Human Values

According to Radhakamal Mukherjee, “Values may be defined as socially approved desires and goals that are internalized through the process of conditioning, learning or socialization.”

According to Allport, “Value is a belief upon which a man acts by preferences.”According to Hill, Values are individual beliefs to which people attach significant worth and by which they organize their life.

Value can also be defined as a principle that promotes well-being or prevents harm. Human beings have the unique ability to define their identity, choose their values and establish their beliefs. All three of these directly influence a person’s behaviour. Thus, values are principles before us that guide and direct our behaviour.

Not all values have the same weight or priority. Some are more important than others and must be satisfied before others. Dr Abraham Maslow illustrated this with his hierarchy of human needs. Survival has a higher priority than security, which has a higher priority than social acceptance. Self-esteem can only be addressed when social acceptance is fulfilled. Similarly, self-actualization can only be pursued when self-esteem has been satisfied.

Features of Values

  • Value is an emotional attitude in a sense that it motivates a person directly or indirectly to act in the most desirable way preferred by him.
  • Values are at the core of personality and are a powerful force affecting behaviour.
  • Values give direction and firmness to life and bring joy, satisfaction and peace to life.
  • Values regulate and guide human behaviour and action in our day to daily life.
  • Values involve the processes of thinking, knowing and understanding the feelings and action.
  • Values are essential constituents of civilisation. Our values given an indication of our character and determine our moral and ethical choices.
  • Values shape behaviour of both individuals as well as of organizations. The behaviour of individuals affects the behaviour of organization if the individual is a part of organization.
  • Acquisition of values begins at birth. Primarily values are learned at home but in due course they will change according to their experiences.
  • Values changes over time within the same society which are influenced by the changing needs and present situations of the society.
  • Many values are relatively stable and enduring and one’s behaviour can be predicted by his upheld values.

Classifying values has always been a complicated task since there is no hard and fast rule to classify values as they are closely interlinked. Some of the important values are as follows.

  • Personal Values – It is personal to an individual both in terms of their possession and their use. It is a desire and cherished by the individual irrespective of his social relationship. These values make a person good for himself. Examples being ambition, cleanliness, discipline etc.
  • Family Values – Family as a social institution is based on certain universally defined value system which are nurtured and cultivated within a family system. Mainly, these values comes from the lead of the family mostly father who transfer these values to their children, who further impart these values to future generation.
  • Social ValuesIt refers to certain behaviours and beliefs that are shared within specific cultures and social groups. These values are good for the society and form the basis of the relationship of an individual with other people in society. Examples being courtesy, charity, civic duty etc.
  • Moral Values These values constitute attitude and behaviour that a society consider essential for co-existence, order and general well-being. It enables an individual in making a distinction between right and wrong and good and bad etc. Example being fairness, justice, human dignity etc.
  • Ethical Values Ethical values are a set of moral principles that apply to a specific group of people, professional field or form of human conduct. These values presuppose moral courage and the power to act according to one’s moral convictions even at the risk of financial, emotional or social security. These relate to our personal behaviour with our fellow beings. All moral values are also covered under ethical values.
  • Spiritual Values it refers to the process of reflecting on non-material dimensions of life and acquiring insights into personal experiences. They affect the individual in his relations with himself and concerned with the realisation of the ‘Self’ and being one with ‘Divinity’. Examples being truth, beauty, goodness etc.
  • Cultural Values Cultural values are the standards of what is acceptable or unacceptable, important or unimportant, right or wrong in a society. It gives importance to preserve cultural practices, ceremonies, traditions etc. which might be threatened by the materialistic culture of modern times. Examples being hospitality, social order, tolerance etc.
  • Trans-cultural values – Values that are similar in practice among different cultures throughout the whole world. These can be categorized as universal values since these values are followed across the cultures.
  • Intrinsic Values They are the ends in themselves, not the means for achieving some other end. In the hierarchy of human values, these values stand at the highest place and are superior to all other values of life. Examples being goodness, beauty, happiness, bliss etc.
  • Instrumental Values These are such values that are useful in deriving some other benefit through them such as economic gain or an increase in status. A subject is said to have instrumental value when it is pursued, not for its own sake but for some ends beyond itself. Example being education for success in life, political power to do public service etc.
  • Aesthetic Values It seeks to emulate the beauty of the Divine through the arts. Things and activities which gives joys of beauty are aesthetic values. Example being beauty, taste, architecture etc.
  • Democratic Values These values are characterized by the respect for individuality, equal treatment to all, ensuring equal social, political and religious rights to all, impartiality and social justice and respect for the democratic institutions.
  • Dis-Value – Values which demoralize and undermine the human growth and development can be termed as dis-value. This includes jealousy, envy, revenge etc.


Values are believed to be hereditary and genetically determined but some of them are driven by environmental factors which are as follows;

  • Family – Family is the prime and most important source of obtaining values. Every child learns some values from his family since his childhood and retains those values in his mind throughout his life. The ways the parents nurture, educate and raise their child shape his personality and inculcate values in him.
  • Society – After family, society also plays a major role developing value system of an individual. Every child learn basic manners and discipline from the school. Besides schools and colleges, other groups of society such as religious groups, economic and political groups to which an individual belongs also affect value system of an individual.
  • Personal factors – Personal characteristics like intelligence, ability, appearance and education level of a person determines his value system very strongly. For example, an intelligent and educated person will understand and learn the social and work related values relatively faster than the uneducated person.
  •  Culture – Cultural factors which influence value system of an individual include norms, beliefs and other behaviour patterns which are preferred and acceptable by the society. These values are often carried in rituals, customs or narratives that are often repeated and highly resistant to change because they are seen as absolute.
  •  Religion – Religion is comprised of set of values and traditions which guide routine behaviour and decision making of an individual. Religious values help people determine what is good or what is bad.
  •  Life experiences – Man learns most from his own experiences and sometimes from experiences of others too. The values which an individual learns from own experiences of life are relatively long lasting and difficult to change.
  • Role demands – Role demand refers to the behaviour which is associated with the particular position or role profile in an organisation. Every individual plays multiple roles in his life. The problem occurs when there is a role conflict. In such case, individuals quickly learn the value system prevailing in the organisation so that they may survive and progress in the same organisation.
  •  Constitution – Almost, all the existing constitutions of various countries highlight the values of democracy, equality and world peace. The values enshrined in the Constitution of India are stated in its Preamble are Justice, Liberty, Equality of status and opportunity and Fraternity. Herein, justice occupies the first place, followed by liberty, equality.
  • Power Distance – Power distance is the degree to which people accept uneven distribution of power in the society and institutions. People with high power distance tend to accept unequal power distribution. The people with low power distance relatively prefer equal distribution of power. Low power distance cultures adopt Democratic way of governance (for e.g. India) and high power distance cultures adopt autocratic style of governance (for e.g. Gulf countries).
  • Individualism vs. Collectivism – Individualism refers the degree to which people value individual goals over the group goals (For e.g. western democracy – Rights over Duty) whereas in collectivism, individuals give preference to group goals over individual goals (Duty over Rights). Libertarian states such USA can be said to more inclined towards individualism (Rawls’ Social contract) whereas Russia and China can be referred as more inclined to collectivism (Hobbes’ social contract)
  • Masculinity vs. Femininity – Masculinity represents the degree to which the culture favours traditional masculine domination over privilege and power (for e.g. Afghan Taliban) whereas femininity value represents no demarcation between the roles of males and females (for e.g. Egalitarian societies such as Canada, New Zealand etc.)
  • Long term vs. short term orientation – Long term orientation is a national value which emphasises on future, saving and perseverance (For e.g. Value of sustainable development) whereas short term orientation emphasises on past and present.
  • Indulgence vs. restraint – Indulgence is the degree to which people prefer to enjoy life, have fun and fulfil natural desires (Materialistic way of life) whereas restraint is the degree to which gratification of individual’s needs, desires and behaviour is governed by social norms or spiritual values (Spiritual way of life).

