Royal Society Summer Science Exhibit

Discover Values: Smashing Stereotypes?

Silhouettes of four figures made up of word clouds with different words about values and traits, such as "trusting", "thoughtful", "loyal" and "wise". The words are in pink, orange and yellow.

Are we more united than divided?

We often hear stories about our differences on topics that divide people. We see news reports about conflicts between those who voted Remain or Leave in the Brexit referendum, or read internet articles about a gulf between Boomers and Millennials. Are these divisions real, or are they different from how they appear?

Our exhibit will showcase research showing that people struggle to perceive these differences accurately. The issue boils down to difficulty in identifying our own values and those of others.  Our stereotypes can lead us wildly off-piste.

The problem starts with our values. Values are abstract ideals that people consider to be important guiding principles in their lives.  Examples include equality, security, or freedom.

Values guide our attitudes and our behaviour, and we infer our values from our attitudes and behaviours. The guidance and inference processes are not perfect.  For diverse reasons, we often make mistakes in estimating our own values and those of other people.

Our stereotypes of ourselves and others can interfere with accuracy.  We often assume that people differ in their value priorities. We might stereotypically assume, for instance, that older people find tradition or safety more important and that younger people find freedom and curiosity more important. We might assume that women value compassion and helpfulness, whereas men value wealth and power.

We have collected data that enables us to make some surprising discoveries about people‚Äôs values and the differences between people.  Our stereotypes can be mostly accurate in some cases and wrong in others.

We look forward to seeing you back here soon to find out more about our Royal Society Summer Science Exhibit. In the meantime you can read more about our research on political psychology in the Department of Psychology and in Social Cultural Cognition at the University of Bath.

A private boat covered in flags supporting Donald Trump, being sailed across a lake with a city skyline in the background.
Podcast: Are We Really All That Different?

It's been called 'The Age of Outrage', often filled with hyper-partisan political debates on issues such as Brexit, immigration, systemic racism, and even on the brand of beans Americans choose to buy. But are the differences in our values and in our ideologies all that define us? In this podcast, Dr Paul Hanel discusses his research on values and political psychology.

Listen to the podcast
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