Congruence and Performance of Value Concepts in Social Research

Tilo Beckers, Pascal Siegers, Anabel Kuntz


Two value concepts are dominant in the social sciences: (1) Schwartz's theory of basic human values, measured through the Portrait Values Questionnaire (ESS) and (2) Inglehart's postmaterialism and Welzel's extension to the self-expression values scale (WVS/EVS). To advance research in values, two questions need to be addressed: (1) Are the concepts and measurements of values in the different approaches interchangeable? (2) Which of the concepts performs better for explaining moral and social attitudes? This study contributes to the discussion on value concepts by comparing these value instruments using individual level data from an online access panel (n = 762) and assessing the performance of values instruments for microexplanations of moral (end-of-life attitudes and sexual morality) and social attitudes (xenophobia). Overall, the measurement model of basic human values with the PVQ provides a sound basis for comparing the Schwartz values to postmaterialism and self-expression values. In both cases, there are positive correlations with universalism and self-direction and negative correlations with tradition/conformity and security, which do not exceed 0.4. Regarding the performance, it turns out that the Schwartz values are in toto a more powerful tool than both Inglehart's postmaterialism and Welzel's self-expression values, in terms of explained variance as well as in terms of standardized effects.


value concepts; postmaterialism; Portrait Values Questionnaire; self-expression values; comparative analysis

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