Perceived Values of Generation X

Subject: Culture
Pages: 10
Words: 2796
Reading time:
12 min
Study level: Undergraduate

Generation X are likely to self-report higher self-transcendence values compared to how generation Y and baby boomers report the same self-transcendence values of Generation X. In addition, Generation X will report higher Self-Enhancement values compared to Generation Y and baby boomers perceptions of Generation X’s self enhancement values. This paper offers a literature review on studies conducted on the Generation X and how they report their values compared to how other generations, precisely Generation Y and baby boomers, report the exact values. In order to bring out conclusive evidence confirming the hypotheses, this paper looks at the human values studies in relation to age and in-group/out-group identification theory. The paper assumes that Generation X is the in-group variable and concludes that the hypotheses outlined are true.


Stranger (2004) points out that the Generation X consists of a cohort whose birthdays are between 1964 and 1978. A key characteristic of members of the Generation X is that they grew up after the baby boomers generation and together with a new shaping up of social and economic order after baby boomers had discredited faltering institutions of government, schools, corporations and religious institutions. Generation X entered the workforce when industries were recovering from a global economic recession and this shaped up their view of work compensation. In most cases, they embraced shrewdness emphasizing on short-term engagements with their employers on terms that value the quality of output rather than experience (Tulgan, 1997).

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The generation benefited greatly from the difficult economic times that they grew up in. Divorced parents and working parents spent less time with their children and this gave the Generation X members a psychological chance of proving that they could handle the societal interactions and independently express themselves creatively. This feature shaped up their outlook of the world leading to the creation of more geniuses in several industries, an attribute that has earned them a label of being arrogant (Tulgan, 1997).

A deeper look into the formative fundamentals of the Generation X characteristics vindicates the point that their upbringing and the socioeconomic factors of the day are responsible for their eventual character makeup (Mason, Singleton, & Webber, 2007). Generation X members encountered a culture discontinuity from their parents. During this age, a 25 year old with the aptitude to making calculative choices could become a millionaire by playing the stock market or direct mergers and acquisitions worth millions as a legal adviser. In short, there were new rules of the game and those following the old rules of climbing the corporate ladder through years of work and promotions were not yet into the new economy of Generation X. The business environment and corporate culture became a survival for the fittest and it all depended on which side of the divide a person stood. On one side, you had the predators looking aggressively for opportunities to outgrow themselves and on the other; you had the desperate ones being stepped upon by the opportunist as they climbed the socioeconomic ladder (Strenger, 2004).

According to Lancaster (2004), an examination into the work problems of the society reveals that their main cause is a generation gap of people within the institutions. Generation gaps present new communication challenges that result to tensions of we-versus-them attitude that makes it difficult to get things done. The next section of this paper looks into several studies that examine formation of values and identities while also examining the nature and effects of categorization of persons into in-groups and out-groups. Finally, the findings of the review will form the argument for approving the hypotheses of this paper.

Empirical Review

In the evaluation of in-group and out-group theory, most experiments use a social setting involving real subjects who receive various stimulus materials that form the experiment conditions and then receive instructions on the tasks expected of them. Subjects are then required to give a personal analysis of the experimental tasks and the results from each subject undergo an analysis to confirm the hypothesis of the experiment (Capozza & Rupert, 2000).

The study by Linville & Jones (1980) uses three experiments to test the model predicting different appraisals among in-group and out-group members and the hypothesis that out-group members offer a more polarized opinion than in-group members do. In their first experiment, the authors use 40 university students as subjects dividing them into two to eight member groups. Each subject is then asked to evaluate applicants for a job posting after examining three booklets giving similar field details of the applicants. Subjects are not made aware of the applicant’s name during the experiment. Finally, each subject is asked to rate applicants on a 16 trait bipolar adjective scale. The authors then collect the qualitative and quantitative data, conduct an analysis, and offer an interpretation of the results.

In all in-group and out-group experiments, a variable to determine the input and the output must be chosen. Linville, Fischer and Salovey (1989) used age as their in-group and out-group variable in their experiment to determine the perceived distribution of physiognomies of in-group and out-group participants. From the results of the experiment, the authors used a probability analysis to determine the distinction among participants and conducted a variance analysis to come up with the perceived variability.

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The structure of the experiment differs according to the objectives to be measured and the hypothesis involved. However, all in-group and out-group experiments end with a statistical analysis as in the case of the Branscombe et al. (1993) experiment that seemed to find out the importance of the vulnerable social identity in in-group and out-group extremity.

