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How Rokeach's Theory of Human Values Can Improve Your Life

How Rokeach's Theory of Human Values Can Improve Your Life

Have you ever wondered what your core values are? How do they affect your decisions, actions, and goals? How do they shape your personality and worldview?

rokeach the nature of human values pdf

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If you are interested in these questions, you might want to read Rokeach's PDF on human values, a classic book by the social psychologist Milton Rokeach. In this book, Rokeach presents his theory of human values, which he defines as "enduring beliefs that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence" .

Rokeach argues that there are two types of human values: terminal values and instrumental values. Terminal values are the ultimate goals that people pursue in their lives, such as happiness, freedom, peace, wisdom, etc. Instrumental values are the means by which people achieve their terminal values, such as honesty, courage, responsibility, creativity, etc.

Rokeach also proposes that there are 18 terminal values and 18 instrumental values that are common to all cultures and individuals. He developed a survey called the Rokeach Value Survey (RVS), which asks people to rank these 36 values in order of importance to them. The RVS can be used to measure one's value system and compare it with others'.

Why is Rokeach's theory important?

Rokeach's theory of human values has several implications for personal and social development. Here are some of them:

  • It can help you understand yourself better. By identifying your core values, you can gain insight into your motivations, preferences, strengths, and weaknesses. You can also discover potential conflicts or inconsistencies between your values and your behaviors.

  • It can help you improve your relationships. By knowing your own and others' values, you can communicate more effectively, respect differences, and find common ground. You can also avoid or resolve conflicts that may arise from incompatible or competing values.

  • It can help you achieve your goals. By aligning your actions with your values, you can increase your satisfaction and fulfillment in life. You can also set more realistic and meaningful goals that reflect your true priorities and aspirations.

  • It can help you contribute to society. By understanding the values of different groups and cultures, you can appreciate diversity and promote tolerance. You can also identify the social problems that need attention and the solutions that are consistent with your values.

How can you apply Rokeach's theory to your life?

If you want to learn more about Rokeach's theory of human values and how it can benefit you, here are some steps you can take:

  • Read Rokeach's PDF on human values, which you can find online for free . It contains a detailed explanation of his theory and research findings, as well as examples and applications.

  • Take the Rokeach Value Survey (RVS), which you can also find online for free . It consists of two lists of 18 values each, one for terminal values and one for instrumental values. You have to rank each list from 1 (most important) to 18 (least important) according to your personal preference.

  • Analyze your results. Compare your rankings with the average rankings of different groups and cultures . Look for patterns, similarities, and differences. Try to explain why you value certain things more than others.

  • Reflect on your values. Ask yourself how your values influence your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Are they consistent with each other? Are they compatible with your goals? Are they congruent with your behaviors? How do they affect your relationships?

  • Act on your values. Make sure that your actions reflect your values. Seek opportunities to express and fulfill your values in various domains of life. Challenge yourself to grow and improve as a person according to your values.

What are some examples of Rokeach's values?

To illustrate Rokeach's theory of human values, let us look at some examples of the 18 terminal values and 18 instrumental values that he identified. These are not exhaustive or definitive lists, but rather indicative of the general meaning and scope of each value.

Terminal values

  • A comfortable life: a prosperous and easy life.

  • An exciting life: a stimulating and adventurous life.

  • A sense of accomplishment: lasting contribution and achievement.

  • A world at peace: free of war and conflict.

  • A world of beauty: harmony and aesthetic appeal.

  • Equality: equal opportunity and justice for all.

  • Family security: safety and well-being of loved ones.

  • Freedom: independence and autonomy.

  • Happiness: contentment and pleasure.

  • Inner harmony: freedom from inner conflict and stress.

  • Mature love: deep and lasting affection.

  • National security: protection from external threats.

  • Pleasure: enjoyment and gratification.

  • Salvation: eternal life and spiritual redemption.

  • Self-respect: pride and confidence in oneself.

  • Social recognition: respect and admiration from others.

  • True friendship: close and loyal companionship.

  • Wisdom: knowledge and understanding.

Instrumental values

  • Ambitious: hard-working and aspiring.

  • Broad-minded: open-minded and tolerant.

  • Capable: competent and effective.

  • Cheerful: optimistic and joyful.

  • Clean: neat and orderly.

  • Courageous: brave and daring.

  • Forgiving: willing to pardon and forget.

