Personal Growth

Measure Yourself on 10 Universal Values with the Schwartz Value Survey

We all have values that guide our lives, but in the daily grind, it's hard to know how they're motivating our behavior. If you want to try a new place for dinner, does that mean you're motivated by novelty, or that you lean toward the hedonistic side of things? Social psychologists like Dr. Shalom H. Schwartz believe there's a set of universal values that serve as guiding principles in everyone's lives. And whether you choose to dine at the place that just opened or at your familiar old haunt — not to mention your choice of career, partner, and general life direction — those universal values could be at play in your decision.

What Do You Value?

The Schwartz Theory of Basic Human Values identifies 10 values that are present across world cultures. At the heart of Dr. Schwartz's theory is the idea that values form a circular structure, so that each value and motivation is related to the others. Some values, like benevolence and power, are in conflict with one another, while others, like conformity and security, are more compatible.

The values can be grouped into four overarching categories. Here's what they are:

Openness to Change

Openness to change refers to a readiness for new ideas, actions, and experiences.

  • Stimulation involves the search for excitement, novelty, and challenge in life.
  • Self-direction is reflected by a goal for independent thought and action. Those who value self-direction often find themselves choosing, creating, and exploring.


This one is all about transcending your own interests for the sake of others.

  • Universalism involves understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature.
  • Benevolence is the preservation and enhancement of the welfare of the people you're in frequent personal contact with.


Self-enhancement centers on the goal of pursuing your own interests.

  • Power relates to social status and prestige. It involves control or dominance over people and resources.
  • Achievement represents the goal of personal success through demonstrating competence according to social standards.
  • Hedonism is taking pleasure or sensuous gratification for yourself.


Conservation is all about self-restriction, order, and avoiding change.

  • Tradition involves respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that traditional culture or religion provide.
  • Conformity is the restraint of any actions, inclinations, and impulses that are likely to upset or harm others and violate social expectations or norms.
  • Security includes safety, harmony, and stability of society, of your relationships, and of yourself.

According to Dr. Schwartz's theory, the values and their structures are universal and true for multiple cultures. But each individual or group has different priorities when it comes to each value and attach varying importance to each one. Those priorities might even vary in the same person — according to Dr. Schwartz, your values could change based on your age, tradition, life stage, gender, and education. But it is possible to find out where you stand right now. That's where you come in.

The Quiz

The Schwartz Value Survey was the first test designed to measure values based on the Basic Human Values Theory. It's used today when scientists want to establish human values for study. You can find out where you fall on the values scale by taking the Schwartz Value Survey for a study designed by Jesse Graham, Ph.D., Ravi Iyer, Ph.D., and Sena Koleva, Ph.D. at the University of Southern California. These scientists are studying moral judgment, and your values could tell you about your values and help them. Who doesn't love multitasking?

Here's what to expect when you take the survey. After filling out some basic demographic data, you'll see two lists of "value items," each of which express some motivational goal — things like "equality," "wealth," and "self-discipline" in the first list, and items like "loyal," "capable," and "curious" in the second.

You'll be asked to rate the importance of each of the value items as a guiding principle in your life on a scale from -1 (opposed to your values) to 7 (of supreme importance). There are more items than numbers, so you'll use many of the numbers more than once. Usually, people use numbers 0-6 most often, and only put a few values in the "supreme importance" or "opposed to my values" categories.

The survey will take 5–10 minutes, and then you'll get a detailed look at your values and how they relate to one another. Like with any online quiz, take your results with a grain of salt. But when you're done, you'll have a better idea of what's motivating your actions — even the little ones. Getting in touch with your values is always a good thing.

Get stories like this one in your inbox or your headphones: sign up for our daily email and subscribe to the Curiosity Daily podcast.

Need some help discovering your own values? Check out the New York Times bestselling book "Best Self: Be You, Only Better" by Mike Bayer. The audiobook is free with an Audible trial. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Kelsey Donk August 22, 2019

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.