Experiments to determine aspects of the value theory rely on a value inventory developed by Schwartz that includes ten motivationally distinct value types (Schwartz,1992). These values form a circular structure that depicts two conflicts of self-enhancement against self-transcendence and openness to changes against conservatism. Value theory experiments assume the structure of a social setting involving subjects who are requested to respond to a set of values in terms of their importance and the results are interpreted against Schwartz Value Survey inventory that provides measurement recommendation for each value (Schwartz et al., 2001).

Lindeman and Verkasalo (2010) find out that the 10-Item Short Schwartz Value Survey offers a practicable alternative to the original 57-item Schwartz Value Survey. They propose the use of the SSVS to make instruments of value measurements more suitable for use with a wider variety of respondents. Schwartz and Boehnke (2004) evaluate the structure of human values used in various researches by using a confirmatory factor analysis and indicate that there is an overlap between the inferences supported by different methods. They conclude that studies using multidimensional scaling methods lead to the conclusion that the value structure of the Schwartz Value Survey is robust to respondents’ gender, age or level of education.

Value indices are then computed to reflect the types of motivational goals that may restrain the relationship between identification and the perceived status (Higgins & Kruglanski, 2000). Self-enhancement is then computed based on the average importance placed on social power, wealth and authority, preservation of public image, success, capability and ambitiousness and influence. Self-transcendence is taken as an index of several preferable attributes. Identification is measured using a 12-item questionnaire that assesses the degree to which respondents attribute importance to their membership of a given group. The Borgardus-type scale is also used to influence variables on values (Schwartz & Sagiv, 1995a). Finally, the perceived status is measured by a questionnaire to assess the degree of participant’s perception of the group as a high status. To indicate personality type, some experiments use the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) (Routamaa & Heinäsuo, 2006). After all relevant data is collected and a statistical analysis is conducted employing various statistical analysis software and statistical tests like T-test and ANOVA.

Literature Review

Schwartz and Sagiv (1995b) study value priorities of individuals and the readiness in which the individuals engage in out-group social contact. Their study concerns the influence of priorities on the readiness of out-group social conduct, seeking to find the variables that cause a difference in the readiness. The authors use a theory of value contents and structure to explain the systematic relationship of value priorities and a variety of attitudes and behaviours. The authors’ findings form a report of the application of the theory in intergroup behaviour. Additionally, the study uses a review of a dominant’s value and principles in relation to two minority groups’ values and principles. The study experiment confirms the author’s hypothesis of a positive correlation of the dominant group, Israeli Jews and minority group, Israeli Arabs for universalism and a negative correlation for tradition. In their discussion, the authors note that a low societal dominance structure status makes group members to view the physical integrity of their group as threatened. They therefore see a need to defend their group collectively and this fact induces their view of collective principles in global terms such that all the five collectively oriented value types seem to represent the same basic concern of protecting an in-group’s interest. Finally, the authors explain that factors influencing readiness for out-group interactions are different among dominant groups and minority groups, with minority groups showing a more salient view of their social identity as group members compared to dominant groups. Therefore, minority groups interact with dominant groups on a more general term while members of a dominant group view their interactions with a minority group on individual terms. In the latter case, interactions depend on individual characteristics and values.

Hitlin and Piliavin (2004) confirm that age cohort is responsible for some systematic changes in the value structure. The authors note that there has been a significant shift of values to giving self-oriented desires more importance than personal responsibility values from the 1960s and 1970s. Values motivate action and influence social stratification outcomes. Additionally they rationalize prior conduct of persons by serving as culturally appropriate discourses. For example, people use verbal commitments to rationalize their prejudicial intergroup attitudes and as a justification of their discrimination. Values are tied to the self and relate to a variety of self-processes (Seligman, Olson & Zanna, 1996). When goals or decisions are in line with core beliefs, values and identity of a person then the behaviours of the person will highly highlight their values. Lastly, the authors note that values are related to the psychological well-being and that people who report a heightened level of self-actualization demonstrate a higher global functioning. Therefore in the same manner, the resemblance of an individual’s values with the values underlined in the societal setting that contribute positively or negatively dictate whether their values are viewed to be healthy or unhealthy.

