Lens: Type: Underlying Level

Fundamental beliefs about what is desirable and ideal.

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women lighting candles

A value is a person’s or group’s conception of the desirable—what they hold to be ideal and of value (Kluckhohn, 1951). People develop values during different phases of human development, and values are primarily influenced by a person’s social interactions, especially how they are raised. Values are closely related to beliefs—what people believe to be true. As such, people tend to think their values are “right” (McCombs School of Business – The University of Texas at Austin, n.d.).

People typically act according to their values (Verplanken and Holland, 2002). For example, a person who believes that land belongs to all people and that no one should own it would most likely try to find ways to live without owning property. A person who values telling the truth will probably tell the truth even though it may inconvenience them. Values aren’t always precise determinants of action. People sometimes ignore or suspend their values in situations when their attitude about an activity or their goals outweigh their values.

Concepts Related to Values

  • Needs
  • Beliefs

Researching Values

Researching values can reveal a person’s deep-rooted beliefs. This research can also reveal the ways people have rejected values imposed on them by others. When designers carefully consider values, they gain insights into beliefs that guide people’s actions. Knowing a person’s values enables designers to select messaging and media that do not contradict deeply-held beliefs.

Questions to Ask About Values

  • What guides this person’s decisions?
  • If no one were around to witness this person’s actions, what would this person do?
  • How did this person develop these beliefs?
  • Whose values were these before this person adopted them?

Look for These When Researching Values

  • Where they spend their money (causes, possessions, experiences)
  • What they spend their time doing
  • Who they spend time with


References and sources that support the inclusion of this Aspects of Experiences for Design component.


McCombs School of Business – The University of Texas at Austin. (n.d.). Ethics Unwrapped: Values. Retrieved October 26, 2019 from


Forlizzi, J., & Ford, S. (2000, August 17-19). The building blocks of experience: an early framework for interaction designers. Proceedings from 3rd conference on Designing interactive systems: processes, practices, methods, and techniques (DIS ‘00), New York.

Physical Sciences

de Vries, B. J. M., & Petersen, A. C. (2009). Conceptualizing sustainable development. An assessment methodology connecting values, knowledge, worldviews and scenarios. Ecological Economics, 68 Participation and Evaluation for Sustainable River Basin Governance, 1006-1019. doi:Article

Dietz, T., Fitzgerald, A., & Shwom, R. (2005). Environmental Values. Annual Review of Environment & Resources, 30(1), 335-372. doi:Article

Social Sciences

Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1990). The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. (Kindle ed.). New York: Open Road Media.

Cantor, N. (1994). Life Task Problem Solving: Situational Affordances and Personal Needs. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20(3), 235-243. doi:10.1177/0146167294203001

Hitlin, S., & Piliavin, J. A. (2004). Values: Reviving a Dormant Concept. Annual Review of Sociology, 359. doi:research article

Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1984). Choices, values, and frames. American Psychologist, 39, 341-350.

Kluckhohn, C. (1951). Values and value-orientations in the theory of action: an exploration in definition and classification. In T. Parsons & E. A. Shils (Eds.), Toward a general theory of action (pp. 388-433). Harvard University Press.

Rohlf, M. (2018). Immanuel Kant (Summer 2018 ed.). Retrieved from

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2008). Self-determination theory and the role of basic psychological needs in personality and the organization of behavior. In Handbook of personality: Theory and research, 3 (pp. 654-678).

Schwartz, S. H., & Bilsky, W. (1987). Toward A Universal Psychological Structure of Human Values. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 53(3), 550-562.

Smeenk, W., Tomico, O., & van Turnhout, K. (2016). A Systematic Analysis of Mixed Perspectives in Empathic Design: Not One Perspective Encompasses All. International Journal of Design, 10(2), 31-48.

Turner, J. C., & Reynolds, K. J. (2012). Self-Categorization Theory. In P. A. M. V. Lange, A. W. Kruglanski, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology, Volume 2 (pp. 399-417). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Verplanken, B., & Holland, R. W. (2002). Motivated Decision Making: Effects of Activation and Self-Centrality of Values on Choices and Behavior. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 82(3), 434-447.

Williams Jr., R. M. (1979). Change and stability in values and value systems: a sociological perspective. In Understanding human values : individual and societal (pp. 15-46). New York: Free Press.