Values and Norms

 

Values and norms are evaluative beliefs that synthesize affective and cognitive elements to orient people to the world in which they live. Their evaluative element makes them unlike existential beliefs, which focus primarily on matters of truth or falsehood, correctness or incorrectness. Their cognitive element makes them unlike motives that can derive from emotions or psychological drives. Values and norms involve cognitive beliefs of approval or disapproval. Although they tend to persist through time and therefore faster continuity in society and human personality, they also are susceptible to change (Moss and Susman 1980; Alwin 1994).

The evaluative criteria represented in values and norms influence the behavior of subject units at multiple levels (e.g., individuals, organizations, and societies) as well as judgments about the behavior of others, which also can influence behavior. For example, values and norms affect the evaluation of individuals as suitable marriage partners and in that way influence marital behavior. Values and norms also affect evaluation of the governing policies and practices of societies and thus have an impact on diplomatic relations and the policies of one society’s government toward other societies.

Concept of Value

A value is a belief about the desirability of a mode, means, or end of action (Kluckhohn 1951; Schwartz and Bilsky 1987). It indicates the degree to which something is regarded as good versus bad. A value tends to be general rather than specific, transcending particular types of action and situations. As a general evaluative criterion, it is used to assess specific behaviors in specific situations.

The evaluative criteria represented by values derive from conceptions of morality, aesthetics, and achievement. That is, a mode, means, or end of action can be regarded as good or bad for moral, aesthetic, or cognitive reasons and often for a combination of those reasons (Kluckhohn 1951; Parsons and Shils 1951). For example, being considerate of others may be valued positively (i.e., be viewed as desirable or good) for moral reasons, neatness may be valued positively for aesthetic reasons, and intelligence may be valued positively for cognitive reasons. Since the distinguishing characteristic of a value is evaluation as good or bad, a value that has a cognitive basis is a function of cognitive appraisal based on competency and achievement rather than on scientific or utilitarian grounds. For example, the choice of steel rather than iron to construct a building is a decision based on scientific or utilitarian criteria rather than on values.

The concept of a value must be differentiated from other concepts that appear to be similar. One of those concepts is a preference. A value may be thought of as a type of preference, but not all preferences are values. The distinctive characteristic of a value is that it is based on a belief about what is desirable rather than on mere liking. A preference for an equitable rather than inequitable distribution of rewards is a value, but a preference for vanilla rather than chocolate ice cream is not.

The concept of a value also bears some similarity to the concept of an attitude. Some analysts have suggested that a value is a type of attitude (Fishbein and Ajzen 1975; Glenn 1980), but there are differences between the two concepts. An attitude refers to an organization of several beliefs around a specific object or situation, whereas a value refers to a single belief of a specific kind: a belief about desirability that is based in conceptions of morality, aesthetics, or achievement and transcends specific behaviors and situations. Because of its generality, a value occupies a more central and hierarchically important place in human personality and cognitive structure than does an attitude. It is a determinant of attitudes as well as behavior. Thus, evaluations of numerous attitude objects and situations are based on a relatively small number of values. Not all attitudes, however, derive from values. For example, an attitude toward skiing may be based on the extent to which that sport is found to be enjoyable rather than on a value. The concept of a value also differs from the concept of an interest in much the same way that it differs from the concept of an attitude, since an interest is a type of attitude that results in the directing of one’s attention and action toward a focal object or situation. As is true of attitudes more broadly, some interests derive from values but others do not.

The concept of a value also can be distinguished from the related concept of a motive. The basic property of a motive is the ability to induce valences (incentives) that may be positive or negative. A value has a motive property, involving a predisposition to act in a certain way, because it affects the evaluation of the expected consequences of an action and therefore the choice among possible alternatives; however, it is a less person-centered concept than a motive, which also encompasses emotions and drives. A value is a particular type of motive involving a belief about the desirability of an action that derives from an evaluation of that action’s expected consequences in a situation. A value is a distinctively human motive, unlike motives that operate at both the human and the infrahuman levels.

A value also differs from a need. Although both function as motives because of their ability to induce valences, a need is distinctive in being a requirement for the continued performance of an activity and the attainment of other valued outcomes (Emerson 1987). Some needs have a biological basis; others are psychological, often deriving from the persistent frustration of important goals. Although a value may arise from a need, becoming a cognitive transformation of that need, not all needs are transformed into values and not all values derive from needs. Needs also may derive from the structure of a situation, having a social or economic basis rather than a personcentered biological or psychological basis. For example, a need for income may cause an actor to behave in ways that conflict with his or her values. A need differs from a value in that the continued functioning of the actor and the acquisitions of other valued outcomes are contingent on its being met. A need also differs from a value in that it implies a deficit that imposes a requirement, whereas a value implies motivation that is based on a belief about desirability.

Finally, a value can be differentiated from a goal. A value sometimes is thought of as a goal because goals are selected on the basis of values. However, some values focus on modes of action that are personal attributes, such as intelligence, rather than ends of action, or goals. Values are not goals of behavior. They are evaluative criteria that are used to select goals and appraise the implications of action.

