Facing lots of changes coming into my life, I had to once again ask myself “What really guides me?“. Psychology and common wisdom say that our values guide us, so that’s where I started to look for the answers.

To get more or less objective picture, this time I decided to begin with some science-backed self-assessments. There are a lot of personal values tests you can find on the Internet, but as far as I know, there is no a de-facto standard, like Big Five personality traits assessment. Many of them represent the bleeding edge ongoing research, but most of them are likely just a junk. So I’ve tried a bunch of tests to evaluate their results on my own.

If you are wondering if there is a rigorous scientific definition for the concept of “value“—yes, there are a few. Here is the one I like, it’s used in acceptance and commitment therapy:

Values are “freely chosen, verbally constructed consequences of ongoing, dynamic, evolving patterns of activity, which establish predominant reinforcers for that activity that are intrinsic in engagement in the valued behavioral pattern itself” (Wilson & Dufrene, 2009).

So basically values are arbitrary self-reinforcing effects of our behavior.

I had only three criteria for evaluating the results of the tests, sorted in the order of importance:

  • Validity: Is there any evidence for the scientific validity of this test?
  • Resemblance: Are the results of this test are similar to the rest? If no, why?
  • My feelings: How do I feel about the results?

So here is following my review for every each of them.

You can skip to the Conclusions section for a TL;DR version.

1) Personal Values Test

[Link]

Validity: Unknown

Resemblance: High

My feelings: “Yeah, that’s me“

The first one is one of the top Google search results, so it’s probably quite popular on the Internet, and that’s why I’d decided to try it. I have no idea about its validity or even methodology, the site doesn’t disclose anything. However, it gave me a highly-relatable list of values, similar to the rest of the tests, so I’ve included this test on the list.

My most important core values according to this test are wisdom, intelligence, meaning in life, freedom and health.

2) The Core Values Index

[Link]

Validity: Doubtful

Resemblance: High

My feelings: “Yeah, that’s me, but WTF“

This one is rather a personality test, as the authors claim “the most reliable assessment ever created“ because of “a 94% repeat score reliability rate“. However, the link to the paper is broken, and I couldn’t find a copy.

According to this test, my primary core value is “Innovator“ and the secondary one is “Merchant“. And their “core value energies” are wisdom and love respectively. Ughh, yeah, I know how New-Agey it sounds. Let’s move to the next one.

3) The Portrait Values Questionnaire (PVQ)

[Link]

4) Find Your Values Test

[Link]

5) Life Values Inventory

[Link]

Validity: All seem to be based on the PVQ test which is backed by some studies.

Resemblance: High

My feelings: “Yeah, sounds like me“

These three seem to be variations of the same PVQ test. They all gave me pretty similar results and insight. The 4th and 5th tests also provide an extended analysis and exercises.

According to these tests, my core values are achievement, health, benevolence, intelligence, prosperity, freedom, and security.

6) Personal Values Assessment from Barrett Values Centre

[Link]

Validity: It has some validity according to this article, but I was unable to verify this claim.

Resemblance: High

My feelings: “Yeah, that’s me“

The Barrett Model is about mapping your values on something pretty much like Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Quite an interesting exercise, but I’m not sure if it’s backed by any science, given that the Hierarchy itself is often questioned nowadays. It also gives an 8-page long PDF with some insights and practical exercises.

According to this test, my core values are wisdom, ethics, making a difference, personal fulfillment, and well-being.

Conclusions

Despite all the tests being very different, I’ve got pretty similar results on all of them. This gives me some confidence both about the validity of these tests and my personal integrity and consistency. I’d say these tests gave me a pretty abstract picture of the areas I should explore to identify more concrete values. I do believe it’s hard to act on vague images and to make my brain focus on my values I need to turn them into something more specific and actionable.

Also, I’m honestly wondering, aren’t these results too good? None of the tests asked me whether I like killing little kittens. I mean, I definitely do not, but none of the tests included any “dark“ values and I don’t understand why do psychologists have such high faith in humanity. Do these tests give an “honest” picture or just a “feel-good” one?

Ok, and finally, here is my free interpretation and summary for what my top-5 core values are based on all the tests above:

  • intelligence & wisdom
  • freedom & independence
  • health & well-being
  • prosperity
  • security

In the next stage, I want to concretize my values and derive my core principles from them. So please stay tuned :).