of self-selection and socialization. Acad. Manage. Learn. Educ. 15, 493–507 (2016).

  47. 47.

    Bardi, A., Buchanan, K. E., Goodwin, R., Slabu, L. & Robinson, M. P. Value stability and change during self-chosen life transitions: self-selection vs. socialization effects. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 106, 131–147 (2014).

  48. 48.

    Gandal, N., Roccas, S., Sagiv, L. & Wrzesniewski, A. Personal value priorities of economists. Hum. Relat. 58, 1227–1252 (2005).

  49. 49.

    Chatman, J. A. Matching people and organizations: selection and socialization in public accounting firms. Adm. Sci. Q. 36, 459–484 (1991).

  50. 50.

    Bardi, A. & Schwartz, S. H. Values and behavior: strength and structure of relations. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 29, 1207–1220 (2003).

  51. 51.

    Schwartz, S. H. et al. Value tradeoffs and behavior in four countries: validating 19 refined values. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 10.1002/ejsp.2228 (2017).

  52. 52.

    Sosik, J. J., Jung, D. I. & Dinger, S. L. Values in authentic action: examining the roots and rewards of altruistic leadership. Group & Organization Management 34, 395–431 (2009).

  53. 53.

    Sanderson, R. & McQuilkin, J. in Values and Behavior: Taking a Cross-Cultural Perspective (eds Roccas, S. & Sagiv, L.) (Springer, in the press).

  54. 54.

    Maio, G. R., Pakizeh, A., Cheung, W. Y. & Rees, K. J. Changing, priming, and acting on values: effects via motivational relations in a circular model. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 97, 699–715 (2009).

  55. 55.

    Arieli, S., Grant, A. M. & Sagiv, L. Convincing yourself to care about others: an intervention for enhancing benevolence values. J. Pers. 82, 15–24 (2014).

  56. 56.

    Verplanken, B. & Holland, R. W. Motivated decision making: effects of activation and self-centrality of values on choices and behavior. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 82, 434–447 (2002).

  57. 57.

    Maio, G. R. & Olson, J. M. Relations between values, attitudes, and behavioral intentions: the moderating role of attitude function. J. Exp. Soc. Psychol. 31, 266–285 (1995).

  58. 58.

    Daniel, E., Bilgin, A. S., Brezina, I., Strohmeier, C. E. & Vainre, M. Values and helping behavior: a study in four cultures. Int. J. Psychol. 50, 186–192 (2015).

  59. 59.

    Sagiv, L., Sverdlik, N. & Schwarz, N. To compete or to cooperate? Values’ impact on perception and action in social dilemma games. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 41, 64–77.

  60. 60.

    Samuelson, C. D. A multiattribute evaluation approach to structural change in resource dilemmas. Organ. Behav. Hum. Decis. Process. 55, 298–324 (1993).

  61. 61.

    Simpson, B. & Willer, R. Altruism and indirect reciprocity: the interaction of person and situation in prosocial behavior. Soc. Psychol. Q. 71, 37–52 (2008).

  62. 62.

    Van Lange, P. A. The pursuit of joint outcomes and equality in outcomes: an integrative model of social value orientation. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 77, 337–349 (1999).

  63. 63.

    Lönnqvist, J. E., Verkasalo, M., Wichardt, P. C. & Walkowitz, G. Personal values and prosocial behaviour in strategic interactions: distinguishing value‐expressive from value‐ambivalent behaviours. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 43, 554–569 (2013).

  64. 64.

    Sagiv, L. & Schwartz, S. H. Value priorities and readiness for out-group social contact. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 69, 437–448 (1995).

  65. 65.

    Sagiv, L., Makhamra, M. & Kluger, A. N. Direct and indirect influence of culture on managers’ willingness for cross cultural cooperation. In Proc. 3rd Annual Meeting of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP, 2004).

  66. 66.

    Davidov, E. & Meuleman, B. Explaining attitudes towards immigration policies in European countries: the role of human values. J. Ethn. Migr. Stud. 38, 757–775 (2012).

  67. 67.

    Davidov, E., Meuleman, B., Billiet, J. & Schmidt, P. Values and support for immigration: a cross-country comparison. Eur. Sociol. Rev. 24, 583–599 (2008).

  68. 68.

    Davidov, E., Meulemann, B., Schwartz, S. H. & Schmidt, P. Individual values, cultural embeddedness, and anti-immigration sentiments: explaining differences in the effect of values on attitudes toward immigration across Europe. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 66, 263–285 (2014).

  69. 69.

    Kuntz, A., Davidov, E., Schwartz, S. H. & Schmidt, P. Human values, legal regulation, and approval of homosexuality in Europe: a cross‐country comparison. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 45, 120–134 (2015).

  70. 70.

    Donaldson, C. D., Handren, L. M. & Lac, A. Applying multilevel modeling to understand individual and cross-cultural variations in attitudes toward homosexual people across 28 European countries. J. Cross Cult. Psychol. 48, 93–112 (2017).