Concept of Norm

Like a value, a norm is an evaluative belief. Whereas a value is a belief about the desirability of behavior, a norm is a belief about the acceptability of behavior (Gibbs 1965; Marini 1984). A norm indicates the degree to which a behavior is regarded as right versus wrong, allowable versus unallowable. It is an evaluative criterion that specifies a rule of behavior, indicating what a behavior ought to be or ought not to be. A prescriptive norm indicates what should be done, and a proscriptive norm indicates what should not be done. Because a norm is a behavioral rule, it produces a feeling of obligation. A value, in contrast, produces a feeling of desirability, of attraction or repulsion.

A norm also differs from a value in its degree of specificity. A norm is less general than a value because it indicates what should or should not be done in particular behavioral contexts. Whereas a value is a general evaluative criterion that transcends particular types of action and situations, a norm is linked directly to particular types of action and situations. For example, there may be a norm proscribing the killing of other human beings that is generally applicable except in situations such as war, self-defense, capital punishment, and euthanasia. Situational variability of this type sometimes is referred to as the conditionality of a norm. A norm, like a value, is generally applicable to the types of action and situations on which it focuses, but it is less general than a value because it is less likely to transcend particular types of action and situations.

Because norms often derive from values, they have their basis in conceptions of morality, aesthetics, and achievement and often in a combination of those conceptions. The basis of a norm tends to affect its strength, or the importance attached to it. For example, a norm based in morality that differentiates right from wrong is likely to be considered more important than a norm based in aesthetics that differentiates the appropriate from the inappropriate, for example, in matters of dress or etiquette. A norm, however, differs from a custom in much the same way that a value differs from a preference. A norm involves an evaluation of what an actor should do, whereas a custom involves an expectation of what an actor will do. It may be expected, for example, that people will drink coffee, but it is usually a matter of indifference whether they do. Drinking coffee is therefore a custom, not a norm; it is not based on a belief about what people ought to do.

The Structure of Values and Norms

Multiple values and norms are organized and linked in the cultures of human social systems and also are linked when they are internalized by individuals. Cultural ‘‘value orientations’’ organize and link values and norms to existential beliefs in general views that also might be called worldviews or ideologies (Kluckhohn 1951). They are sets of linked propositions embracing evaluative and existential elements that describe preferred or obligatory states. Values and norms are linked to and buttressed by existential beliefs about human nature, the human condition, interpersonal relations, the functioning of social organizations and societies, and the nature of the world. Since existential beliefs focus on what is true versus untrue, they are to some degree empirically based and verifiable.

In most of the early conceptual and theoretical work on values, values and norms were not differentiated clearly. Later, particularly as attempts to measure values and norms were made, the two concepts were routinely considered distinct, and studies focusing on them have been carried out separately since that time. As a result, the relationship between values and norms rarely has been analyzed theoretically or empirically.

Values and norms are closely related because values usually provide the justification for norms. As beliefs about what is desirable and undesirable, values often are associated with normative beliefs that require or preclude certain behavior, establishing boundaries to indicate what is acceptable versus unacceptable. For example, the positive value attached to human safety and security is supported by norms that proscribe doing harm to other persons and their property. Not all values are supported by norms, however. Displaying personal competence in a variety of ways is positively valued, but norms do not always require it. Similarly, not all norms support values. For example, norms in regard to dress and etiquette can be quite arbitrary. Their existence may support values, but the specific rules of behavior they establish may not.

Many cultural value orientations organize and link the values and norms that operate as evaluative criteria in human social systems. These orientations are learned and internalized by individuals in unique ways that vary with an individual’s personal characteristics and social history and the interaction between the two. Cultural value orientations and internalized individual value orientations are more comprehensive systems of values and norms than those activated as influences on particular types of behavior. The latent structure of values and norms that characterizes a social system or an individual can be thought of as a map or blueprint (Rokeach 1973). Only a portion of the map or blueprint that is immediately relevant to the behavioral choices being made is consulted, and the rest is ignored temporarily. Different subsets of values and norms that make up different portions of the map or blueprint are activated when different types of behavioral choices are made. For example, the values and norms relevant in choosing a mate differ from those relevant in deciding how to allocate one’s time among various activities.

The Object Unit

A characteristic of values and norms that is important for understanding their structure is the type of object unit to which they pertain, such as an individual, an organization, or a society. Values and norms establish what is desirable or acceptable for particular types of object units. For example, physical and psychological health are positively valued ends of action for individuals, and norms that proscribe or prescribe action to maintain or promote health govern individual action. Democracy, distributive justice, and world peace are positively valued ends of action for societies, and norms, usually in the form of laws, proscribe and prescribe certain actions on the part of a society’s institutions in support of those values. Individuals may value democracy, justice, and peace, but these are societal values, not individual values, since they pertain to the characteristics of societies, not to those of individuals. Differentiating values by their object units is important in conceptualizing and measuring values relevant to the explanation of behavior because correspondence between the actor, or subject unit, and the object unit determines the extent to which behavior by the actor is relevant to achieving a particular end. Individuals differentiate between personal and societal values because they do not have direct influence over social values, thus distinguishing their beliefs on the basis of whether they think those beliefs will lead to action (Braithwaite and Law 1985).

