The Different and the Same: Reexamining East and West in a Cross-Cultural Analysis of Values

Article excerpt

Cross-cultural similarities and differences in human values were investigated. American and Japanese college students completed the terminal values portion of the Rokeach Value Survey. Consistent with past research, Japanese individuals tended to appreciate communal values more and individualistic ones less than did Americans. Nevertheless, the overall value priority ratings by American and Japanese young adults were largely similar. This could suggest that more culturally-sensitive measures of values may be necessary in order to further explore human values cross-culturally. Given the political and economic similarities between these countries, results from this study may represent relatively "pure" analyses of East-West value differences.

Rokeach (1973) defines human values as "desired end states" or "ways of being." There is a general consensus among researchers that values are relatively stable goals which exert a directive influence on affect, cognition and behavior (Ball-Rokeach & Loges, 1994; see also Johnson, 1995). For example, individuals who value equality would theoretically be likely to feel good about being in interethnic social situations, to believe in women's right to choose, and to treat all people equally. Research on attitudes and behavior has demonstrated the robust and stable effects which values exert. For example, research shows that changes in value priorities are predictive of changes in attitudes and behavior (Homer & Kahle, 1988). Given the extent of such effects, one potential way of explaining and understanding individual or group differences in attitudes, beliefs and behavior may rest on identifying underlying differences in the values which these people hold. Researchers have employed this logic to design studies examining differences between a wide variety of social groups, including drug users and non-users (Mabry & Khavari, 1986), political liberals and conservatives (Hoge & Hoge, 1992; Hurwitz & Peffley, 1992), and younger and older adults (Sikula & Costa, 1994). Studies have also compared values cross-culturally, as a means of illuminating some of the cultural differences in social outcomes. Such comparisons have one indispensable advantage; through cross-cultural analyses of values, we may be able to attribute differences in a wide variety of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors to the existence of group differences in relatively few value domains.

The most commonly used instrument for assessing values, the Rokeach Value Survey (Rokeach, 1968 & 1973), consists of two parts: one assesses terminal values and the other addresses instrumental values. The instrumental values section asks respondents to rank order the importance of 18 modes of conduct, such as being forgiving, polite or broad-minded. Of more relevance to the present research, the terminal values section asks respondents to rank the importance of 18 end states of existence, such as freedom, wisdom and salvation.

Most of the earlier cross-cultural studies compared values held in cultures which are typically referred to as being Western, such as Canada, the U.S., and European countries, generally finding strong evidence that citizens of these countries tend to share similar values (e.g., see Schwartz & Ros, 1995). Some have claimed, based on such findings, that human values are therefore largely universal (e.g., Moore, 1976). But others recognize that such a global conclusion may not be drawn based solely on comparisons of people in Western nations.

To explore the cross-cultural generality of human values further, therefore, a number of researchers have conducted studies involving non-Western individuals. Specifically, some have focused their attention on the values held in Asian cultures. Since Asian peoples and cultures in general appear to emphasize communal or collective aspects of their lives more than individualistic ones, researchers often predict that, on the Rokeach Value Survey (1968), Easterners would value collective goals more and individualistic goals less. …