Background of the Study
In an increasingly globalized and more competitive world, the ability to interact with members of other cultures has become a requisite skill. Interaction across cultures requires special skills for communication, cooperation, negotiation, and joint problem solving. These interaction implicate the values that people bring to the social relationship. In other words, values, which are considered as the core concepts of culture, are inevitably involved in the process of communication. What’s more, values have play an increasing important role in guiding people’s verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Therefore, people’s values and behaviors may have changed to some extent, dramatically, or slightly. Up to now, there has been a large amount of research on different values in the globalized world. For instance, there are research on Jewish adolescent values (cf., Saroglou & Hanique, 2006), Lebanese youth values (cf. Harb, 2010), and Taiwanese student values (cf. Lee, 2010). Besides that, several big and influential projects have been carried out, such as the European Values Study and the Shanghai Chinese Values Project (SCVP). Furthermore, following the most successful wave in the history of WVS (World Value Study) - the sixth waves of surveys, WVSA (World Values Survey Association) began planning the 7th wave to be conducted worldwide in 2016-2018. As values have been investigated extensively, several influential and significant values theories have also been made. Among them, Schwartz’s values framework has probably been the most theoretically driven and comprehensively assessed one and thus drawing increasing attention in mainland China. To be specific, the content, structure and instruments of Schwartz’s values theory have been extensively utilized to examine the value orientations and value priorities of the Chinese. To take theses of the graduate students in Shanghai International Studies University as an example, those theses have already stared to relate Schwartz’s theory to Chinese samples (e.g., Wang, 2009; Zhong, 2010; Liu, 2011). Nevertheless, this theory is less empirically employed in China’s northwest regions. Accordingly, this study will relate to Schwartz values theory at the individual level and make an empirical analysis of the values of the Post-1990s generation in northwest regions.
Objective and Significance of the Study
The present study is dedicated to three objectives. The first two is to respectively find out the current cultural value priorities and value structure for the contemporary Chinese Post-90s generation (ages between 17-26 years old) in northwest regions (Shaanxi and Gansu Province) under the context of globalization. The third is to further examine whether Schwartz’s values theory is suitable for measuring the values of the contemporary Chinese Post-90s generation and find out what factors may influence or restrict the values formation of the contemporary Chinese Post-90s generation in northwest regions. This study is of significance for it has some important theoretical and practical implications. Theoretically, this study will continue the academic study on universal framework of basic human values and make its own contribution in China especially under the context of globalization. Some empirical evidences will be provided to further validate the structural equivalence to the theory-based ideal structure. Practically, it will lead to the better knowledge of the Post-90s generation in northwest regions. Specifically, people will have a better understanding of the value priorities and structures of the Post-90s generation in northwest regions and thus promoting the mutual understanding between the Post-90s generation and cross-cultural communication with other groups and even facilitating the effective interpersonal communication to some extent.
Studies on Values
At the very beginning, Max Weber, a German sociologist and political economist, regarded values as a central concept in social sciences, laying the foundation of the “core” status of values. Later, values are also of great significance in some other disciplines like anthropology and intercultural communication. In anthropologists’ opinion, values paved the way for the fundamental assumptions of explaining specific behaviors (Kluckhohn, 1951). According to Rokeach, a Polish-American social psychologist, the significance of values, “… [is] able to unify the apparently diverse interests of all the sciences concerned with human behavior” (Rokeach, 1973). From his perspective, values are standards which can guide behavior, maintain or enhance self-esteem. Later, Feather, an Australian psychologist, echoed Rokeach’s viewpoint and further emphasized the significance of values (Feather, 1988). Besides, values, in the intercultural study, have been used as an especially efficient way to capture and characterize cultures. According to Hofstede, a Dutch social psychologist, values are “mental software” which helps “program” human behaviors in the form of words and deeds (Hofstede, 1991). In addition to the above-mentioned disciplines, values have also played an increasingly indispensable role in applies fields. To recap, it has been widely recognized that values, the fundamental concept in various disciplines, constitute the “core” of cultures. In other words, values are considered to be the most indispensable and central feature of culture. Therefore, they have been defined diversely over the years. Although the concept of value is debatable and has much inconsistency, several definitions are generally accepted and have been prevalent in values theory and research.