Virtues are positive and preferred values. They are desirable attitudes or character traits, motives and emotions that enable us to act in way that develops our highest potential. They are tendencies which include solving problems through peaceful and constructive means and follow the path of the golden mean between the extremes of ‘excess and deficiency’. Some of the commonly held virtues are Honesty, courage, compassion, generosity etc.

Civic Virtues

Civic virtues are the moral duties and rights, as a citizen of the state or an integral part of the society and environment. An individual may exhibit civic virtues by voting, volunteering, and organizing welfare groups and meetings. For instance, Payment of taxes on time (Moral duty) and Voting in Election (Moral Right). George Washington embodied the civic virtues as indispensable for a self-governing administration that can be categorised in the following manner;

  • Civic Knowledge – Citizens must understand what the Constitution says about how the government is working, and what the government is supposed to do and not to do. One must understand the basis of our responsibilities as citizens, besides duties and rights.
  • Self-Restraint – For citizens to live in a free society with limited government each citizen must be able to control or restrain himself. Otherwise, we would need a police state to maintain safety and order. He advocated for morality and declared that happiness is achieved and sustained through virtues and morals
  • Self-Assertion – Self-assertion means that citizens must be proud of their rights, and have the courage to stand up in public and defend their rights. Sometimes, a government may usurp the very rights that it was created to protect. In such cases, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish that government (for e.g. voting rights, right to recall).
  • Self-Reliance – Self-reliant citizens are free citizens in the sense that they are not dependent on others for their basic needs. They do not need a large government which has the potential to become an oppressive government to meet those needs. Only a strong self-reliant citizenry will be able to enjoy fully the blessings of liberty.


Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil. – C.S. Lewis

When educating the minds our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts. – Dalai Lama

 What we call knowledge is only belief that has gained acceptance, there is no value-free knowledge. – Berciter

 If you want your children to be people of character, you need to be working on your own character on a regular basis. – Gauld and Gauld

 National policy of education (1986) has taken note of erosion of the essential values and accordingly has stressed on the need for readjustment in the curriculum in order to make education a forceful tool for developing social and moral value in our youth.

National curriculum framework for school education (2000) has also given due stress for value education in schools. It has stressed that the school curriculum must contain components that may embed essential values in the fresh and pure minds of school children.

We are living in the time of crisis wherein people are busy to fulfil their own greed even at the cost of others life. The numbers of incident of intolerance and radicals activities are increasing day by day among young generation. In that very moment of human crisis, importance of value based education assumes significance. Value education is that form of education that stresses the acquisition of living values by learners such as compassion, courage, honesty etc. which helps in nurturing balanced individuals, thus creating a humane society.

Superka, Ahrens and Hedstrom outlined five basic approaches to teaching values:
  • Inculcation – Having students incorporate the standards and norms of his referent group or society primarily through modelling, rewards, and sanctions.
  • Moral Development – Having students move through the stages of moral reasoning based on higher sets of values, using primarily discussions of moral dilemmas.
  • Analysis – Helping students use a rational, scientific investigation to decide issues of values and ethics, often using case studies.
  • Values Clarification – Helping students identify their own and others’ values, often with role playing, games or simulations as well as discussions and self-analysis.
  • Action Learning – Using values clarification and other approaches, providing students with opportunities to put values into practice with social action.
  • Identifying one’s own self – In absence of right understanding of self, one would naturally attempt to fulfil every desire appearing in mind even unethical ones. Value education helps one to differentiate between ethical and unethical desires.
  •  Identifying the aspiration of self – One must attempt to identify the aspirations of the self in the light of ethical values. Value education helps in identifying such skills and aptitudes, which can required to realize such aspirations.
  •  Holistic Approach – While committing to action for actualization of one’s goals, every action needs to be analysed in the light of universal values which are acceptable to the society . Such actions should not be harmful towards the nature, ecology and life as a whole. Value education is a guide to the students in the direction of universal happiness or goodwill towards everyone.
  •  Technology and Value Education – Technology is a giant capable of meaningful construction and even meaningless destruction, thus value education is needed to train the future technocrats by making them fully aware of both the constructive as well as destructive aspects of technology.