Human values and value instantiations: Similarities and differences between countries and their implications

Paul Hanel

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis has three aims. First, I propose that researchers should focus more on similarities between groups of people, because they are arguably at least as interesting and important as differences. I demonstrate that even effects that are usually labelled as large often still display more similarities than differences between groups. In Study 1, I modified and extended prior procedures for describing similarities and demonstrate the importance of this exercise by examining similarities between groups on 22 social variables (e.g., types of human values, trust, moral attitudes) within six commonly used social categories: gender, age, education, income, nation of residence, and religious denomination (N = 86,272). On average, the amount of similarity between two groups (e.g., high vs. low educated) was greater than 90%. Study 2 (N = 54,082) replicated these findings. Study 3 demonstrated the importance of presenting information about similarity, by showing that a research report led to more accurate perceptions when similarities were presented alongside differences.
Secondly, I explored whether differences might emerge in relatively concrete variables. In particular, human values (e.g., freedom, creativity) measured in Studies 1 and 2 were very abstract, and people instantiate (that is to say, exemplify) human values differently. I directly examined these instantiations in Brazil, India, and the UK (Study 4). Although some meaningful differences in value instantiation emerged, within-country variability outweighed between-country differences. Studies 5-7 provided further support for this conclusion.
Finally, I tested the implications of one provocative difference in value instantiation, namely a tendency to associate the value of creativity with art and not with science, particularly in the UK and not in Brazil (Study 8). Results indicated that the detection of this difference may depend on the ways in which art and science are presented to participants, and this finding has implications for attempts to engage more interest in science.
To conclude, the final chapter of the thesis summarises the findings and discusses some limitations across the chapters. It then outlines a range of broad implications, including the benefits of a stronger focus on similarities, such as increased transparency in the reporting of scientific results.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Cardiff University
Award date1 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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