The Basis of Evaluation

As evaluative criteria, values and norms have the ability to induce valences (incentives). They affect evaluation of the behavior of others and involve a predisposition to act in a certain way because they affect the evaluation of the expected consequences of action. The evaluation that occurs on the basis of values and norms derives from two structural properties: the polarity, or directionality, of the value or norm and the standard of comparison that is used.

Polarity→ The polarity of a value or norm is the direction of its valence, or motive force, which may be positive or negative. In the case of a value, something that is evaluated as desirable will have a positive valence, whereas something that is evaluated as undesirable will have a negative valence. In the case of a norm, something that should be done will have a positive valence, whereas something that should not be done will have a negative valence.

Standard of Comparison→ A value or norm also is characterized by a standard, or level, of aspiration or expectation. This evaluative standard is a reference point with respect to which a behavior and its consequences are evaluated. A subject unit’s own action and that of others, as well as the ends that result or may result from action, are evaluated on the basis of whether they are above or below an evaluative standard.

In the case of a value, the evaluative standard determines the neutral point on the value scale at or above which a behavior or its consequences will be evaluated as desirable and below which a behavior or its consequences will be evaluated as undesirable. In both economics and psychology, it has been recognized that there is a utility, or value, function that should be considered nonlinear (Marini [1992] provides a discussion of these developments), and there is empirical evidence that it generally is appropriate to assume the existence of a reference point on a utility, or value, scale. This reference point plays a critical role in producing a nonlinear relationship between the value scale and the objective continuum of behavior and its consequences. It has been observed that value functions change significantly at a certain point, which is often, although not always, zero. In the prospect theory of Kahneman and Tversky (1979), outcomes are expressed as positive or negative deviations from a neutral reference outcome that is assigned a value of zero. Kahneman and Tversky propose an S-shaped value function that is concave above the reference point and convex below it but less steep above than below. This function specifies that the effect of a marginal change decreases with the distance from the reference point in either direction but that the response to outcomes below the reference point is more extreme than is the response to outcomes above it. The asymmetry of the value function suggests a stronger aversion to what is evaluated as undesirable, an asymmetry that is consistent with an empirically observed aversion to loss.

In the case of a norm, the evaluative standard is set by what is defined to be acceptable versus unacceptable. It is a level of expectation that is determined by the specific behaviors that are regarded as right versus wrong, appropriate versus inappropriate. An important difference between a value and a norm is that whereas there is a continuous, nonlinear relationship between a value scale and the objective continuum of behavior or its consequences above the neutral point set by the evaluative standard, this relationship is not expected between the scale of evaluation based on a normative criterion and the objective continuum of behavior. Because a normative standard establishes a boundary of acceptability or requirement that applies to all those covered by the norm, compliance with a normative expectation is not evaluated as a continuous variable on the basis of variation in behavior above the reference point set by the normative expectation. However, violation of a normative standard is evaluated as a continuous variable on the basis of variation in behavior below the reference point set by the standard. Negative deviations from the standard are likely to be evaluated in much the same way as are negative evaluations from the reference point on a value scale, which is convex below the reference point. Because of the strong aversion to what is evaluated as being below the reference standard, behavior that violates a normative standard is likely to be eliminated from consideration as an option.

The level of aspiration or expectation that operates as an evaluative standard for an actor is socially determined to a large degree. It is a ‘‘comparison level’’ learned from others whom the actor takes as referents. As a result of variation in the characteristics of actors, the social environments to which they are exposed, and the interaction between those two factors, the evaluative standards associated with values and norms vary across actors. Even among actors in the same social environment, the evaluative standard is specific to the actor, although there may be a high degree of consensus about it in a social group.

The evaluative standards associated with values and norms are subject to change in an individual actor. An important source of change is experience that affects the level of ability, knowledge, or accomplishment of an actor. For example, the evaluative standard for achievement values is affected by an actor’s level of achievement. There is evidence that people tend to raise their value standards with success and lower them with failure. Thus, as a worker learns a job, that worker’s ability to perform the job increases, as does the worker’s evaluative standard. A level of ability that once was aspired to and evaluated as ‘‘extremely good’’ may, after increases in the worker’s ability, come to be viewed as ‘‘mediocre’’ and below the worker’s current evaluative standard for expected performance. Experience also may affect the evaluative standard for norms. For example, there is evidence that the experience of divorce changes normative beliefs about divorce in the direction of increasing its acceptability (Thornton 1985). Another source of change in the evaluative standards associated with the values and norms of an actor is an increase in knowledge of the world that alters the existential beliefs connected with values and norms.

