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The Values Project Blog Series – Part 1

In this 3- part series we explore how our personal values relate to different aspects of everyday life

How do our values relate to our personal demographic characteristics?

Values are motivational life goals that reflect what is important in life. They give meaning to the things we do. And, we all naturally think that what is important to us, should be important to everyone, but this is not the case. People differ widely in terms of their value priorities.

It is important to understand values and their impact on our lives. We are not always consciously aware of our values, but knowing what they are can help us make decisions that are right for us. Going one step further and learning that other people may hold values that are different from our own, but equally valid, can help us to better understand, communicate with, and trust each other.

In our report, “What do we value? How our values influence everyday behaviours”, we describe the 11 basic human values that form a circle based on an underlying motivational continuum. That means that neighbouring values in the circle have similar motivations and opposing values have conflicting motivations. The values are commonly summarised along two dimensions: Self-transcendence versus Self-enhancement and Conservation versus Openness to change.

We explore the psychological nature of values, what Australian’s values are, and how people perceive the values of others. Specifically, we examine which values are most important to Australians, and explore how value priorities differ across social categories, such as gender, family structure, education level, religiosity, and age. Our findings show that value priorities differ by demographics:

Gender
Males are more likely to hold Self-direction, Achievement, Power or Conformity as their most important value than females. Females are more likely to hold Benevolence as their most important value than males.

Age
Younger people are more likely to hold the Openness to change values (Self-directions, Stimulation & Hedonism), Achievement, and Societal-universalism as their most important value than older people. Older people are more likely to hold Security and Benevolence as their most important value than younger people.

Having children
People without children are more likely to hold Self-direction, Stimulation, Hedonism, Achievement or Societal-universalism as their most important value than people with children. People with children are more likely to hold Benevolence as their most important value than people with no children.

Education
People with a Bachelor’s degree or higher are more likely to hold Self-direction or Achievement as their most important value than people with less education (i.e., at least some high school, a TAFE qualification, or a Diploma). People with less education are more likely to hold Benevolence as their most important value than those with a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

Religiosity
People who are high on religiosity are more likely to hold Tradition as their most important value than people low on religiosity. People who are low on religiosity are more likely to hold Self-direction or Hedonism as their most important value.

How do our values influence our perceptions of others’ values?
We also examine the perceptions Australians have of the values of “most other Australians”. These perceptions are amazingly similar to the average of the values of our sample. In fact, people perceived “most other Australians” to hold values similar to their own. People in different social categories perceive the values of most Australians in ways that are consistent with their own values. This led to people in different social categories perceiving the values of “most other Australians” differently:

  • Women are more likely to perceive that most Australians prioritise Security values than men.
  • Younger Australians are more likely to perceive that most Australians prioritise Stimulation, Hedonism, Achievement and Power than older Australians; whereas older Australians are more likely to perceive that most Australians prioritise Security, Tradition, Conformity, Benevolence and Social- and Nature-universalism values than younger Australians.
  • People with higher levels of education are more likely to perceive that most Australians prioritise Achievement and Power values than those with lower levels of education.
  • People with children are more likely to perceive that most Australians prioritise Benevolence values than people without children; whereas people without children are more likely to perceive that most Australians prioritise Achievement values than people with children.
  • People who are more religious are more likely to perceive that most Australians prioritise Tradition values; whereas people who are less religious are more likely to perceive that most Australians prioritise Self-direction values.

Our report provides a glimpse into the potential for understanding the important role values play in people’s lives.

Download a copy of the full report.



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