Values in Life Role Choices and Outcomes: A Conceptual Model

Article excerpt

Values are widely viewed as central to the selection of, and subsequent satisfaction with, life roles. But because no conceptual framework has been advanced to guide the work of practitioners and researchers, values are widely ignored by both groups. This article sets forth several propositions aimed at remedying this oversight by clarifying the importance of values in both decision making and life satisfaction.

Considerable evidence suggests that values influence career and other life role decisions (Dawis & Lofquist, 1984; Judge & Bretz, 1992; Knoop, 1991; Ravlin & Meglino, 1987). Nevertheless, values have not received the same attention from researchers that interests have (Feather, 1992). This article sets forth a series of propositions regarding the influence of values in the choice of life roles and presents evidence to support them. In this presentation, some of the assumptions made by others such as Dawis and Lofquist (1984) and Bandura (1986) are discussed, but only to the extent that they converge or diverge from the propositions being advanced. Before considering these propositions, values are defined.

VALUES DEFINED

Values are cognized representations of needs that, when developed, provide standards for behavior, orient people to desired end states (Rokeach, 1973), and form the basis for goal setting. Values are the major factor in motivation because they form the basis for attributing worth to situations and objects (Feather, 1992; Rokeach, 1973). Moreover, values serve as the basis for self-regulating cognitions and provide the basis for judging the utility of extrinsic reinforcers. A subset of values "represent these perspectives as applied to work settings" (Judge & Bretz, 1992, p. 261), which suggests that not all values should be classified as work values. Values determine the way needs are met in the family, at work, and in the community. As individuals develop values, they store them in their memories as interrelated (Anderson, 1984), hierarchically arranged entities that a dynamically reorganized depending on environmental circumstances (Chusmir & Parker, 1991). Values function to ensure that biological needs are met and to facilitate human interaction (Rokeach, 1973).

Values are tied to the normative structure of the social institutions (e.g. family, school) where they were acquired, which is one feature that distinguishes them from needs. Moreover, unlike needs, which can be situational and transitory, values transcend objects and situations (Rokeach, 1973). For example, altruism, a widely held value among school counselors, will influence counselors' functioning in many situations and with various objects. Interests may also become cognized representations of needs, may provide a guide to action, and may allow people to compare themselves with others. But interests cannot be viewed as internalized standards against which people may judge their own actions or their attainment of idealized end states or goals (Rokeach, 1973). Additionally, each person develops a relatively small number of values but may develop dozens of interests (Feather, 1992; Rokeach, 1973).

Propositions About Values

The following propositions outline the function of values in the decision-making process and their impact on the outcomes of those choices. They are a synthesis of others' theories, the research data available regarding values, and, in some instances, our own speculation. They are meant as a guide for empirical investigations and to stimulate the thinking of practitioners who wish to incorporate values concepts into their work.

1. Values with high priorities are the most important determinants of choices made, providing that the individuals have more than one alternative available that will satisfy their values. If this is not the case, people will make choices on the basis of the option that least conflicts with their values. In the event that values are not fully crystallized or the outcomes are not fully known, choices will be made that leave final decisions open. …