Routamaa and Heinäsuo (2006) conducted a study of how types and values change over generations. The authors used a sample of 295 business students with a mean age of 22 and 185 working adults. The study analysed the following values and sub-values: power, achievement, hedonism, simulation, self –direction, universalism, benevolence, tradition, conformity and security. The study shows empirical value types and specific values that make up the value types together with their respective alpha coefficient. According to the authors, all alpha coefficients were greater than 0.5, which denotes that the structure of value types used in the experiment is reliable for the country of study, Finland, and consistent with the findings of Schwartz’s research. The authors found out that significant differences occur at six of the ten-value type’s measure among students and adults, which vindicates the hypothesis that the values of young people and adults differ. The authors found out that adults preferred benevolence, security self-direction, universalism, conformity and tradition while students thought highly of hedonism, achievements, simulations and power. The authors finally note that the difference in value types preferred by the two generations might be due to an on-going preference development.

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Twenge et al. (2010) studied generational differences in work values and note that work values are useful indicators of an individual’s decision and actions that are persistent and relatively difficult to alter. A distinction occurs in intrinsic and extrinsic work values where extrinsic values focus on consequences while intrinsic values focus on the process of work. Their study offers a time-lagged sample that consists of a nationally represented young people population that was monitored at different points in time and therefore avoids confounds of age and generation. Their study empirically confirms that Generation X has a stronger value for leisure and highly regards work that provides extrinsic rewards. This study confirms that the young workers entering the workforce have fundamentally different values than those that did so 15 to 30 years ago.

In a study by Roccas (2003) on the moderating roles of self-enhancement and self-transcendence, the author finds out that the more an individual identifies with a group the higher they perceive the status of the group to be. On a deeper analysis, the author notes that self-enhancement plays a moderating role such that the higher the prominence placed on self-enhancement values, the sturdier the association of identification and perceived group status. Raising the accessibility of self-enhancement values leads to a higher correlation between personal status and identification compared with increasing the accessibility of self-transcendence values. The authors note that different individuals appeal to a specific group does not necessarily affect other group members in the same manner.

Bengtson (1975) looks at the degree of socialization of core values as a family function rather than a generational influence. This study offers a critic of the assumption that the difference in individuals values are because of generational or family similarity. The study cautions the attribution of homogeneity within generation groups and their contrast to other age groups noting that empirical evidence reveals a very subtle effect of the generation gap. Unfortunately, the study does not discuss why there is a similarity between parents and youth values and only offers a suggestion that the similarity may be due to the common social location. The study admits that global orientations could be more reflective of an individual’s response to socio-historical events. These socio-historical events are responsible for the shaping up of different Value Surveys among generations.

Lyons, Duxbury and Higgins (2005) in their study of whether gender differences are responsible for basic human values indicate that there is no relationship between gender and basic human values. Instead, the authors note that generational effects account for five out of the ten value type differences observed in their study. In an analysis of the moderating effects of age, gender, race and religiosity on the individual value structure, Sawyer, Yan and Strauss (2005) indicate that all factors studied except religiosity interacted with values to predict the diversity of attitudes. Findings of their study indicate that age interacted with self-transcendence in the prediction of a realistic appreciation. Older respondents had a higher self-transcendence score and recognized values and accepted similarities and differences beyond their younger respondents.

Ber-Ner et al. (2009) offer an empirical evidence of the difference in identity and in-group/out-group work and giving behaviours. The authors find out that subjects favour in-group over out-group in choosing team members and in office sharing, and generally favour those who are similar to them in a variety of ways. While the degree to which individuals favour in-group over out-group varies, a constant is that identity based behaviour drives the behaviour in most contexts. Branscombe et al. (1993) also support the view that the degree of identification with a group determines whether in-group or out-group extremity occurs. They note that threats to important individual identities critically determine the evaluation of out-group and in-group members for people with high need for identification and unimportant for people with low need for identification.

Brewer (1979) conducted an experiment research to vindicate intergroup discrimination with a bias on one’s own group. Their analysis indicates that motivational influences lead to important irregularities in ways that members of different social groups perceive their differences. The authors indicate that there is a reduced social distance between self and other members of in-group, making outcomes of in-group to be perceived as one’s own.

Linville, Fischer and Salovey (1989) confirm that there is a greater differentiation and variability of groups defined by age, which indicates that there is a greater familiarity with the social group when compared to nationality and gender-defined social groups.

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The interpretation of the literature reviewed in this paper confirms the hypotheses outlined in the introduction part. The identification with the in-group of Generation X will result to their reporting of higher self-transcendence values compared to Generation Y and baby boomers who report the same from an out-group relation. The increased familiarity with in-group characteristics and how they perceive in-group values as self-values of the individual under Generation X predicts that the individual will report higher self-enhancement values than Generation Y and baby boomers.


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