The evaluative standards associated with values and norms vary not only among actors and over time for the same actor but also with the characteristics of other actors whose behavior is the object of evaluation. These characteristics may differentiate among actors or among the circumstances of the same actor at different times. For example, the value standard used by an adult to evaluate a child’s knowledge will vary for children who have completed different amounts of schooling, such as an elementary school student, a high school student, or a college student: The amount of knowledge evaluated as ‘‘very good’’ for an elementary school student will differ from that evaluated as ‘‘very good’’ for a student at a more advanced stage of schooling. Different value standards will be applied to different students and to the same student at different stages of schooling. Similarly, in a work organization, the value standard used to evaluate performance may vary for different categories of workers: Those with more experience may be evaluated according to a higher standard. Again, these different tandards may be applied to different workers who are in different categories or to the same worker as he or she progresses from one category to another.

Like a value standard, a normative standard may vary with the characteristics of other actors whose behavior is an object of evaluation. However, there is a difference between a value and a norm in this regard. Because a value is a continuous variable, variation in the value standard with the characteristics of the other actors whose behavior is being evaluated need not have implications for whether the value applies to those actors. In contrast, because a norm is a discrete variable that differentiates what is acceptable from what is unacceptable, variation in the evaluative standard of a norm with the characteristics of other actors whose behavior is being evaluated determines whether the norm applies to other actors with particular characteristics. This variability—that is, variability in whether a value or norm applies based on the characteristics of the actors being evaluated— is a dimension of the importance of a value or norm and is labeled its conditionality.

Dimensions of Importance

It is commonly recognized that values and norms differ in their priority, or importance, and that those differences are another aspect of the structure of values and norms. Differences in priority produce a structure that is to some degree hierarchical. Recognition that not all values are of equal importance has led to the use of ranking procedures to measure values (Allport et al. 1960; Rokeach 1973). These procedures have been criticized for forcing respondents to represent their values in a ranked order that does not allow for the possibility that some values may be of equal importance (Alwin and Krosnick 1985; Braithwaite and Law 1985). Although there is a hierarchy among values, there may be sets of values that occupy the same position in the hierarchy. The priority of a value or norm not only has implications for its influence on behavior but also may have implications for the probability that it will change, since values and norms of high priority have been argued to be less likely to change than are those of low priority.

The priority, or importance, of a value or norm can be assessed on a number of dimensions:

(1) strength, or intensity,

(2) centrality,

(3) range,

(4) conditionally, and

(5) intent.

Although these dimensions are conceptually different, they are likely to overlap empirically to a considerable degree. The extent to which and ways in which they overlap in reflecting the importance of a value or norm are not known.

Strength→ The strength of a value or norm can be defined as the maximum strength of the force field it can induce. The strength of the valence reflects its hierarchical position in the latent map or blueprint that characterizes the structure of values and norms for a social system or an individual. Although the strength of a value or norm is likely to display considerable stability, it is also subject to change. At the level of the social system, it may change as a result of long-term changes in social organization and aspects of culture as well as precipitating events. As the social system changes, socializing influences on individuals change. Changes in the values and norms of individuals occur both over the life course (Glenn 1980; Alwin 1994) and as a result of differences between those who are born and move through life in different historical periods. The motivational force of a value at a particular time, however, is not necessarily the maximum strength of its latent force field, because attaining a valued outcome may reduce the subjective utility of additional units of that outcome as a result of diminishing marginal utility, or satiation. In the case of either a value or a norm, whether one attains an outcome also may alter the maximum strength of its latent force field. For example, if attainment is problematic, the importance of a value or norm may decline as a way of reducing cognitive dissonance.

Centrality→ The centrality of a value or norm can be defined as the number and variety of behaviors or ends to which it applies. Because a central value or norm contributes more than does a peripheral one to the coherent organization and functioning of the total system, the disappearance of a central value or norm would make a greater difference to the total system than would the disappearance of a peripheral value or norm. A central value or norm is more resistant to change than is a peripheral value or norm; however, if change occurs, the more central the value or norm changed, the more widespread its repercussions (Rokeach 1973, 1985).

For individuals and even for social groups, concern and responsibility for the well-being of others is a central value that pertains to a large number and variety of specific behaviors and ends. It is supported by a central proscriptive norm that one should not harm others and a central prescriptive norm that one should help others, particularly if they are in need. These norms pertain to a large number and variety of specific behaviors. In contrast, excitement and adventure are more peripheral values, affecting a smaller number and variety of specific behaviors and ends. In connection with these values, peripheral norms govern the carrying out of specific types of activities that may be sources of excitement and adventure, such as the rules governing sports and potentially dangerous recreational activities.