  71. 71.

    Licciardello, O., Castiglione, C. & Rampullo, A. Intergroup contact, value system and the representation of homosexuality. Procedia Soc. Behav. Sci. 30, 1467–1471 (2011).

  72. 72.

    Beierlein, C., Kuntz, A. & Davidov, E. Universalism, conservation and attitudes toward minority groups. Soc. Sci. Res. 58, 68–79 (2016).

  73. 73.

    Roccas, S. & Amit, A. Group heterogeneity and tolerance: the moderating role of conservation values. J. Exp. Soc. Psychol. 47, 898–907 (2011).

  74. 74.

    Bloom, P. B. N. & Bagno-Moldavsky, O. The conditional effect of network diversity and values on tolerance. Polit. Behav. 37, 623–651 (2015).

  75. 75.

    Cieciuch, J. & Schwartz, S. H. in The Oxford Handbook of Human Essence (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 2017).

  76. 76.

    Hofstede, G. Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations Across Nations. 2nd edn, (Sage, California, 2000).

  77. 77.

    Grossberg, S. How does a brain build a cognitive code? Psychol. Rev. 87, 1–51 (1980).

  78. 78.

    Döring, A. K. et al. Cross‐cultural evidence of value structures and priorities in childhood. Br. J. Psychol. 106, 675–699 (2015).

  79. 79.

    Lee, J. A., Ye, S., Sneddon, J. N., Collins, P. R. & Daniel, E. Does the intra-individual structure of values exist in young children? Pers. Individ. Dif. 110, 125–130 (2017).

  80. 80.

    Cieciuch, J., Davidov, E. & Algesheimer, R. The stability and change of value structure and priorities in childhood: a longitudinal study. Soc. Dev. 25, 503–527 (2016).

  81. 81.

    Benish-Weisman, M., Daniel, E. & Knafo-Noam, A. in Values and Behavior: Taking a Cross-Cultural Perspective (eds Roccas, S. & Sagiv, L.) (Springer, in the press).

  82. 82.

    Berzonsky, M. D., Cieciuch, J., Duriez, B. & Soenens, B. The how and what of identity formation: associations between identity styles and value orientations. Pers. Individ. Dif. 50, 295–299 (2011).

  83. 83.

    Uzefovsky, F., Döring, A. K. & Knafo-Noam, A. Values in middle childhood: social and genetic contributions. Soc. Dev. 25, 482–502 (2016).

  84. 84.

    Knafo, A. & Spinath, F. M. Genetic and environmental influences on girls’ and boys’ gender-typed and gender-neutral values. Dev. Psychol. 47, 726–731 (2011).

  85. 85.

    Schermer, J. A., Feather, N. T., Zhu, G. & Martin, N. G. Phenotypic, genetic, and environmental properties of the Portrait Values Questionnaire. Twin Res. Hum. Genet. 11, 531–537 (2008).

  86. 86.

    Vukasović, T. & Bratko, D. Heritability of personality: a meta-analysis of behavior genetic studies. Psychol. Bull. 141, 769–785 (2015).

  87. 87.

    Schönpflug, U. Intergenerational transmission of values: the role of transmission belts. J. Cross Cult. Psychol. 32, 174–185 (2001).

  88. 88.

    Knafo, A. & Schwartz, S. H. Value socialization in families of Israeli-born and Soviet-born adolescents in Israel. J. Cross Cult. Psychol. 32, 213–228 (2001).

  89. 89.

    Whitbeck, L. B. & Gecas, V. Value attributions and value transmission between parents and children. J. Marriage Fam. 829–840 (1988).

  90. 90.

    Grusec, J. E. & Goodnow, J. J. Impact of parental discipline methods on the child’s internalization of values: A reconceptualization of current points of view. Dev. Psychol. 30, 4–19 (1994).

  91. 91.

    Knafo, A. & Schwartz, S. H. Identity formation and parent‐child value congruence in adolescence. Br. J. Dev. Psychol. 22, 439–458 (2004).

  92. 92.

    Knafo, A. & Schwartz, S. H. Parenting and adolescents’ accuracy in perceiving parental values. Child Dev. 74, 595–611 (2003).

  93. 93.

    McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L. & Cook, J. M. Birds of a feather: homophily in social networks. Annu. Rev. Sociol. 27, 415–444 (2001).

  94. 94.

    Bardi, A. & Goodwin, R. The dual route to value change: Individual processes and cultural moderators. J. Cross Cult. Psychol. 42, 271–287 (2011).

  95. 95.

    Schwartz, S. H. in Valores e comportamento nas organizacións (eds Tamayo, A. & Porto, J. B.) 56–95 (Vozes, Petropolis, 2005).

  96. 96.

