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Schwartz's Universal Values


Explanations > Needs > Schwartz's Universal Values

Self-Direction | Stimulation | Hedonism | Achievement | Power | Security | Conformity | Tradition | Benevolence |  So what?


Shalom Schwartz has defined a set of ten universal human values that can also be seen as basic needs, underlying and driving much of what we do.


When we have autonomy we are able to make our own decisions, control our own thoughts and bodies, go where we wish, and even be creative without fear of criticism or being prevented from doing so. It also implies we have the resources to do these things. In a democratic society this is a basic freedom (within the constraints of the law).


When we are stimulated, our emotions are aroused as we find interest in the world around us. We can feel excited about new experiences. We can take on challenges that help us work with passion towards rewarding achievements.


Related to stimulation is hedonism, where we seek a basic and often bodily arousal in sensuous pleasures. This often has a shorter-term focus than stimulation, which can include life challenges.


We seek achievement through challenges that stimulate us and of which we can feel proud. This is one of the ways in which our workplace can offer pleasure or (if we are not able to achieve) an unsatisfactory frustration.


Power is the ability to achieve, to get what you want. It can include factors such as formal authority, the control of resource and personal charisma. Power can be like a resource itself when it can be built up and then depleted as it is used.


When we are secure we are safe from dangers, threats and other risks that may harm us. Having power allows us to increase our security. It also provides a base on which we can seek to satisfy other needs without having to constantly be alert.


When we conform to rules, we gain a comfortable sense of familiarity and an assurance that we will be secure. In particular, non-conformance often causes social reaction where others in our group may seek to correct those who do not conform. While this reduces our own freedom, it decreases the chance of other people who do not conform acting in ways that are harmful to us.


Conformity also can be found in the desire to sustain traditions. This can be seen in rituals that be found in social interactions, religious services and so on. Respect for social rules and others in our social groups is a common aspect of tradition as this helps to sustain the status quo.


Benevolence involves being kind and fair to others, forgiving their transgressions and ensuring that they are looked after. In this way, the welfare of the social group is sustained and those within it feel confident that they themselves would be helped if they fell on hard times.

So what?

This is another useful list of needs, though they also may be viewed through the lens of values, where they become social rules. In either case, they can be useful as a guide for creating comfort or tension when changing minds.

See also



Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theory and empirical tests in 20 countries. In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 25) (pp. 1-65). New York: Academic Press.

Schwartz, S. H. (1994). Are there universal aspects in the content and structure of values? Journal of Social Issues, 50, 19-45.

Schwartz, S.H. (1996). Value priorities and behavior: Applying a theory of integrated value systems. In C. Seligman, J.M. Olson, & M.P. Zanna (Eds.), The psychology of values: The Ontario Symposium, Vol. 8 (pp.1-24). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Schwartz, S. H. (2005). Basic human values: Their content and structure across countries. In A. Tamayo & J. B. Porto (Eds.), Valores e comportamento nas organizações [Values and behavior in organizations] pp. 21-55. Petrópolis, Brazil: Vozes.

Schwartz, S. H. (2006). Basic human values: Theory, measurement, and applications. Revue française de sociologie

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