For individuals, life values that pertain to the overall ends, or goals, of life along with the norms that support them tend to be more central than are the values and norms that pertain to particular life domains or social roles. Part of the reason for this is that life values affect whether particular life domains or social roles are entered into and the amounts of time and energy a person spends in different domains and roles. They also affect an individual’s domain- and role-specific values and norms. For example, life values include things such as attaining a high material standard of living, having meaningful family relationships and friendships, making the world a better place, and having a good time. Life values of this type are among the factors that influence entry into various life domains and roles, the activities in those domains and roles, and how much investment is made in each one (e.g., marriage, parenthood, employment, friendships, leisure activities and hobbies, community activities, religion). Values and norms pertaining to each of the domains and roles are to some degree a function of overall life values. For example, if an individual places a higher priority on making the world a better place than on material well-being, that individual’s employment values will place a higher priority on the possible influence and significance of the work performed than on the earnings derived from the work. Similarly, if an individual places a higher priority on meaningful relationships than on material wellbeing, marital values will place a higher priority on love and mutual respect than on the shared material standard of living.

Range→ The range of a value or norm can be defined as the number and variety of actors of a particular type of object unit (e.g., individuals, organizations, and societies) to which it applies. Whereas the dimension of centrality focuses on the characteristics of action and its ends (i.e., the number and variety of behaviors or ends to which a value or norm applies), the dimension of range focuses on the characteristics of actors (i.e., the number and variety of individuals or larger social units to which a value or norm applies). The characteristics of actors used to define the range of a value or norm tend to be ascriptive or groupdefining characteristics of individuals or larger social units. In the case of individuals, these are characteristics such as age, sex, nationality, race, and ethnicity. A value or norm with a broad range applies to all actors of a particular type of object unit, whereas a value or norm with a narrow range applies to a very restricted category of actors of that type. For example, concern about and responsibility for the well-being of others is a value with a broad range that applies universally to individuals throughout the world. In contrast, wisdom is a value with a narrower range because although it applies throughout the world, it applies primarily to people of older ages. Similarly, the norm against incest has a broad range because it applies universally to individuals throughout the world. In contrast, the norm prescribing paid employment has a narrower range because it applies primarily to men in particular age categories.

Conditionality→ The conditionality of a value or norm can be defined as the number and variety of situations to which it applies. Whereas the dimension of centrality focuses on the characteristics of action or its ends and the dimension of range focuses on the characteristics of actors, the dimension of conditionality focuses on the characteristics of situations, including a situation’s actors. When conditionality pertains to the characteristics of a situation’s actors, it usually refers to emergent or potentially changing characteristics of actors that define the situation rather than to ascriptive characteristics that define membership in social groups. Although values are less tied to specific types of situations than norms are, both values and norms vary in the degree to which they are conditioned on the characteristics of situations. For example, some values pertaining to modes of conduct, such as courtesy, cleanliness, and honesty, are applicable across most situations. Others are applicable in many fewer situations or may even be bipolar, with the polarity of the value being conditional on the situation. For example, aggressiveness is positively valued in some types of competitive situations, such as warfare and sports, but negatively valued in some types of cooperative situations, such as conversation and child rearing.

The conditionality of a value or norm is evident when a given subject actor who is evaluating a given type of action or end of action makes different evaluations in different types of situations, that is, when the evaluation varies with the characteristics of the situation. For example, friendliness is valued positively, but it is a value characterized by some conditionality, since it is valued negatively when exhibited toward strangers in dangerous environments. Killing other human beings is normatively proscribed in almost all situations, but the norm has some conditionality because killing is not proscribed in warfare, self-defense, capital punishment, and euthanasia. In capital punishment and some types of warfare, killing actually is prescribed. Abortion is believed by some people to be normatively proscribed, and whether it is normatively proscribed often depends on the characteristics of the situation, including how conception occurred, whether the mother’s health is in danger, and whether the mother can care for the child. Opposition to abortion is therefore a norm of higher conditionality than is the proscription against killing other human beings. The conditionality of a value or norm is defined by the number and variety of situations to which it applies consistently, that is, with the same polarity. A value or norm that has the same polarity across many and varied types of situations is a value or norm of low conditionality and therefore of high priority. A value or norm that has the same polarity in only a few similar types of situations is a value or norm of high conditionality and low priority.

Intent→ Whether a value applies to a mode, means, or end of action has been labeled its intent (Kluckhohn 1951). Mode values pertain to the manner or style in which an action is carried out and refer to both the action and the actor. They pertain to qualities manifested in the act, and if such qualities are observed consistently over time for a type of action or for an actor, they are applied not just to a single instance of action but to a type of action or to an actor more generally. Adjectives such as ‘‘intelligent,’’ ‘‘independent,’’ ‘‘creative,’’ ‘‘responsible,’’ ‘‘kind,’’ and ‘‘generous’’ describe mode values. Instrumental values focus on necessary means to other ends. They refer to action that constitutes the means or from which the means are derived. For example, a job and the earnings it provides may be viewed as means to other ends such as acquiring the material resources necessary to sustain life. Goal values, in contrast, pertain to self-sufficient, or autonomous, ends of action. They are not subordinate to other values and are what an actor values most. Some analysts have argued that they can be defined as what an actor desires without limit. They focus on sources of intrinsic satisfaction or happiness but are distinguished from pleasures, which, except when elevated to become goal values, are satisfactions that are enjoyed incidentally and along the way. Pleasures are not necessarily based on beliefs about desirability, since they can be based on mere liking.

A norm may apply to a mode or means of action but not to an end of action. By requiring or prohibiting a way of acting or a type of action, norms limit the modes and means used in accomplishing ends. For example, the values of honesty and fairness govern modes and means of accomplishing ends, and associated with these values are norms that require honest and fair action.

Values and norms cannot always be identified as falling into a single category of intent. For some types of action, mode values and norms and instrumental or goal values and norms overlap; choosing an action as a means or to directly achieve an end actually defines the mode of action. For example, accomplishing a task by a means that shows concern for others defines a mode of acting that is kind, considerate, polite, and caring. Choosing to accomplish a task by honest means defines a mode of acting honestly. Acting to achieve an end that benefits others defines a mode of acting that is caring, giving, and generous. Mode values and norms and instrumental or goal values and norms do not always overlap, however. A given mode may be applied to a variety of means and ends, and choosing a means or acting to achieve an end does not necessarily imply or define a mode. For example, for modes that reflect ability or competence, as described by adjectives such as ‘‘intelligent’’, ‘‘creative,’’ ‘‘efficient,’’ ‘‘courageous,’’ ‘‘organized,’’ and ‘‘self-reliant,’’ there may be no necessary connection or only a limited one between the values reflected in the mode and the values reflected in the acts undertaken as means or ends.

Differentiating between instrumental values and goal values is difficult because the two types are interdependent. Their relationship is not just one of sequence, since achieving particular ends may require the use of certain means (Kluckhohn 1951; Fallding 1965). Differentiating between instrumental values and goal values also requires reflection by the actor. An important concern of moral philosophy has been identifying the end or ends of action that ultimately bring satisfaction to human beings, that is, that have genuine, intrinsic value (Lovejoy 1950). The focus has been on identifying important goal values and distinguishing them from less important instrumental values. This means–end distinction is not as well developed in the category systems of all cultures as it is in Western culture (Kluckhohn 1951), and even among persons exposed to Western culture, it is not developed equally or similarly in all actors. Not all actors make the distinction or make it in the same way. What are instrumental values to some actors are goal values to others.

When mode, instrumental, and goal values are separable, they can all affect behavior. Sometimes they point to identical actions, and sometimes they do not. Similarly, when mode and instrumental norms are separable, both can affect behavior. Among values that can pertain to either means or ends, the distinction between instrumental and goal values is a dimension of importance, with goal values being of higher priority than instrumental values (Fallding 1965; Braithwaite and Law 1985). However, values that can pertain only to a mode or means are not necessarily of lower priority than are values that can pertain to ends.

Interrelationships

Because social structure, as defined both organizationally and culturally, links sets of values and norms, there are patterned relationships among the sets of values and norms held by actors. These relationships can be seen as being influenced by conceptual domain, dimensions of importance, behavioral context, and interdependence.

Conceptual Domain→ Values and norms that are conceptually similar are thought of as falling within the same conceptual domain, and a conceptual domain is identified by the observation of strong empirical relationships among sets of values or norms. Domains that are conceptually distinct also can have relationships to one another. Compatible domains are positively related, and contradictory domains are negatively related. Empirical research provides some evidence of the existence of conceptual domains of values and norms and the relationships among them. For example, in Western societies, a value domain emphasizing pleasure, comfort, and enjoyment has a negative relationship to a prosocial value domain that emphasizes concern and responsibility for others. Similarly, a value domain emphasizing the extrinsic attainment of power, money, and position has a negative relationship to the prosocial value domain (Schwartz and Bilsky 1987). Values appear to be organized along at least three broad dimensions:

(1) emphasis on the self versus others,

(2) emphasis on achievement versus pleasure, and

(3) emphasis on the external versus the internal.

Although there has been less research on the pattern of interrelationships among norms, evidence indicates that norms fall into conceptual domains. Norms pertaining to honesty, for example, are conceptually separable from norms pertaining to personal freedom in family matters, sexuality, and mortality.

Dimensions of Importance→ Interrelationships among values and norms also are affected by dimensions of importance, since these dimensions affect their application across object units, social institutions, social roles, and behavioral contexts. Dimensions of importance such as centrality, range, and conditionality are linked to variability in application across object units, social institutions, and social roles. Values and norms that have high importance because they are broadly applicable are more likely to be interrelated than are values and norms that have low importance, which apply more narrowly. Values and norms that apply narrowly are related to each other and to values and norms that apply more broadly only under the conditions in which they apply.

Behavioral Context→ Interrelationships among values and norms are influenced not only by conceptual domains and dimensions of importance but also by the behavioral contexts to which they apply. Values and norms that are relevant to the same or related behavioral contexts tend to be interrelated. For example, the values and norms that play a role in interpersonal relationships differ in some respects from those which play a role in educational and occupational performance. The value of concern for others and the norms that support it are of high priority in interpersonal relationships but can be of low priority in the performance of educational and occupational tasks.