    Milfont, T. L., Milojev, P. & Sibley, C. G. Values stability and change in adulthood: a 3-year longitudinal study of rank-order stability and mean-level differences. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 42, 572–588 (2016).

  97. 97.

    Lönnqvist, J. E., Jasinskaja-Lahti, I. & Verkasalo, M. Personal values before and after migration: a longitudinal case study on value change in Ingrian–Finnish migrants. Soc. Psychol. Pers. Sci 2, 584–591 (2011).

  98. 98.

    Rokeach, M. Long-term value changes initiated by computer feedback. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 32, 467–476 (1975).

  99. 99.

    Roccas, S., Sagiv, L. & Navon, M. in Values and Behavior: Taking a Cross-Cultural Perspective (eds Roccas, S. & Sagiv, L.) (Springer, in the press).

  100. 100.

    Bardi, A., Lee, J. A., Hofmann-Towfigh, N. & Soutar, G. The structure of intraindividual value change. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 97, 913–929 (2009).

  101. 101.

    Cieciuch, J., Davidov, E., Vecchione, M., Beierlein, C. & Schwartz, S. H. The cross-national invariance properties of a new scale to measure 19 basic human values: A test across eight countries. J. Cross Cult. Psychol. 45, 764–779 (2014).

  102. 102.

    Kluckhohn, F. R. & Strodtbeck, F. L. Variations in value orientations. (Row, Peterson, Illinois, 1961).

  103. 103.

    Hofstede, G. Culture’s consequences: international differences in work-related values. (Sage, California, 1980).

  104. 104.

    Inkeles, A. & Levinson, D. J. in The Handbook of Social Psychology 418–506 (1969).

  105. 105.

    Hofstede, G. & Bond, M. H. The Confucius connection: from cultural roots to economic growth. Organ. Dyn. 16, 5–21 (1988).

  106. 106.

    Hofstede, G. J. & Minkov, M. Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. 3rd edn, (McGraw-Hill, New York, 2010).

  107. 107.

    Hofstede, G. Dimensionalizing cultures: the Hofstede model in context. Online Readings Psychol. Cult. 2, 10.9707/2307-0919.1014 (2011).

  108. 108.

    Schwartz, S. H. in Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture Vol. 2, 547–586 (2014).

  109. 109.

    Inglehart, R. Modernization and postmodernization: cultural, economic, and political change in 43 societies. (Princeton Univ. Press, Chichester, 1997).

  110. 110.

    Inglehart, R. Mapping global values. Comp. Sociol. 5, 115–136 (2006).

  111. 111.

    Inglehart, R. & Welzel, C. Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy: The Human Development Sequence. (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2005).

  112. 112.

    House, R., Javidan, M. & Dorfman, P. Project GLOBE: an introduction. Appl. Psychol. Int. Rev. 50, 489–505 (2001).

  113. 113.

    Smith, P. B., Dugan, S. & Trompenaars, F. National culture and the values of organizational employees a dimensional analysis across 43 nations. J. Cross Cult. Psychol. 27, 231–264 (1996).

  114. 114.

    Hofstede, G. Culture’s recent consequences: using dimension scores in theory and research. Int. J. Cross Cult. Manag. 1, 11–17 (2001).

  115. 115.

    Inglehart, R. The Silent Revolution: Changing Values and Political Styles Among Western Publics. (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, 2015).

  116. 116.

    Sagiv, L., Schwartz, S. H. & Arieli, S. in The Handbook of Organizational Culture and Climate (eds Ashkanasy, N. N., Wilderom, C. & Peterson, M. F.) 2nd edn, 515–537 (Sage, California, 2011).

Download references

Acknowledgements

This paper was partly funded by a grant from the Israel Science Foundation (847/14) to L.S. and S.R.; grants from the Recanati Fund of the School of Business Administration and the Mandel Scholion Interdisciplinary Research Center, both at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, to L.S.; and a grant from The Open University Research Fund of the Open University of Israel to S.R. The work of J.C. was supported by the University Research Priority Program Social Networks of the University of Zurich.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. School of Business Administration, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, 91905, Israel

    • Lilach Sagiv
    •  & Shalom H. Schwartz
  2. Department of Education and Psychology, The Open University of Israel, P. O. Box 808, 1 University Road, Raanana, 43107, Israel

    • Sonia Roccas
  3. University of Zurich, URPP Social Networks, Andreasstrasse 15, CH-8050, Zurich, Switzerland

    • Jan Cieciuch
  4. Institute of Psychology, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, Wóycickiego 1/3 bud. 14, 01-938, Warsaw, Poland

    • Jan Cieciuch
  5. Department of Psychology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, 91905, Israel

    • Shalom H. Schwartz

Authors

  1. Search for Lilach Sagiv in:

  2. Search for Sonia Roccas in:

  3. Search for Jan Cieciuch in:

  4. Search for Shalom H. Schwartz in:

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lilach Sagiv.