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A value system is the ordered and prioritized set of values (usually of the ethical and doctrinal categories described above) that an individual or society holds.
Groups, societies, or cultures have values that are largely shared by their members. The values identify those objects, conditions or characteristics that members of the society consider important; that is, valuable. In the United States, for example, values might include material comfort, wealth, competition, individualism or religiosity . The values of a society can often be identified by noting which people receive honor or respect. In the US, for example, professional athletes are honored (in the form of monetary payment) more than college professors, in part because the society respects personal values such as physical activity, fitness, and competitiveness more than mental activity and education. This may also be the case because the society takes its education for granted and repays its teachers with non-tangible honors of relatively equal value with that of the athlete. Surveys show that voters in the United States would be reluctant to elect an atheist as a president, suggesting that belief in God is a value. There is a difference between values clarification and cognitive moral education. Values clarification is, "helping people clarify what their lives are for and what is worth working for. Students are encouraged to define their own values and understand others' values." Cognitive moral education is based on the belief that students should learn to value things like democracy and justice as their moral reasoning develops."
Values are related to the norms of a culture, but they are more general and abstract than norms. Norms are rules for behavior in specific situations, while values identify what should be judged as good or evil. Flying the national flag on a holiday is a norm, but it reflects the value of patriotism. Wearing dark clothing and appearing solemn are normative behaviors at a funeral. They reflect the values of respect and support of friends and family. Different cultures reflect different values. "Over the last three decades, traditional-age college students have shown an increased interest in personal well-being and a decreased interest in the welfare of others." Values seemed to have changed, affecting the beliefs, and attitudes of college students.
Members take part in a culture even if each member's personal values do not entirely agree with some of the normative values sanctioned in the culture. This reflects an individual's ability to synthesize and extract aspects valuable to them from the multiple subcultures they belong to.
If a group member expresses a value that is in serious conflict with the group's norms, the group's authority may carry out various ways of encouraging conformity or stigmatizing the non-conforming behavior of its members. For example, imprisonment can result from conflict with social norms that have been established as law.
- Santrock, J.W. (2007). A Topical Approach to Life-Span Development. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill