Academic journal article Journal of Research for Consumers

Personal Values and Social Marketing: Some Research Suggestions

Academic journal article Journal of Research for Consumers

Personal Values and Social Marketing: Some Research Suggestions

Article excerpt


Personal values, as motivational constructs, are likely to influence the types of social behaviours in which people engage. However, most of the research examining the relationship between personal values and social and ethical issues has focused on the relationship between one or two values and a very small range of attitudes or behaviours. The current paper focuses on Schwartz's value theory to suggest some methodological changes to advance our understanding of how individuals make such decisions.



Personal values indicate what is important to us in our lives, guide our behaviour, and reflect real differences between cultures, social classes, occupations, religions, and political orientations. Numerous studies across many disciplines (e.g., marketing, management, social psychology, sociology, political science, education, social work, law, economics) have confirmed the impact values can have on people's perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours, including consumer purchasing (e.g., buying environmentally friendly products and those made in their country). Values have also been related to a range of social issues, including people's disposition toward altruistic or philanthropic behaviour, organ donation registration, ethical decision making and attitudes, including bribery, coercion, deception, theft, and unfair discrimination, and environmental attitudes and behaviour.

The current paper focuses on one of the leading value theories, proposed by Schwartz (1992), which is discussed in the next section, as this theory has been well supported empirically, and has a relatively limited set of basic values and a theoretically derived structure between these values that add insight to our understanding of many types of behaviour. Specifically, we address the way in which personal values may potentially combine to influence the nature and types of behaviours people are likely to undertake.

Schwartz's Value Theory

Schwartz defined 10 basic values according to the goals that underlie them (see Table 1). Data from hundreds of samples in more than 80 countries support their existence and the relationships between them, as is illustrated in Figure 1. It is the theoretical relationships between the values, identified by a quasi-circumplex that differentiates Schwartz's (1992, 1994) theory from other values theories. This critical aspect has the potential to significantly add to our understanding of how values motivate different behaviours.

The Relationship between Values and Behaviour

The structure of interrelations between the basic values helps our understanding of how behaviours or attitudes are grounded in the values that oppose them and those that favour them. Indeed, the theory suggests an order of association of the 10 basic values with other variables, suggesting value-expressive attitudes and behaviours, such as those of interest to social marketers, are likely to be influenced by the relative importance attached to a range of values, rather than by the importance of any single value. Further, different combinations of values are likely to lead to different value-expressive attitudes and behaviour. As illustrated in Figure 1, adjacent values express compatible motivations, whereas conflicting values express opposing motivations.

For instance, the pursuit of self-direction is likely to conflict with the pursuit of security (which is on the opposite side of the quasi-circumplex structure), because attaining one is likely to block the attainment of the other. As an example, pursuing stimulation may encourage risktaking behaviour, but this threatens and undermines security values that emphasize safety, harmony, and stability, such that those who place a high importance on stimulation and a very low importance on security are likely to take the most risks. Further, the relative importance attached to a range of values, rather than the importance of any single value, is likely to influence behaviour. …

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