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Friday, August 12, 2022

Cross-Cultural Differences and Similarities in Human Value Instantiation

Hanel PHP, Maio GR, et al. (2018).
Front. Psychol., 29 May 2018
Sec.Personality and Social Psychology


Previous research found that the within-country variability of human values (e.g., equality and helpfulness) clearly outweighs between-country variability. Across three countries (Brazil, India, and the United Kingdom), the present research tested in student samples whether between-nation differences reside more in the behaviors used to concretely instantiate (i.e., exemplify or understand) values than in their importance as abstract ideals. In Study 1 (N = 630), we found several meaningful between-country differences in the behaviors that were used to concretely instantiate values, alongside high within-country variability. In Study 2 (N = 677), we found that participants were able to match instantiations back to the values from which they were derived, even if the behavior instantiations were spontaneously produced only by participants from another country or were created by us. Together, these results support the hypothesis that people in different nations can differ in the behaviors that are seen as typical as instantiations of values, while holding similar ideas about the abstract meaning of the values and their importance.


Overall, Study 1 revealed that most examples that are spontaneously attached to values vary in how much they are shaped by context. In most cases, within-country variability outweighed between-country differences. Nevertheless, many of the instances for which between-country differences were found could be linked to contextual factors. In Study 2, we found that most instantiations that had been spontaneously produced by participants in another country could reliably be matched to the values that they exemplified. Taken together, our results further challenge “the prevailing conception of culture as shared meaning system” (Schwartz, 2014, p. 5), as long as culture is equated with country or nation: the within-country variability outweighs the between-country variability, similar to values on an abstract level (Fischer and Schwartz, 2011). In other words, people endorse the same values to a similar extent across countries and also instantiate them similarly. We hope this research helps to lay a foundation for future research examining these differences and their implications for intercultural understanding and communication.