Shalom H. Schwartz

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.

With regard to the application of this research to coaching education and player development in football, Schwartz’s work presents a challenge.  His study is quite some distance from the everyday in spite of the fact that his study is about the everyday.  Accordingly, we suggest that our PDP members integrate reading this summary with an everyday translation of a relevant aspect of Schwartz’s research appearing in the most recent PDP Magazine. The article is titled “The Value of Values,” and is co-authored by PDP Research Associate Hannah Eggestrand and PDP Lead Researcher James Vaughn.  Between the several of us we do our best to discuss Schwartz’s research.


  • The question this research paper asks is in the title of the paper regarding the plausibility of there being universality in human values.
  • Schwartz first gives the common definition values as beliefs about desirable end states or modes of conduct that are greater than the end state or conduct that guides behavior, people, and events, and is ordered relative to other values.
  • But we soon discover that such a definition tells us little about the content of values or their interrelated structure.
  • We are then introduced to his theory of values, including types of values and how they are exemplified.
  • What he devises is a circular figure representing a wheel of the continuum of human value relations, complete with ten types of values and the way these values overlap and are interdependent.
  • Once Schwartz derives these ten values and creates a model of their structure, he led 66 international colleagues to conduct a Human Value Survey in 44 countries and every inhabited continent.
  • Between 1988 and 1993 the research team gathered and analyzed surveys from 25,386 respondents.
  • In the end, Schwartz and his colleagues did in fact find that all ten of the value types in the model emerged in 84% of the samples. At least eight value typesmet this criterion in 98% of the samples when the respondents evaluated the importance of their values.
  • When it came to looking at the structure of relations among the value types, the findings were similarly positive.
  • While Schwartz stopped short of claiming that there were explicit universal human values, he does acknowledge that within the limitations of this study he is confident there is support “for the near universality of the four higher order value types and their organization into two dimensions that structure value systems.”

The Research

What are values?

According to Schwartz, there has been relative comfort among researchers on the nature of values.  “A value is a (1) belief (2) pertaining to desirable end states or modes of conduct, that (3) transcends specific situations, (4) guides selection or evaluation of behavior, people, and events, and (5) is ordered by importance relative to other values to perform a system of value priorities.”

But, as Schwartz points out, this definition tells us little about the content and structure of human values.  So, in this paper Schwartz asks: 1) what are the types of values; can a limited number of values be identified that are universally recognized? and 2) how do these values structurally relate to one another, especially given the inevitability of collisions between them?

A theory of value contents and structures

To develop such a theory of values, Schwartz first modifies the standard definition of values.  He sees values as desirable trans-situational goals that vary in importance and which serve as guiding principles in the lives of persons or other social organization.  They must cover three universal coping requirementsfor all individuals and societies: needs of individuals as biological organisms, requisites of coordinated social interaction, and necessary components of for the smooth functioning and survival of groups.  Furthermore, they:

  • Serve the interests of a social entity.
  • Can motivate action, giving it direction and emotional intensity.
  • Function as standards for judging and justifying action.
  • Are acquired through both dominant group values and unique learning experiences of individuals.

Based on these conditions, Swartz derived ten motivationally distinct types of values:  power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, self-direction, universalism, benevolence, tradition, conformity, and security.  Each of these types generate exemplary values.  For example, self-direction is represented by creativity, curiosity, and freedom as individuals reflect the goals of independent thought and action.

What is the structure of value relations?

Schwartz is adamant that these identified types of values and their examples form dynamic relationships.  That is, they cannot—as was common in earlier research studies—be considered independent of one another.  In other words, the practical, social, and psychological consequences of one value type may collide with such consequences of another value type.  For instance, pursuing self-direction may well conflict with conformity.  Or as a group, achievement values may conflict with benevolence values; or the pursuit of tradition values may conflict with the pursuit of stimulation values.

For a look at this model of competing and compatible value types on what could euphemistically be called Schwartz’s “wheel of continuum value relations,” see the recent PDP Blog, also co-authored by Lead Researcher James Vaughn and Research Associate Hanna Eggestrand, titled “Values Based Coaching:  A Balancing Act.”  They discuss the direct connections between competing values and the implications for coaching and playing football.

In this figure, you will see the intricate way in which value types interrelate and overlap.  See how the four identified higher order value types in this model appear as two bipolar dimensions: 1) Openness to Change and Conservation; and 2) Self-transcendence and Self-enhancement.

So how did Schwartz try to verify the universal possibilities of this model?

Well, Schwartz conducted another cross-cultural Survey of Values, but one that included help from 66 international collaborators giving the Survey to 97 samples in 44 countries from every inhabited continent, between 1988 and 1993. This included 41 samples of school teachers of varied subjects (grades 3-12), 42 samples of university students of various majors; 12 occupationally heterogeneous samples of adults; and two samples of adolescents.  In all, there were 25,863 respondents.

What did the international Survey of Values reveal?

The analysis of this extensive survey data was both complicated and revealing.  In the end, Schwartz and is colleagues did in fact find that all ten of the value types in the model emerged in 84% of the samples.  At least eight value types met this criterion in 98% of the samples when the respondents evaluated the importance of their values.

When it came to looking at the structure of relations among the value types, the findings were similarly positive.  This was revealed by way of the organization of the four higher order value types into the two bi-polar dimensions: Openness to Change (including self-direction and stimulation) vs. Conservation (tradition, conformity, security); and Self-Enhancement (power, achievement) vs. Self-Transcendence (universalism, benevolence).  The first dimension was present in 96 of the 97 samples; the second dimension in 94 of the 97.

What this study also verified was that the results are consistent with a wide variety of previous studies where alternate methods and conceptualizations were used.  Additionally, the model also captures applications to social issues.  For example, Schwartz was comfortable finding support for the bi-polar structure in political values and ideologies, and in intergroup relationships by way of aggression toward an out-group such as found in racial or ethnic discrimination.

Concluding remarks

Basically, Schwartz has put forward an improved way to measure values.  The research is based on an imaginative way to derive and test a comprehensive set of value contents and to explain the dynamic structure of the relations among them—the ways they function in relation to one another, in compliment or collision.

As to giving a definitive answer to the question of there being (or not) universal aspects in the contents and structure of human values, Schwartz says this is still not possible.  He carefully qualifies his results by saying there were inevitable limitations in the statistical analysis and methodology.

But he does acknowledge that within the limitations of this study, he is confident saying there is indeed support “for the near universality of the four higher order value types and their organization into two dimensions that structure value systems.”

Furthermore, he believes this study does give considerable evidence that across contemporary societies, when people are asked to think about the importance of their values, there is implicit recognition of the ten value types and the suggested conflicts and compatibilities among them.  Throughout, Schwartz reminds us, this study provides a reasonable explanation why such dichotomies as individualism/collectivism and independent/interdependent function in such unique and diverse ways when it comes to cross-cultural interpretations.

Popular searches: defending, finishing, 1v1, playing out from the back, working with parents