The Empirical Determination of a Value Scale
E. N. Henderson
E. N. HENDERSON.
The purpose of this study is to try to find out by actually questioning many persons how much agreement there is among them as to the relative importance of certain values and also, if such agreement be found, what the order of their importance may be. To that end I have used a list of six values, which may, perhaps, be regarded as inclusive of the principal good things of life. They are health, property, sociability, intelligence, taste and morality. The persons who helped in the study were asked to comply with the following request:
"Arrange the following list of misfortunes in the order in which you would be least willing to incur them:"-- (I) To be chronically ill so as to be confined to the bed room; (2) To be dependent upon others for support; (3) To have no friendly relations with nor personal interest in others; (4) To be a person of defective mental power; (5) To lose all interest in the beautiful; (6) To lose conscience so that habitual thievery would cause no remorse.
It will be noted that personal qualities rather than the good things that can be gained and enjoyed through them have been selected, and that in each case the basis of comparison is what might be called the minimal standard amount of each value, or that the possession
( 182) of which is expected of every normal individual. These conditions, I think, favor simplicity in the study. The replies of 183 persons may be represented as follows:
Miss Catharine N. Platts, a student in the Summer Session at Columbia, obtained for me 120 responses. Her questions were similar to mine, except that the one regarding property was put in such a form that the idea of dependence on charity was not implied. Her question put the alternative as such poverty as to involve actual want. The result was that property dropped to the lowest place in the scale of values, The summary of her replies as is follows:
Summarizing the results of both tables, we have:
I conclude that there is considerable agreement in regard to these minimal standard values. Morality and intelligence are clearly at the top with a slight advantage in favor of the former. Sociability is quite as definitely in the third place. Health, property and taste are grouped closely together, with little advantage in favor of any one. If lack of property means dependence on charity, this value seems to come up to fourth place. Otherwise it drops back toward the bottom. Taste is at or near the bottom in any event. Health, as is shown by
( 183) the average deviation, is placed most variously, yet it is clearly a low value.
The results are in one sense partial, inasmuch as 283 of the 303 answers came from women. However, the summary of the 20 replies from the men gives exactly the same arrangement of the values as is found in the summary of replies collected by me.
It, of course, remains to be discovered whether the same arrangement will
prevail for values above the minimal standard but at about the same relative