Economy and values after a century of empirical research
University of Ljubljana
The study of values is prominent both in psychology and economy. Contrary to the long
history of theoretical axiology, the empirical research of values has a much shorter tradition.
On the basis of the empirical studies of values, a comprehensive model of human values can
be build including the structural (descriptive), developmental, cross-cultural and etiological
(causal) aspects of values, as well as the relationships between values and other major
domains of personality (motivation, personality dimensions, intellect and cognition, emotions,
well-being and health). According to this model, the entire structural hierarchy of human
values encompasses four levels differing in the generality of value categories or dimensions.
The hierarchy extends from the bottom level of single general values through the levels of the
middle-order dimensions and higher-order dimension of values to the top level of two
superdimensions of values (Apollonian and Dinoysian values). In economy and economic
psychology, the empirically based model of values is of importance in the light of the
changing the homo economicus perspective to the behavioral economics perspective. In order
to obtain more efficient predictions of human behavior, the contemporary economy and
economical psychology should more properly reflect and consider the entire spectrum of the
principal human values, which is much broader than the value systems being considered in
values, psychology, economy, economic psychology, behavioral economics
Human values are important subject of matter in psychology and economy. The shared
interest of both disciplines for the research of values increased in recent time in accordance
with paradigmatic changes in both sciences. In psychology, the values appeared in radically
new light with the paradigmatic shift toward the social, cultural and cognitive perspective. In
the economics, the values became increasingly important subject of research within the
evolution from classical and neoclassical economic paradigm to behavioral economics. In this
presentation I will focus primarily on the depiction of my theoretical model of values, which
is the result of some decades of empirical psychological research. However, I will also pay
attention to the relevance of this model in the light of emerging models in behavioral
First, I will present a brief historical review of axiology including the rise of empirical
research of values in behavioral sciences. Then I will stress the importance of the study of
values in economic science, especially in regard of the development of behavioral economics.
Next, the main part of presentation will follow containing the methodological and thematic
review of the general comprehensive model of values with all its submodels. Finally, the
relevance of the model from the viewpoint of behavioral economics will be discussed briefly
and some concluding remarks will be added.
The importance of the values as the beliefs or conceptions of the guiding principles in
our life has been recognized since the ancient times. In the birth of axiology, the philosophers
like Plato and Aristotle (1971, 1980; see also Vorländer, 1977) proposed the classical trinity
of values, the good, the truth and the beauty (bonum, verum, pulchrum in Latin), that has been
later supplemented by early Christian philosopher Saint Augustine with the supreme Christian
values of faith, hope and love.
In psychology, the research of values has been almost neglected till the seminal work
of Milton Rokeach in sixties and seventies of the previous century. The notable exceptions
are: the purely theoretical pioneering system developed by Eduard Spranger (1924), Veber
(1924), then the psychometric efforts of Gordon Allport and his coworkers (Allport, Vernon
& Lindzey, 1936) as well as a few empirical studies that only tangentially contribute to the
knowledge of values.
Rokeach's investigations tremendously stimulated the empirical research of values in
psychology (especially in social psychology). This research culminated in the work of
Schwartz, Hofstede, Triandis, Inglehart and others. Their work revealed the major role of
values in the understanding not only our individual life but also the life of all cultural systems
of mankind. As Smith and Bond (1998, pp. 69) say: "The best conceptual frameworks
currently available to guide cross-cultural research are those provided by studies of value
differences". Finally, so to say, the amount of empirical research on values reach the degree
the values deserve according their overwhelming importance in our lives.
Research of values in the light of changing paradigms in the economy
It is worth of mention that the very term value has been applied in the strict scientific
sense first in economy and only later in the sciences like psychology and sociology. Even in
the philosophy, the concept of value(s) was only gradually accepted despite the use of the
terms denoting the similar meaning already in ancient times (for example Greek arête or Latin
virtus). This could be surprising because the concept of value(s) contains the connotation of
something inevitably subjective. Thus, it seems that the subjectivity is implanted into the core
terminology of otherwise exact objective classical economy.
Nevertheless, the economy in its classical and neoclassical form adopted the model of
Homo Economicus, the image of human being with totally predictive behavior based on
“unbounded rationality, willpower and selfishness“ (Mullainathan & Thaler, 2001).
Consequently, the human values could play a very little role in explanation of the economic
processes with the exception of strictly economic values, and according to this, no need for
empirical research of psychological has been recognized in classical and neoclassical
economics. In past decades, however, the homo economicus perspective has been increasingly
challenged by the newly emerging behavioral economics perspective (for a detailed review
see Cammerer, Loewenstein & Rabin, 2003). All three main assumptions of the (neo)classical
model of economics, rationality, willpower and selfishness, turned to be rather dubious
premises in predicting human economic behavior. Factual, real economic behavior could be
very far from the optimal economic behavior (Conlisk, 1996). Descriptive models of decision
making thus largely exceed the normative or prescriptive models. The “bounded rationality”
as Simon (1955) says long ago and other bounds of human nature typically shape the real
human decision making processes including economic decisions.