Studies on Schwartz’s Values Theory
Schwartz (1992, 1994a/b, 2006; Schwartz & Bardi, 2001; Schwartz & Sagie, 2000), based on the values studies of his predecessors, conducted a series of large-scale value survey studies and presented an integrated and comprehensive values theory. As a consequence, a great number of scholars applied his value theory to their researches. For example, in 2009, Aaron Cohen conducted an important research among the bank employees in Israel by using the Schwartz’s (1992) theory to examine the relationship between individual values. Later in 2008, Nina Koivula carried out his study in a Finnish steel company to not only examine the structure of the values postulated by Schwartz but also examine the association of value priorities with attitudes towards organizational change and knowledge sharing. In 2010, Schwartz's value theory was applied again by Aaron Cohen to examine the relationship between individual-level values, organizational and occupational commitment among Israeli Arabs. Besides that, recent years have seen a proliferation of studies that apply the Schwartz (1992) theory of basic human values using a variety of measurement scales. Studies have assessed the measurement properties of the scales, factors that influence people’s values, and individual differences in attitudes and behavior traceable to the measured values. Similarly, in recent years, an increasing attention towards Schwartz’s values theory has also been drawn in mainland China. For instance, in 2004, Ma Bohu and Hui Pingshan measured the value priorities and value orientations of 1000 University students from four universities in Shaanxi by using the Schwartz Value Survey. Two years later, Schwartz Value Survey (SVS) was applied by Kulich and his associates to collect data in 1995-1997, and 2003. It was a part of the research project under the Shanghai Chinese Values Project (SCVP) and had great significance. Later in 2008, Schwartz Value Survey was used by Zhang Yangfan to study the value priorities of Chinese students. Meanwhile, she compared her research result with the data from the previous two similar studies in 2003 and 1995-1997.
Research Results and Discussions
Concerning Values Priorities
According to Schwartz, what affects behavior and attitudes is the tradeoff among relevant values, not the importance of any one value. For instance, two people rate hedonism values 3 (somewhat like me). Despite this same rating, hedonism obviously has higher priority for a person who rates all other values higher (4-a little like me; 5-not like me; 6-not like me at all) than for one who rates all other values lower (2-like me; 1-very much like me). Therefore, in order to measure value priorities accurately, the mean rating of each value item which represents the importance of each basic value to the respondents was calculated. From Table 5.1, it’s easy to find that the university students’ responses to the ten different value types were almost similar on the whole. The mean rating of each value type is relatively high: from 2.46 to 3.36. In other words, with respect to the value orientation of the university students, the distinction among the ten value types is quite small. Therefore, the contemporary university students show a diversified value type in some degree. However, if viewed from the rank order of the ten value type, it also can be found that the most important values for the contemporary Chinese Post-90s generation in northwest regions (Shaanxi and Gansu Province) presented by the data were Hedonism, Self-direction and Achievement while the least important were Stimulation, Tradition and Power. What’s more, the priorities of the value types seem to show that the openness to change values tend to be more important than the conservation values.
Although certain deviations from the ideal structure were detected in the current study, this study testified that the observed structure of the contemporary Chinese Post-90s generation (ages between 17-26 years old) in northwest regions (Shaanxi and Gansu Province) fitted to the Schwartz’s individual-level values theory. That is to say, it has been verified that the ten value types formed a circular structure. Moreover, in this circular structure, the conflict and congruity relationships among values have also been demonstrated. As a whole, the contemporary Chinese Post-90s generation in northwest regions (Shaanxi and Gansu Province) values Hedonism and Self-direction most while values Power least. It is partly because with the rapid development of science and economy, the life standards of the northwest regions have also been dramatically improved. What’s more, since most of the Post-90s generation are the only child of the whole family, they are protected and cherished by the whole family and thus growing up with relative affluent materialist conditions. Therefore, it is not strange that the Post-90s generation nowadays put personal pleasure or sensuous gratification on top priority. However, viewed from another angle, the preference of Self-direction and Achievement to Benevolence and Conformity probably indicate that the Post-90s generation is more self-centered and motivated by the desire for personal success rather than the care for the welfare of the human kind. Additionally, when taking the descriptive demographic statistics into account, it can be safely inferred that the degree to which Schwartz’s individual-level values theory applies varies according to the variables like gender and educational level.