A cognitive approach to values

Values, though often involved in the explanation of various and different social phenomena, are among the most fuzzy notions of the social sciences. A cognitive approach seems particularly needed, aiming at describing which type of mental object is a value, and how it is represented in an individual's mind, before analyzing its role in social life. This work discusses the most common, and often implicit readings of "value", showing its close relationships with other concepts such as goal, evaluation, norm, and standard. Then a formal definition of value is proposed, in terms of a particular kind of evaluative belief, with distinctive functions, both cognitive and social. Whereas an evaluation of an entity x is defined as an assumption about x's power (means, properties, skills) to achieve a certain goal, a value is a "cut off" evaluation, where information about the goal (for which x is assumed to be a means) is lacking; for instance, when we say that altruism is a value, we mean in fact that it is "good", but are not specifying (and perhaps knowing) for what. This definition and the analysis of its implications permit to account for some features typically attributed to values, such as their unfalsifiable, indefinite, and normative nature. Value results to be a borderline mental object. Its special status allows either its social or its cognitive function: the former is ascribed to the kinship between values and goals, particularly absolute imperatives like norms; the latter depends on being values kinds of evaluation, characterized by high generality and generative power.

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Blackwell,, Oxford , Regno Unito
Journal for the theory of social behaviour (Print) 19 (1989): 169–193. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5914.1989.tb00143.x
info:cnr-pdr/source/autori:MICELI, Maria; CASTELFRANCHI, Cristiano/titolo:A cognitive approach to values/doi:10.1111/j.1468-5914.1989.tb00143.x/rivista:Journal for the theory of social behaviour (Print)/anno:1989/pagina_da:169/pagina_a:193/intervallo_pagi
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