Understanding values dimensions
Values Theory: Sociocultural Dimensions and FrameworksOne of the greatest difficulties faced by psychologists or communication scholars in studying values is how best to compare or contrast them across cultural and linguistic barriers. Values are a primary motivational construct with great influence on human behavior at both the individual and collective level. But if the quality and quantity of influence varies across cultures, how can we accurately measure the differences? This article discusses in detail the ways that several key scholars have dealt with this difficulty.We’ve already discussed the work of the Kluchkhohns and their team’s five specific Variations of Values Orientations (1961)—human nature, man and the environment, time, activity, and social relationships. It is important to note that for each, the preferences of any given culture could spread across a range (they highlighted three positions) within each ‘orientation.’ Though insightful at a descriptive level, they did not help social scientists with measurements or objective comparisons.You are also now aware that Geert Hofstede had access to an incredibly large multi-national data pool through his work with IBM and that he empirically generated first four (now six) binary dimensions in Culture’s Consequences (1980). The ‘Individualism/Collectivism’ dimension, for example, allows the scoring of cultures anywhere between those two poles, providing a statistically comparative tool for national level cultural analysis. This dimension has led to Hofstede being one of the most cited social science scholars in the IC field.Fons Trompenaars and colleagues like Charles Hampden-Turner combined explanatory domains from Hall, Kluckhohn, and Hofstede, positing seven dimensions:
- Universalism vs. particularism.
- Individualism vs. communitarianism.
- Specific vs. diffuse
- Neutral vs. emotional.
- Achievement vs. ascription.
- Sequential vs. synchronous time.
- Internal vs. outer direction.
As an aspiring intercultural communicator yourself, we hope you now note the importance of how specific dimensions and analysis tools were developed. You might want to reflect on one or two new insights gained through this week’s content. Kulich, S. J. (2009). Values theory: Social-cultural dimensions and frameworks. In S. W. Littlejohn & K. A. Foss (Eds.), The encyclopedia of communication theory (Vol. 2. pp. 989-994). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. [Accessible at http://knowledge.sagepub.com/view/communicationtheory/n391.xml]In short, many different dimensions and other tools have been created to assess human similarity and social variation across cultures. The individualism and collectivism dimension is the most studied, though not without adaptations by various scholars. Ongoing scholarly debates, new data analyses, and existing data-set re-analysis show that the endeavor to dimensionalize cultural values is still alive and well.
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