Book review: We have values – but how do we act on them?

There's some useful lessons for the co-op movement in this look at values in action

Values and Behavior: Taking A Cross Cultural Perspective, ed. Sonia Roccas and Lilach Sagiv (Springer International, 2017) £87.50

This fascinating collection takes a look at how values affect human behaviour, with the writers taking a cultural perspective to examine the link between principles and action.

Values are important – not least to the co-op movement, which has developed its own, central to its identity. But a key question, crucial to this analysis, is the definition of “value”. Here, the writers define them as cognitive representations of basic motivations. Values “are inherently positive, they represent desirable goals and reflect what people consider important and worthy,” they argue.

The book goes on to examine social psychologist Shalom H. Schwartz’s theory of personal values, which suggested that values differ in the type of motivational goal they express. But the authors also consider previous studies, taking in more than 20 years of research on the topic. And it argues that values transcend specific circumstances.

Giving examples of existing literature, they explain that a person who views concern for others as an important value in the work context is also likely to attribute high importance to this value in other social contexts. People also see their own values as more desirable and closer to their ideal self than their personality traits.

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