World Values Survey


World Values Survey's focus is more related to societal development, spreading of democracy and other big ideas that can influence international cooperation and communication.

The WVS' culture model looks at two parameters.

The first is a continuum where countries are measured on how Traditional vs. Secular-Rational values are held in esteem. Questions related to this parameter ask a.o. if one's base of morality is absolute, defined by an external deity, or if context and circumstances influence what is morally correct in a given situation.

The other parameter relates to Survival values (material) vs. Self-expression values (post material).

Over the 30 years the survey has been collected almost all countries have moved in direction towards Secular-Rational and Self Expression. One significant exception is the US, where there has been no change along the Traditional/ Secular-Rational axis.

The figure shows how the countries place based on the newest survey 1. Countries with geographical proximity (not surprisingly) also form culture clusters. Not all countries are however placed where one would expect if there were a direct relationship with GDP.

For the US an interesting analysis model can be found in "Changing values, persisting cultures: case studies in value change" edited by Thorleif Pettersson and Yilmaz Esmer. Follow the link and scroll down to page 9.

As theoretical as the chapter may be it illustrates that there usually are reasons why cultures become the way they become, reasons that may not be apparent unless the history of the people involved is taken into account. The more you can adopt a mindset of curiosity into why some values have become dominant the less stress you may feel when these values diverge from your own. After all, it is not your history.