English title: Human values and subjective well-being: An exploration of individual and cultural differences, change across life span, and self-other agreement

Author(s): Henrik Dobewall -

Language: English

Type: Thesis / dissertation

Year: 2013


Values are beliefs that guide and justify people’s actions, while also reflecting cultural ideals and a shared understanding of what is right and wrong, good or bad in a society. Aim of this thesis is to find out whether and to what extent two widely used value theories – those of Shalom Schwartz and Ronald Inglehart – overlap and to identify their unique features (Studies I and II). Subjective well-being is another important concept used in this dissertation. It refers to people's evaluations of their happiness and satisfaction with their life. The thesis aims to distinguish age, birth cohort, and period effects in changes of life satisfaction (Study III), in order to explain cultural differences in change across the life-span. I also assess the convergence between self- and other-ratings of subjective well-being (Study IV) and personal values (Study V), both examined in relation to personality traits. The main results of the thesis and the conclusions are as follows: • The value theories proposed by Shalom Schwartz and Ronald Inglehart share one dimension, which seems to coincide with what is best known as the opposition between individualism and collectivism (Study I). An analysis of the joint structure of Schwartz’s and Inglehart’s items (Study II) showed that in order to be autonomous, individuals need to have both self-expressive and secular-rational values, whereas being embedded means endorsing both traditional and survival values. I also found unique content of both Schwartz’s and Inglehart’s values not captured by the other respective theory, suggesting that researchers should continue to use them both. • Are there cross-cultural differences in life-span trajectories of life satisfaction? I found in Finland and Sweden that age does not seem to matter much for how satisfied people are. The relationship between age and life satisfaction in Estonia and Latvia was best described as curvilinear, with life satisfaction reaching its lowest level at around 51–60 years of age, then remaining at the same level (Latvia) or slightly increasing again (Estonia). At the same time, younger people were remarkably more satisfied than older people (Study III). The observed age differences in life satisfaction in the two Baltic countries seem to be best attributed to an interaction of cohort and period effects. Thus, a universal life satisfaction age trajectory may not exist; the relationship between age and life satisfaction is likely to vary along with important cultural, political, and socioeconomic factors. • Study IV reported a strong self-other agreement in subjective well-being (SWB). Self- and other-rated personality facet scores (N3: Depression and E6: Positive Emotions) were found to partially mediate the agreement between self- and other-rated SWB. The findings suggest that, when making judgments about someone’ happiness or life satisfaction, observers indeed rely on the personality traits of this person. Moreover, I found that self-reported SWB reflects, to some extent, what other people think about this person’s personality. • Finally, Study V compared the self-other agreement in personal values versus the Big Five personality traits. When corrected for attenuation due to measurement error, self-other agreement in both the higher-order values and more narrowly defined value factors was substantial and similar to that for the Big Five personality traits. The results of Study V suggest that people can judge others’ values with some accuracy and therefore other-ratings of personal values can be used to validate and complement self-report value measures.


Awarding institution: University of Tartu

Number of pages: 157

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