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Cognitive Organization of Cultural Values: Cross-Cultural Analysis of Data from Sweden and the usa

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A considerable body of data has been amassed to explain values structure and transmission. Values dimensions have been extracted and compared across societies in a number of values studies, many of which use quantitative methodology. However, there is little quantitative evidence of significant cross-cultural variation in values. This counterintuitive outcome has given rise to a doubt if an effective quantified comparison of values across societies is possible. The major reason for this objection to use quantitative techniques in cross-cultural values research is the loss of culture-specific meaning in quantitative procedures. Using ratings data from two American and Swedish samples the present research demonstrates that it is possible to compare values data and detect meaningful cross-cultural differences in values across societies, provided that several conceptual alterations in the instrument are made. Namely, it is proposed that collective- and individual level constructs should be separated when the informants are asked about their values. The traditional approach to values as implicitly individual construct is critiqued. The paper proposes to distinguish formulations of individual-level values items (that are more closely associated with personal projects and conative aspects) from formulations of cultural-identity relevant collective-level values items (which are acquired in more uniform processes of social learning and institutionalization). When elicitation of values considers this distinction during data collection, the depression of cross-cultural differences in values disappears.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut354 Mansfield Road, Beach Hall U-2176, Storrs, CT


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