Interdependence→ Socially structured or otherwise necessary links among modes, means, and ends of action are a source of interdependence among values and norms. Mode values and norms and instrumental or goal values and norms can overlap, and instrumental and goal values are interdependent when achieving particular ends requires the use of certain means. This interdependence constrains the extent to which the relative priority of values can affect action. For example, attaining a less highly valued means cannot be forgone to attain a more highly valued end if the end cannot be attained without the means.

The Origin of Values and Norms

Multiple values and norms are organized and linked in the cultures of human social systems, which are linked when they are internalized by human actors or institutionalized by corporate actors. Social values and norms, in contrast to personal, or internalized, values and norms refer to the values and norms of a social unit that encompasses more than one person. These may refer to the officially stated or otherwise institutionalized values and norms of an organization or society, or to the collective, or shared, values and norms of the individuals who constitute a social unit such as an informal reference group, a formal organization, a society, or a societal subgroup defined by a shared characteristic. When a social value or norm refers to a collective property of the members of a social unit, it may be held with varying degrees of consensus by those who constitute that unit (Rossi and Berk 1985). An important difference between formal organizations and informal social groups or geographically defined social units is that formal organizations usually come into being for a specific purpose and are dedicated to particular types of activity and to achieving particular ends. As a result, their objectives are both narrower and more varied than those of other social units.

The Social Origin of Personal Values and Norms

The values and norms of individual persons derive from the social environments to which they are exposed. Through socialization, individuals become aware of and internalize social values and norms, which then become important internal determinants of action. An individual’s internalized values and norms reflect the values and norms of the society and the various subgroups and organizations within that society to which that individual is exposed, particularly, although not exclusively, in the early stages of the life course. Once social values and norms are internalized, they can direct the behavior of individuals irrespective of external influences. Internalized values and norms are a source of self-expectations and a basis of self-evaluation, with the subjective response to an outcome ensuing from the self- oncept. Adherence to self-expectations enhances self-esteem, producing a sense of pride and other favorable self-evaluations. Violation of self-expectations reduces self-esteem, producing guilt, self-depreciation, and other negative self-evaluations. To preserve a sense of self-worth and avoid negative self-evaluations, individuals try to behave in accordance with their internalized values and norms. Sociologists tend to see internalized values and norms as an important influence on human behavior, and this makes them see the social values and norms of society as governing and constraining the choices individuals make. Social values and norms also affect behavior because they are internalized by significant others and thus affect an actor’s perception of other people’s expectations. To the extent that actors are motivated to comply with what they perceive the views of others to be, social values and norms become a source of external pressure that exerts an influence that is independent of an individual’s internalized values and norms.

Although change in personal values and norms occurs over the life course, there is some evidence that levels of stability are relatively high (Moss and Susman 1980; Sears 1983; Alwin 1994). It has been argued that values and norms that are more closely tied to the self-concept and considered more important are more resistant to change (Rokeach 1973; Glenn 1980). Those values and norms may undergo less change because they are internalized through conditioning-like processes that begin early in life and are strongly linked to existential beliefs. They tend to be tied to shared mental models that are used to construct reality and become embedded central elements of cognitive organization with a strong affective basis. Some types of values, norms, and attitudes (for example, political attitudes) are quite malleable into early adulthood and then become relatively stable. After this ‘‘impressionable,’’ or ‘‘formative,’’ period when change is greatest, they are relatively stable in midlife, and this stability either persists or declines in the later years (Alwin et al. 1991; Alwin 1994). The pattern of life-course change and stability described above has been argued to be due to a number of influences. One is the process of biological and psychological maturation with age, which is most rapid in the early stages of life. As functional capacity develops, influences at that time have the advantage of primacy, and when they are consistent over a period of years, affective ‘‘mass’’ is built up. Nevertheless, some types of values, norms, and attitudes remain malleable into early adulthood, and strong pressure to change or weak earlier socialization can lead to resocialization in late adolescence or early adulthood (Sears 1981; Alwin et al. 1991). It is likely that change declines after early adulthood in part because individuals tend to act on previously formed values, norms, and attitudes as they seek new information and experiences. This selective structuring of new inputs enhances consistency over time, since new inputs tend to reinforce rather than call into question earlier ones.

Another influence on life-course change and stability in values and norms is change in social experiences and roles over the life course (Wells and Stryker 1988; Elder and Caspi 1990). These changes are extensive during the transitional years of early adulthood and may increase after retirement. They represent opportunities for change because they bring the individual into contact with new individuals, reference groups, and situations, and change in values and norms is likely to occur through both interaction with others and adaptation to situations. Role change can produce change as a role occupant engages in new behaviors, is exposed to new circumstances and information, and learns the norms governing role behavior. After early adulthood, a decline in the number of changes in social experiences and roles leads to greater stability in values and norms.

