Valence and Efficacy: The Affective Meanings of Human Values and their Relationship to Moral Decisions


  • Walter Renner Pan European University, Bratislava
  • Maximilian Wertz Alpen-Adria-Universität, Klagenfurt



Moral foundations theory, semantic differential, stereotype Content Model.


Human values and value based judgments are not only based on rationality but are highly emotional by their nature. Like other emotional concepts, human values can not only be rated by their desirability or subjective evaluation, but also by their perceived power, effectiveness, or activity. This aspect has been omitted in previous research. We therefore employed the Semantic Differential to examine the factorial structure of the affective meanings of 15 German-language value terms. The demographically heterogeneous sample comprised N = 274 (N = 136 female; mean age 39.14 years, s = 18.35, range 16...88 years) Austrian and German respondents. In line with our expectations we found two affective dimensions, Valence and Efficacy, which predicted central aspects of value related moral or ethical judgments. We conclude that the previously neglected dimension of Efficacy should be considered in future research on human values. Possible implications for studying consumer decisions or political voting as well as ethical aspects are discussed.

Author Biography

Walter Renner, Pan European University, Bratislava

Professor, Faculty of Psychology, Pan European University, Bratislava (Slovak Republic)


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