Values represent what we believe is important in life. In this article, Research Associate Hanna Eggestrand and PDP Lead Researcher James Vaughan explore basic human values and how they can affect coaching, player development and the world around us.

 

What do you think is important in life? Perhaps not surprisingly, what you value is likely to affect the way you coach, and the way you coach will spread values.

Interestingly, research has found that the same values appear in a range of different cultures and contexts. After categorising the many values that are similar in meaning and motivational influence, researchers have ended up with around 10 groups of broader values (it’s worth noting though that since research is always evolving, this way of comprehending the values may change slightly over time), listed here together with a few exemplary values for each (from Schwartz, 1994):

  • Power (social power, authority, wealth)
  • Achievement (successful, capable, ambitious)
  • Hedonism (pleasure, enjoying life)
  • Stimulation (daring, varied life, exciting life)
  • Self-direction (creativity, curiosity, freedom)
  • Universalism (broad-minded, social justice, equality, protecting the environment)
  • Benevolence (helpful, honest, forgiving)
  • Tradition (humble, devout, accepting my portion in life)
  • Conformity (politeness, obedient, honouring parents and elders)
  • Security (national security, social order, clean)
  • (Spirituality makes up an eleventh category, however the motivational properties differ across cultures).

The 10 categories of values listed above can be organised according to how the values interact. Some values are more compatible with each other (e.g. universalism and benevolence) whereas others are more in conflict (e.g. benevolence and achievement). This can be illustrated using a circumplex model, as shown in the figure below. Before going further, it is important to realise that Schwartz and colleagues (1992, 1994, 2012) do not claim to have identified the full and final set of values. They stress that in reality, the values should be thought to form a continuous spectrum rather than distinct categories.

Values Circumplex, adapted from Schwartz 1994 and Common Cause (2016)

A person is fairly likely to perceive two values close to each other (on the model) as simultaneously important, but would struggle to reconcile two values far away from each other. For instance, someone who thinks that independency (a self-direction-value) is important is more likely to also value daring (a stimulation-value), but they probably wouldn’t care much for obedience (a conformity-value) – think of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Although individuals place different emphasis on different values in different situations, it is important to recognise that we are all motivated by all values – to varying degrees and depending on the context (Schwartz, 1992, 1994, 2012). As a simplistic example, consider which values may be emphasised at school (conformity, security), at a training session (tradition, conformity) and then playing street football (self-direction and stimulation).

It is helpful to distinguish between two types of values: intrinsic and extrinsic. This terminology comes from research on human goals, which is well aligned with the self-determination theory of human motivation. Values and goals are closely related but represent distinct concepts about ideals and aspirations that guide behaviour.

  • Intrinsic values and goals relate to personal growth and self-acceptance, connection community feeling (similar to universalism and benevolence in the list above) and creativity.
  • Extrinsic values and goals focus on financial success, image and popularity (similar to power, achievement, security and hedonism in the list above) (Common Cause Foundation, 2016; Grouzet et al., 2005; Kasser & Ryan, 1996).

Why is this relevant to coaching? Well, put simply, some values intuitively seem more apt in relation to fostering caring, competent, creative individuals. This in itself suggests we should give them extra attention, especially in the context of sports.

However, there is more to it than that. The intrinsic values  – values relating to affiliation with friends and family, connection with nature, concern for others, self-acceptance, social justice and creativity – are fundamentally more conducive toward the satisfaction of basic psychological needs (that you can read more about here) (Grouzet et al., 2005; Kasser, Ryan, Couchman, & Sheldon, 2004). Satisfaction of these needs is essential for experiencing intrinsic motivation, fostering self-determination, good performance and wellbeing (Deci & Ryan, 2000).

This means that any coach looking to nurture a team of players who enjoy the game, perform well, feel good and behave as considerate human beings on the pitch (as well as in everyday life) should attempt to emphasise this set of intrinsic values. As a point of comparison, extrinsic values are instead centred on external approval and rewards, things that thwart satisfaction of needs and thereby intrinsic motivation and wellbeing (Grouzet et al., 2005; Kasser et al., 2004).