The new perspective of behavioral economics had recognized a range of typically
human biases that are influencing economic behavior (Kahneman, Slovic & Tversky, 1982).
On the other side, many of these biases or anomalies (regarding from the optimal behavior
perspective) have something to do with the values that by definition represent the guiding
principles of our behavior and our life. In some sense, the values can be seen as the general
categories of conceptions or beliefs that concern all desirable things or events in our life and
that consequently influence our decisions, especially the most important and long-term
decisions in the life.
These considerations require a necessary extension of the classical and neoclassical
view of values in economy. The value system that guides economy-relevant human behavior
widely transcends purely economic values. Certainly, such general conclusion needs further
specifications. We can expect an essential clarification of the role of values in guiding and/or
predicting our behavior including the economic behavior. We may reasonably ask, which
categories of values exist beyond and above rationality-related economic values in our
economic-behavior-guiding value system? Therefore we need to know and to face the
important contributions of empirical studies of values being accomplished in psychology,
sociology and cross-cultural research. And what we especially need is a generalized,
comprehensive model or theory of values that embeds the existing knowledge about values in
a unified, synthesized manner.
Toward a comprehensive model of values
General model and submodels
Unfortunately, the empirical research of values has not been integrated into a
comprehensive and unified theoretical framework as for instance has been the research of
intelligence or the research of personality traits. For this reason, I recently constructed a
theoretical model that includes the most important aspects of human values: the hierarchical
structure of values (taxonomy of values), the causal factors and the development of values,
the transcultural consistency of values, and the connections of values with other psychological
and demographic variables. Thus, a comprehensive model of values has been build, including
the full taxonomical and etiological perspective of values and the relationships of the values
with other important psychological domains.
Methodology of research
In order to verify the model, several experimental and multivariate studies have been
performed including factor and cluster analyses, multidimensional scaling, and SEM
(Structural Equation Model) analyses.
About 4000 subjects participated in our studies including both sexes and all ages
above puberty; a large representative sample (N=1005) of Slovenian population between age
16 to 80 also participated in one of the studies (Musek, 2000).
In all our investigations, our own value survey (MLV or MVS) has been used. The
survey consists of 54 different values, and the subjects rated the personal importance of each
value on 1 to 10 (one to ten) rating scale continuum (in some research a modification with 1
to 100 continuum was used). The individual or group results can be calculated on four levels
of the generality of value structure: the level of single values, the level of middle-order value
facets (9 categories), the level of higher-order value categories (4), and the level of two
highest-order value categories.
The survey has good metric characteristics. As for the validity, the factor structure of
the scale closely resembles the structure of well-known Schwartz Value Survey (Musek,
2000); further, the survey scores strongly predicted educational preferences, religious and
political affiliation, and a number of other value-related beliefs, attitudes, and decisions. The
internal consistency of the scale is about 0.95, for subscales only slightly minor, indicating
thus also the probability of considerable test-retest reliability. Beside the MVS, the other
value surveys have been occasionally used in our studies, including Schwartz Value Survey,
Rokeach Value Survey and Pogačnik Scale of Values.
Structural (descriptive/taxonomical) submodel: structural hierarchy of values
Now, I shall briefly present the research results related to the validation of the entire
model. First, the results of our studies strongly confirmed a stable hierarchical structure of the
value universe. The results of our factor-, cluster- and multidimensional scaling analyses
converged to the hierarchical structure, that is shown in the Figure 1. The hierarchical model
encompasses four levels of generality. Looking from the bottom to the top, we have single
values at the first level. Single values, according to their intercorrelations, aggregate to the
second level categories of values, which have been labeled middle-range or middle-order
categories. Middle-order categories still correlate and form thus the higher-order categories,
that are four. Finally, according to the correlations of higher-order categories, we can discover
the highest-order categories or dimensions of values, that we, according to the Nietzschean
terminology (Nietzsche, 1969), interpreted as dionysian and apollonian macrocategory (or
superdimension) of values.
