Are There Universal Aspects in the Structure and Contents of Human Values?

Review by: William A. Harper
By Shalom H. Schwartz

The Big Idea

The Big Idea

There could hardly be a bigger research goal than what this paper represents.  In the last quarter of the 20th Century the nature and function of human values and the cross-cultural value comparisons between entire countries has attracted a fair number of international researchers.  One of the more recent research efforts (M. Rokeach, 1973) was a cross-cultural Value Survey proposing 36 values thought to be “reasonably comprehensive and universally applicable.”  Nonetheless, Rokeach also recognized that such a claim to completeness was not then possible.

Towards the end of that same century, Shalom Schwartz (1994) took up the task again.  But through his work we find additional depth that brings us much closer to finding common ground in human values around the world.  In this international Values Survey, the goal is to develop a theory of the basic content and structure of human values.  To us, the study seems to suggest that with respect to cherished values, human beings are very much the same everywhere in the world; but it also suggests that we humans have strikingly different ways to express these values.  That’s what makes the cross-cultural study of them such an extraordinarily difficult task.