  • Helpful: cooperative and supportive.

  • Honest: truthful and sincere.

  • Imaginative: creative and original.

  • Independent: self-reliant and self-sufficient.

  • Intellectual: intelligent and rational.

  • Logical: consistent and reasonable.

  • Loving: affectionate and caring.

  • Obedient: respectful and dutiful.

  • Polite: courteous and well-mannered.

  • Responsible: reliable and accountable.

  • Self-controlled: disciplined and restrained.

What are some benefits and limitations of Rokeach's theory?

Rokeach's theory of human values has been widely influential and applied in various fields, such as psychology, sociology, education, marketing, politics, and religion. It has also been praised for its simplicity, clarity, and universality. However, it has also been criticized for some of its assumptions, methods, and implications. Here are some of the benefits and limitations of Rokeach's theory:


  • It provides a comprehensive and coherent framework for understanding and studying human values.

  • It offers a standardized and reliable measure of human values that can be used across cultures and contexts.

  • It reveals the structure and dynamics of value systems and how they relate to other psychological and social phenomena.

  • It enables the comparison and contrast of value systems among individuals, groups, and cultures.

  • It facilitates the change and development of values through education, persuasion, or intervention.


  • It assumes that human values are stable and consistent over time and situations.

  • It ignores the diversity and complexity of human values and their meanings across cultures and contexts.

  • It overlooks the role of emotions, motivations, and situational factors in influencing value judgments and behaviors.

  • It implies a hierarchy and a normativity of values that may not be shared or accepted by all people.

  • It may oversimplify or distort the reality of human values and their consequences.

How does Rokeach's theory compare with other theories of human values?

Rokeach's theory of human values is not the only one that has been proposed and tested by researchers. There are other theories that have different perspectives, assumptions, and methods for studying human values. Here are some of the most prominent ones:

Schwartz's theory of basic human values

Shalom Schwartz, an Israeli psychologist, developed a theory of basic human values that is based on the idea that values are derived from three universal requirements of human existence: biological needs, social coordination, and survival and welfare needs . He identified 10 basic values that are organized along two dimensions: self-transcendence versus self-enhancement, and openness to change versus conservation. The 10 values are:

  • Power: social status and prestige, control or dominance over people and resources.

  • Achievement: personal success through demonstrating competence according to social standards.

  • Hedonism: pleasure and sensuous gratification for oneself.

  • Stimulation: excitement, novelty, and challenge in life.

  • Self-direction: independent thought and action-choosing, creating, exploring.

  • Universalism: understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature.

  • Benevolence: preservation and enhancement of the welfare of people with whom one is in frequent personal contact.

  • Tradition: respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that traditional culture or religion provide the self.

  • Conformity: restraint of actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others and violate social expectations or norms.

  • Security: safety, harmony, and stability of society, of relationships, and of self.

Schwartz developed a survey called the Schwartz Value Survey (SVS), which asks people to rate the importance of each value as a guiding principle in their lives. He also developed a circular model that shows the relations among the 10 values and how they form a motivational continuum. Schwartz's theory has been widely used in cross-cultural studies and has been validated in many countries and languages .

Hofstede's theory of cultural dimensions

Geert Hofstede, a Dutch sociologist, developed a theory of cultural dimensions that is based on the idea that values are influenced by the social context in which people live . He identified six dimensions that capture the differences among national cultures. The six dimensions are:

  • Power distance: the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.

  • Individualism versus collectivism: the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups.

  • Masculinity versus femininity: the distribution of roles between the genders.

  • Uncertainty avoidance: the degree to which the members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity.

  • Long-term orientation versus short-term orientation: the extent to which a society exhibits a pragmatic future-oriented perspective rather than a conventional historical or short-term point of view.

  • Indulgence versus restraint: the extent to which a society allows relatively free gratification of basic and natural human drives related to enjoying life and having fun.

Hofstede developed a survey called the Hofstede Value Survey Module (VSM), which asks people to indicate their preferences for each dimension. He also developed a model that shows the scores of different countries on each dimension based on data from various sources. Hofstede's theory has been widely used in intercultural studies and has been applied to various domains such as business, education, politics, and religion .


Human values are the enduring beliefs that guide our choices and actions in life. They reflect what we consider important, desirable, and worthwhile. They also shape our personality, worldview, and behavior.