Figure 1. Hierarchical structure of value universe. The categories of values drawn from our
empirical studies occupy all four levels of the hierarchical model. The details see in the text.
highest order categories
higher order categories
middle order categories
sociability, exciting life,
comfortable life, sexual
satisfaction, good food,
family happiness, good
partnership, love for
children, love, hope
equity, national equality,
culture, arts, creativity
faith in God
specific (single) values
Developmental submodel: Developmental hierarchy of values
Our results also confirm the next important submodel, namely the developmental
submodel, predicting the developmentally characteristic shifts in value orientations. Thus, a
developmental hierarchy of values could be proposed, somewhat similar to the well-known
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Maslow, 1954). According to the developmental subtheory,
throughout or life-span (from the puberty age on) we shift our value orientations progressively
from dionysian to more apollonian orientation, or in terms of higher-order value types, from
relatively hedonistic orientation in the adolescence to the relatively potency orientation in
early adulthood, then to the moral and fulfillment orientation in the maturity. The shift of the
value importance has to be understood in relative, not in absolute terms (in absolute ratings,
apollonian values always outweigh the dionysian). This relative shift in value orientations
seems to be very important, for it could help us to better understand the famous value conflict
between generations. My opinion is, that this conflict (historically and culturally permanent as
it is) could be explained rather in terms of development of value orientation than in terms of
other conflicting life circumstances of both generations. In other words, this is a conflict, that
resembles the hypothetical conflict of a person of age 18, and that is relatively hedonistic
oriented, to the same person in age 50, that is relatively more moral and fulfillment oriented.
Cross-cultural submodel: Cultural stability and universality of values
Further investigations are aimed to test the intergroup and intercultural stability of
values. In this respect we found some characteristic (already mentioned) age- and sex- or
gender-related diferences as well as we confirmed the cross-cultural stability of major
dimensions or categories of values (Musek, Pergar Kuščer & Bekeš, 2001).
The results of our study confirmed the underlying hypothesis that the cross-cultural
similarity of value structure increases with the level of the generality of that structure. The
higher being the level of generality of value categories, the greater is their similarity and thus
the cross-cultural consistency. The results of this study are therefore in concordance with the
theory of the universality of the basic structure of value categories (Musek, 1993a,b; 2000;
Sagiv and Schwartz, 1995; Schwartz and Bilsky, 1987, 1990). However, the discovery that
the basic structure of value system is commonly shared by wide range of different nations and
cultures is not controversial to the well-established cross-cultural differences being found in
numerous investigations (Bond, 1988, 1991; Bond, Leung and Schwartz, 1992; Chinese
Culture Connection, 1987; Fiske, 1991, 1992; Hofstede, 1980, 1983, 2001; Hofstede and
Bond, 1988; Kagitçibasi, 1970; Leung and Bond, 1989; Leung, Bond and Schwartz, 1995;
Sagiv and Schwartz, 1995; Schwartz, 1994; Smith and Schwartz, 1997; Smith, Trompenaars
and Dugan, 1993; Triandis, 1990, 1995; Triandis et al., 1972). It seems that these differences
increase with decreasing level of generality of the value universe. Different cultures differ in
conceiving how single values are correlated and grouped into primary categories of values,
but converge in conceptualizing how these categories could be further associated into higher
level dimensions. Searching the culture-free dimensions of values we can find them in the
macrolevels of the hierarchical order of the value universe.
Transversal submodel: Connections between values and other important domains of
demographic and psychological variables
The values are connected not only to the age and culture, yet also to other important
demographic variables, like gender (women are slightly more apollonian, men slightly more
Dionysian), socioeconomic status and so on. However, they are not connected with basic
psychological or personality domains such as major personality dimensions or abilities (low
correlations with values). This is very interesting from the evolutionary point of view. All
important psychological domains (personality dimensions, abilities, motives and values)
contribute to the successful life. From the evolutionary point of view it could be desirable that
those domains would not be highly correlated. If they would be correlated, then our
maneuvering place for better adjustment would be more restricted. If not, the strength in one
domain could compensate the adaptation deficiencies in other domain more properly.
Etiological submodel: Causal factors of values
Taxonomical model of values has been at least theoretically upgraded also with
etiological model considering the causal factors that are important in the processes of the
development, shaping and stabilization of the individual value system. For the time sparing
reasons I will only summarize the etiological factors presented in Figure 2 . They contain both
phylogenetic and ontogenetic sources and could be divided into two major categories. First,
they encompass the biological factors: genetic, evolutionary and neuropsyshological. It is
plausible to assume that widely culturally shared dimensions of values are to the some extent
the outcome of evolutionary presses and evolutionary strategies. Values and moral systems
had to be evolved in all cultures in order to preserve better survival. In the other side, the
values, value systems and value orientations are always mediated by the existing cultural
milieu and education. Finally, there is an interplay of motivational, emotional and cognitive
factors within the personality, which affects the shaping and development the values in each
individual (the ontogenetic causation of values).
