Universal Values: What They Are, Classification and Most Outstanding Examples

The Universal values they are values ​​that apply to all types of human beings, regardless of their social, ethnic or cultural origin. A value is considered universal when it goes beyond laws and beliefs; rather, it is considered to have the same meaning for all people and does not vary according to the societies.

The definition of universal value and its existence are conjectures subject to studies in social sciences, such as moral philosophy and cultural anthropology. In fact, cultural relativism is a belief that opposes the existence of universal values; proposes that a value can not be universal because it is perceived differently in each culture.

Universal values


  • 1 What are the universal values?
  • 2 Universal values ​​in different branches of the social sciences
    • 2.1 Philosophy
    • 2.2 Sociology
    • 2.3 Psychology
  • 3 Shalom Schwartz's Theory of Human Values
    • 3.1 Interactions between values
  • 4 Classification according to Schwartz
    • 4.1 1- Related to biological needs
    • 4.2 2- Related to social needs
    • 4.3 3- Related to good living and survival
  • 5 The 10 main examples of universal values
    • 5.1 1- The power
    • 5.2 2- The achievements
    • 5.3 3- The hedonism
    • 5.4 4- Personal stimuli
    • 5.5 5- Self-directing
    • 5.6 6- Universalism
    • 5.7 7- Benevolence
    • 5.8 8- Tradition
    • 5.9 9- Conformance
    • 5.10 10- Security
  • 6 References

What are the universal values?

Given the ambiguity of the term, the existence of universal values ​​can be understood in two ways.

The first is that a large number of human beings, under different living conditions and subjected to different beliefs, find a certain human characteristic as valuable. In that case, the characteristic in question would then be called a universal value.

The second is that something is considered a universal value when all human beings have reason to think that it is a characteristic that is generally valued, regardless of whether or not it is believed in said characteristic.

For example, non-violence could be considered a universal value, because even those who cause acts of violence may appreciate the common need for peace.

Universal values ​​are believed to be the basis of human integrity, but their definition and existence remain concepts widely discussed in psychology, political science and philosophy.

Universal values ​​in different branches of the social sciences


The philosophical study of universal values ​​seeks to answer certain questions, such as the importance and meaning of what is a universal value and the veracity of its existence in societies.


In sociology, the study of values ​​seeks to understand how these are formed within a functional society.


In psychology it is where more emphasis has been given to the study of universal values. A series of practical studies have been developed, with Shalom Schwartz being the most outstanding psychologist in doing so.

These studies seek to define the concept of universal value for a society and which values ​​could be considered universal for every human being.

So far, the most widely accepted model of universal values ​​is that proposed by Shalom Schwartz, having studied more than 25,000 individuals in 44 different countries. According to Schwartz, there are 10 types of universal values ​​that are present in every type and form of human culture.

Shalom Schwartz's Theory of Human Values

Schwartz's study resulted in the creation of his Theory of basic human values, which is used in the field of intercultural research.

The author considers that his theory is no more than an expansion of other previous research, and this has been applied in cultural research that seeks the relationship of values ​​that occur within two or more societies.

Schwartz, based on the 10 values ​​he identifies in his theory, also describes the relationships they have with each other and the values ​​that define them.

There are 4 groups of attributes that encompass all the categories studied by the psychologist:

- Capacity for change, which includes the ability to self-direct.

- Ability to improve oneself, which encompasses hedonism, achievements and power.

- Conservation capacity, which encompasses security, conformity and tradition.

- Ability to transcend: encompasses benevolence and universalism.

Interactions between values

In addition to identifying values, Schwartz's theory explains how they interact with each other. The pursuit of one of these values ​​results in harmony with another; as for example, if security is sought, it must go through compliance.

In turn, this search may result in a conflict between two values: if benevolence is sought, there would be a conflict with power.

Classification according to Schwartz

According to Schwartz's hypothesis, universal values ​​can be divided into three different categories:

1- Related to biological needs

In this line are included the values ​​that have to do with the basic requirements of the human being.

2- Related to social needs

In this case, it is about the values ​​that have to do with social interaction, the need for recognition of the other and coordinated functioning in the context of a society.

3- Related to good living and survival

The values ​​linked to this category have to do not only with propitiating the functioning of society, but also with looking for this operation to be generated in the best possible way. The ultimate goal is to produce well-being for all members of society.

The 10 main examples of universal values

The clash between values ​​resulted in the creation of Schwartz's classification scheme, which in turn generated the 10 main types of universal values:

1- The power

In turn, this is subdivided into authority, leadership, domination, social power and economic well-being.

2- The achievements

They are represented by the success, the personal capacity, ambition, influence, intelligence and the respect of each person towards itself.

3- The hedonism

This is broken down into the subcategories of pleasure and enjoyment of life.

4- Personal stimuli

They are represented by extreme, exciting activities and a full life.

5- Self-directing

It is subdivided into creativity, freedom, independence, curiosity and the ability of each person to choose their own objectives.

6- Universalism

Represented by the breadth of goals, wisdom, social justice, equality between humans, a world in peace, harmony and beauty. It is also reflected in the unity with nature, the protection of the environment and the harmony of each person with himself.

7- Benevolence

It translates into help, honesty, forgiveness, loyalty, responsibility and friendship.

8- Tradition

The tradition includes accepting the role one has in life, humility, devotion, respect for traditions and personal moderation.

9- Conformance

It also includes the capacity for discipline and obedience.

10- Security

It includes personal"cleansing"from a mental point of view, family security and national security, stability of social order and reciprocity of favors, sense of belonging and health.

In the study of Schwartz spiritualism also took place, but the psychologist realized that not all societies give importance to this characteristic. Originally, Schwartz thought rounding his study into 11 universal values, but after the result of spiritualism, he kept it at 10.


  1. Universal Values, United Nations Statements and Messages, December 12, 2003. Taken from un.org
  2. Schwartz's Universal Values, (n.d.). Taken from changingminds.org
  3. A Theory of Ten Universal Values, Gregg Henriques, October 19, 2004. Taken from psychologytoday.com
  4. Theory of Basic Human Values, (n.d.), February 14, 2018. Taken from wikipedia.org
  5. Universal Values, (n.d.), October 17, 2017. Taken from wikipedia.org

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