Does it matter, then, what values coaches try to embody and model, or is it up to each athlete to aspire to whatever values he or she thinks are important? Recalling that we all are motivated by all the values, the question is what values are put forward within the coaching session. When we are reminded of a certain value, it can be temporarily “engaged” and this seems to make it more likely that we act in ways that align with that value also in the situation occurring next (Common Cause Foundation, 2016; Maio, Pakizeh, Cheung, & Rees, 2009). Put in the context of coaching, if the coach provides feedback referring to the importance of, say, creativity (when solving problems), then it is more likely that the players will recall creativity as important in another situation later on.

Moreover, emphasising one value seems to have interesting effects in relation to other values. When temporarily engaging a certain value, closely related values (and associated behaviours) seem to be strengthened as well. This has been called the “bleed-over effect” (Common Cause Foundation, 2016; Maio et al., 2009). At the same time, opposing values and behaviours are suppressed in a “see-saw-like” fashion. To simplify: when the coach reminds his or her players of the importance of creativity, this makes them more likely to also perceive curiosity as important (due to the bleed-over), whilst devaluing the need for conformity (following the see-saw effect).

Intrinsic values are more desirable and beneficial, for a range of reasons. In relation to sports, the most important reason is that intrinsic values are more conducive to psychological need-satisfaction – and so intrinsic motivation (truly enjoying the game) and good performance. Intrinsic values have also been associated with pro-environmental behaviour (Hurst, Dittmar, Bond, & Kasser, 2013), higher-quality interpersonal relationships, higher well-being etc. (Kasser, 2002, 2011, 2016).

Considering the dynamics of values, with the bleed-over effect and the see-saw effect, it is essential for coaches to try to emphasise and embody these intrinsic values in order to encourage and strengthen them in the athletes. This would serve not only to improve the game and foster the innate love for the sport, but also be beneficial for the life beyond the pitch. Although a lot of what has been outlined may seem fairly intuitive, it is nevertheless crucial to remind ourselves of the importance to reflect on what we think is central in life and whether we model that through our behaviours and attitudes.

A common perception is that we “force values onto others” if we consciously try to promote certain values. This is a valid concern. However, it is important to realise that we all embody deeply socialised values and they already influence our surroundings – regardless of whether we’ve made a conscious decision of what these values are or not. The least we can do is to try to embody and put forward the values that we believe are good for others and for ourselves.

In particular, we would argue the importance of promoting intrinsic values to counteract the dominance of extrinsic values. Under the influence of American Corporate Capitalism (explained in this research review), the focus of the western world is heavily placed on the extrinsic at the expense of the intrinsic. This is also obvious in professional football, and unfortunately the importance we place on the extrinsic at the top of the game (link to Leicester football revolution) is infiltrating the bottom and the environments we coach in. PDP’s Dave Wright provides an excellent example of these influences in the article ‘Get over Yourself’.

In ‘Get over yourself’ Dave discusses the dominance of ego in football, describing that the tracksuit and badge of famous clubs have become symbols of power and status for some coaches. Reinforcing power and status, both extrinsic values, tips the balance even further away from intrinsic values and can increase ego-orientation and controlling behaviours. Coaches overly concerned with extrinsic values are less likely to nurture intrinsic values such as personal growth, self-acceptance, connection, community feeling and creativity when coaching. 

Some last words on the research: Of course, life is massively complex and this article in many ways present a simplified take on human motivations and values. Although what has been outlined here does have support in cross-cultural, peer-reviewed research, we do not suggest that things are as clear-cut as they might appear in a 2,000-word article. Researchers also continue to stress that “more research is needed”, including studies with children and in economically developing countries, using longitudinal and experimental designs, etc. (Kasser, 2016). This article should therefore be seen as an initial, general introduction to the topic of values and motivation and hopefully serve as a reminder of the importance to consider what we value in coaching and life.