Figure 2. The synthesis of factors that causally influence the emergence and development of
Prediction submodel: Values as predictors of behavior
Finally, we also test the predictive validity of the values or value orientations. In our
studies the values turned out to be very powerful predictors in many important aspects of our
existence. That is true, for instance, for our educational and vocational decisions and choices,
for our religious and political affiliations, for our hobbies and leisure activities, for our
relationships with partners and family members, for our attitudes and beliefs toward
minorities and immigrants, even for the decisions such as to have or not to have children etc.
Indeed, the values deserve to be defined as »the guiding principles in our life«.
as general and complex
mental schemes with
and cognitive content
The predictive role of the values is summarized in Table 1 showing different predicted
variables (dependents) with correspondent R squared (indicating the percent of explained
variance of dependents) and the number of values as significant predictors (independents) in
the model. In the majority of cases, the predictors were the ratings of the importance of values
(as usual when MVS is applied), whereas in some cases (signed with asterisk) also the rated
degree of realization of values in the life has been used as the predictive variable in the model.
Values as predictors of different demographic and psychosocial variables.
Dependent in the
R square Number of values, predictors
in the model
Age 0.30; 0.39 (0.39*) 16; 17 (10*)
Sex/gender 0.12; 0.19 11; 5
Academic orientation 0.66 All values of MVS
Religiosity 0.71 9
Spiritual intelligence 0.45 7
Well-being 0.23 (0.39*) 6 (7*)
0.16; 0.19; 0.44 (0.34*;
6; 15; 6 (10*; 8*)
Marital status 0.24 (0.31*) 11 (11*)
0.07 (0.52*) 3 (3*)
Number of children 0.13; 0.31 (0.32*) 10; 10 (8*)
Political orientation 0.33 5
Tolerance 0.36 13
Education 0.30 15
SES 0.12 10
Income 0.10 8
Big Five 0.04 – 0.34 (0.12-0,35*) 3-11 (4-12*)
0.11; 0.19 (0.18*) 7; 11 (6*)
Dependent in the model R square Number of values, predictors
in the model
Emotional intelligence 0,18; 0,32 3; 4
0.17 (0.23*) 2 (4*)
0.50 (0.41*) 5 (3*)
Inspiration 0.37 (0.33*) 7 (5*)
Flow state 0.47 5
Positive affect 0.15 (0.42*) 8 (4*)
Negative affect 0.20 (0.77*) 14 (6*)
Optimism 0,23; 0.48 4; 5
Hope 0.50 5
Self-esteem 0.36 7
Global self-concept 0.18 3
Independent self 0.40 7
Interdependent self 0.61 7
Personal hardiness 0.13 6
Distress 0.17 5
Coping strategies 0.16 5
Academic success 0.20 7
Personal growth 0.33; 0.69 13; 8
Global self-efficacy 0.16 6
Social desirability 0.35 (0,28*) 4 (2*)
* Fulfillment (realization) of values in the life
Implications of the model for economy
According to the contemporary understanding of the universe of human values, it is
very clear that our behavior is influenced by a variety of values and value categories. In
predicting the behavior in economic sphere or domain as well, the entire spectrum of values
must be considered. Thus, quite opposite to the (neo)classical economics, the behavioral
economics paradigm should recognize the role of values in relation to the economic behavior
in much broader sense. Economic values represent only one category of all value categories,
which are relevant for economic behavior. Moreover, the economic values are related to the
other value categories and they could be therefore classified into higher-order dimensions of
values (Dionysian as well as Apollonian). Consider for example some of the numerous kinds
of behavior that have doubtless economic significance, namely the consumer behavior,
marketing, buying and other financial investments, savings etc. All these are related to the
plethora of values including hedonic, potency, moral and fulfillment categories. Furthermore,
it is clear that the same is true for other types of human behavior that are important in
Finally, let me draw some conclusion based on previously mentioned theoretical
considerations and research results. They can be formulated as follows:
- The study of values is prominent both in psychology and economy.
- The classical and neoclassical views of values in economy are deficient for many
- Psychological, sociological and cross-cultural research of values substantially
contributed to the clarification of the role of the values in predicting our behavior
including in the domain of economy.
- A new comprehensive model of values has been proposed recently in order to describe
and explain the universe of human values in empirical terms.
- On the basis of our research we can generally confirm the proposed comprehensive
theoretical model of values, which integrates descriptive-taxonomic and etiological
aspects of values, encompassing among other the structural hierarchy of values, the
developmental hierarchy, cross-cultural stability of value dimensions and powerful
predictive role of values in our life.
- In order to obtain more efficient predictions of human behavior, the contemporary
economy and economical psychology should more properly reflect and consider the
entire spectrum of the principal human values, which is much broader than the value
systems being considered in classical economy.
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