Sources of Change in Social Values and Norms

Change in social values and norms occurs through a variety of processes. One influence is historical change in the conditions of life that occurs through technological innovation, alterations in economic and social organization, and change in cultural ideas and forms. Historical change by definition involves ‘‘period effects,’’ but because those effects tend to be experienced differently by different birth cohorts (i.e., those at different ages when a historical change occurs), the influence of historical change on social values and norms occurs to some degree through a process of cohort succession.

Change in social values and norms also occurs through change in the social values and norms of subgroups of social units. This change can be of several types. First, change in the presence and size of subgroups with different values and norms produces change in the collective values and norms of the group. For example, the presence of new immigrant groups with different values and norms or a change in the relative size of groups with different values and norms affects the values and norms of the collective unit. Second, change in the degree of similarity or difference in the values and norms of subgroups can produce change in overall values and norms. On the one hand, acculturation through intergroup contact and similar experiences will reduce the distinctiveness of subcultural groups; on the other hand, segregation and increasing divergence in the life experiences of subgroups will widen their cultural distinctiveness. Third, some subcultural groups may be more subject to particular period influences than others are, and this differential responsiveness can increase or decrease differences in values and norms among subgroups.

Another source of change in social values and norms is change in exposure to social organizations that exert distinct socializing influences. For example, exposure to religious, educational, or work organizations may produce differences in values and norms between those with such exposure and those without it. The extent to which exposure to different organizational environments is likely to affect personal values and norms depends on the distinctiveness of those environments, which also is subject to change. Thus, social values and norms are affected by both changes in the exposure of the population to different organizations and changes in what is socialized by those organizations.

The Role of Values and Norms in Explaining Behavior

The ways in which values and norms influence behavior must be understood in a larger explanatory framework, and models of purposive action in all the social sciences provide that framework (Marini 1992). These models rest on the assumption that actors are purposive, acting in ways that tend to produce beneficial results. Although the models of purposive action that have emerged in various social sciences differ in the nature of the assumptions made about purposive action, they share the basic proposition that people are motivated to achieve pleasure and avoid pain and that this motivation leads them to act in ways that, at least within the limits of the information they possess and their ability to predict the future, can be expected to yield greater reward than cost. If reward and cost are defined subjectively and individuals are assumed to act in the service of subjective goals, this proposition links subjective utility, or value, to action. In sociology, a model of purposive action assumes the existence of actors who may be either persons or corporate actors. The usefulness of these models in sociology hinges on making appropriate connections between the characteristics of social systems and the behavior of actors (the macro–micro connection) and between the behavior of actors and the systemic outcomes that emerge from the combined actions of multiple actors (the micro–macro connection).

In a model of purposive action, an individual actor (person or corporate actor) is assumed to make choices among alternative actions structured by the social system. Choices among those actions are based on the outcomes expected to ensue from those actions, to which the actor attaches some utility, or value, and which the actor expects with some probability. The choices of the actor are governed by beliefs of three types:

(1) the perceived alternatives for action available,

(2) the perceived consequences expected to result from each alternative, and

(3) the perceived probabilities with which those consequences are expected to result.

The choices of the actor also are governed by the actor’s preferences, or the subjective utility (rewards and costs) of the consequences expected to result from each alternative. Values and norms are among the preferences of an actor that influence action. As evaluative beliefs that synthesize affective and cognitive elements, they affect the utility of the outcomes expected to ensue from an action. Action often results not from a conscious weighing of the expected future benefits of alternatives but from a less deliberate response to internalized or institutionalized values and norms (Emerson 1987). The actor’s finite resources—the human, cultural, social, and material capital available to the actor that enables or precludes action—operate as influences on the choices made by the actor.

The component of a model of purposive action that makes the macro–micro connection links the characteristics of the social system to the behavior of actors and models the effects of social structure (both organizational and cultural) on the beliefs and preferences of actors as well as on the available alternatives for action and actors’ resources. In this component of the model, characteristics of the micro model are taken as problematic and to be explained. These characteristics include:

(1) the beliefs and preferences on the basis of which an actor makes choices,

(2) the alternatives available to an actor, and

(3) the resources available to an actor.

A third component of a model of purposive action makes the micro– macro connection, linking the behavior of individual actors to the systemic outcomes that emerge from the combined actions of multiple actors. This link may occur through a simple mechanism such as aggregation, but it is more likely that outcomes emerge through a complex interaction in which the whole is not just the sum of its parts. The action, or behavior, of the system is usually an emergent consequence of the interdependent actions of the actors that compose it.

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This Aricle was Written by
MARGARET MOONEY MARINI

This Article was Published in
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SOCIOLOGY
Second Edition
A Book by

EDGAR F BORGATTA
Editor-in-Chief
University of Washington, Seattle

AND

RHONDA J. V. MONTGOMERY
Managing Editor
University of Kansas, Lawrence

 

 
 
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