References

Common Cause Foundation. (2016). How values work. Retrieved July 8, 2016, from http://valuesandframes.org/handbook/2-how-values-work/

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “What” and “Why” of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of Behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227–268.

Grouzet, F. M. E., Kasser, T., Ahuvia, A., Fernandez Dols, J. M., Kim, Y., Lau, S., … Sheldon, K. M. (2005). The Structure of Goal Contents Across 15 Cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(5), 800–816. http://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.89.5.800

Hurst, M., Dittmar, H., Bond, R., & Kasser, T. (2013). The relationship between materialistic values and environmental attitudes and behaviors : A meta-analysis. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 36, 257–269. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.09.003

Kasser, T. (2002). The high price of materialism. MIT Press.

Kasser, T. (2011). Values and human wellbeing. Illinois. Retrieved from www.bellagioinitiative.org/resource-section/bellagio-outputs/#papers

Kasser, T. (2016). Materialistic Values and Goals. Annual Review of Psychology, (67), 9.1-9.26. http://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-122414-033344

Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1996). Further Examining the American Dream: Differential Correlates of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Goal. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22(3), 280–287. http://doi.org/10.1177/0146167296223006

Kasser, T., Ryan, R. M., Couchman, C. E., & Sheldon, K. M. (2004). Materialistic values: their causes and consequences. In T. Kasser & A. D. Kanner (Eds.), Psychology and Consumer Culture: The Struggle for a Good Life in a Materialistic World (pp. 11–28). Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Maio, G. R., Pakizeh, A., Cheung, W. Y., & Rees, K. J. (2009). Changing, Priming, and Acting on Values: Effects via Motivational Relations in a Circular Model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97(4), 699–715. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0016420

Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (25th ed., pp. 1–65). New York: Academic Press.

Schwartz, S. H. (1994). Are There Universal Aspects in the Structure and Contents of Human Values? Journal of Social Issues, 50(4), 19–45. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.1994.tb01196.x

Schwartz, S. H. (2012). An Overview of the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 2(1), 1–20.

Common Cause Foundation. (2016). How values work. Retrieved July 8, 2016, from http://valuesandframes.org/handbook/2-how-values-work/

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “What” and “Why” of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of Behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227–268.

Grouzet, F. M. E., Kasser, T., Ahuvia, A., Fernandez Dols, J. M., Kim, Y., Lau, S., … Sheldon, K. M. (2005). The Structure of Goal Contents Across 15 Cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(5), 800–816. http://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.89.5.800

Hurst, M., Dittmar, H., Bond, R., & Kasser, T. (2013). The relationship between materialistic values and environmental attitudes and behaviors : A meta-analysis. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 36, 257–269. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.09.003

Kasser, T. (2002). The high price of materialism. MIT Press.

Kasser, T. (2011). Values and human wellbeing. Illinois. Retrieved from www.bellagioinitiative.org/resource-section/bellagio-outputs/#papers

Kasser, T. (2016). Materialistic Values and Goals. Annual Review of Psychology, (67), 9.1-9.26. http://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-122414-033344

Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1996). Further Examining the American Dream: Differential Correlates of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Goal. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22(3), 280–287. http://doi.org/10.1177/0146167296223006

Kasser, T., Ryan, R. M., Couchman, C. E., & Sheldon, K. M. (2004). Materialistic values: their causes and consequences. In T. Kasser & A. D. Kanner (Eds.), Psychology and Consumer Culture: The Struggle for a Good Life in a Materialistic World (pp. 11–28). Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Maio, G. R., Pakizeh, A., Cheung, W. Y., & Rees, K. J. (2009). Changing, Priming, and Acting on Values: Effects via Motivational Relations in a Circular Model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97(4), 699–715. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0016420

Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (25th ed., pp. 1–65). New York: Academic Press.

Schwartz, S. H. (1994). Are There Universal Aspects in the Structure and Contents of Human Values? Journal of Social Issues, 50(4), 19–45. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.1994.tb01196.x

Schwartz, S. H. (2012). An Overview of the Schwartz Theory of Basci Values. Online Readings in Psychologt and Culture, 2(1), 1–20.

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