Cultural Values, Mapped

Crossing a cultural boundary inevitably leads to cultural clashes. Sometimes the clashes occur at the point of behaviors and customs, such as eating, drinking, or even how to cross a street. More often, however, the clashes occur at the deeper level of cultural values — beliefs about what is right and wrong or how the world ought to be ordered.

I recently ran across an interesting graphic that maps out these cultural value differences based on two major dimensions: traditional values vs. secular-relational values and survival values vs. self-expression values. Here’s how the Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map is described on the World Values Survey website:

Analysis of WVS data made by political scientists Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel asserts that there are two major dimensions of cross cultural variation in the world:

Traditional values versus Secular-rational values and Survival values versus Self-expression values. The global cultural map (below) shows how scores of societies are located on these two dimensions.

Moving upward on this map reflects the shift from Traditional values to Secular-rational and moving rightward reflects the shift from Survival values to Self–expression values.

Traditional values emphasize the importance of religion, parent-child ties, deference to authority and traditional family values. People who embrace these values also reject divorce, abortion, euthanasia and suicide. These societies have high levels of national pride and a nationalistic outlook.

Secular-rational values have the opposite preferences to the traditional values. These societies place less emphasis on religion, traditional family values and authority. Divorce, abortion, euthanasia and suicide are seen as relatively acceptable. (Suicide is not necessarily more common.)

Survival values place emphasis on economic and physical security. It is linked with a relatively ethnocentric outlook and low levels of trust and tolerance.
Self-expression values give high priority to environmental protection, growing tolerance of foreigners, gays and lesbians and gender equality, and rising demands for participation in decision-making in economic and political life.

Here is the map:

cultural values map

This is one of the clearest depictions of cultural value differences I’ve ever seen. If you teach in an international or cross-cultural setting, it would be great to use in a class.

Related Posts:

7 Things to Know About Culture Shock

Insider, Outsider, and a Dying Toddler

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4 thoughts on “Cultural Values, Mapped

  1. While it’s easy to understand why a general level of ‘prosperity’ puts a country/group on the “self-expression” side of the graph, it’s Really fascinating to see how that doesn’t necessarily bring about “secular/rational” values (or what some have dubbed “the Reality-based cohort”)… meaning that science (& scientific method) is a greater paradigm than Faith-based belief systems.
    Thanks for posting this. ^..^

  2. That’s pretty amazing. I believe you, but I’ll have to think about it. I’ve been a summer teacher in China with one of the better known groups.

  3. A lot of people are still in survival mode. I try to use centuries of painful Chinese history to explain to people in our town why the Chinese they know are so desperate over their children’s academics.