Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Social Values

  • Andrea Karaiskaki
  • Xenia Anastassiou-HadjicharalambousEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1077-1



Moral codes that characterize human societies; cultural elements that bring together a group of individuals and render humans as the only species to be separated qualitatively from animals on the basis of social order and community.


Societies seek to establish congruence between social values associated with their activities and the norms of acceptable behavior in a larger social system. Values foster harmony within a human society and function as the foundation of organizational legitimacy. Absence or violation of cultural, common values leads to disparity that can threaten congruence and undermine unity within a society. As communication is a vital component in the realm of enculturation, language appeared to develop in parallel with human cultural values. Human species evolved over generations, and communication became more complex. Arbitrary cultural meanings are found to be assigned to rites of passage and initiations of individuals in communities, as well as animate and inanimate objects. Interpretively, this allows for a vivid evidence that early culture rituals were occurring, enriching the notion of human civilization that was continuously on the rise.

Emergence of Identity Within Culture

In developing their sense of identity, people identify successively with values of influence over their well-being. The primary process involved in identity development is ones of enculturation of cultural elements (Berry 1980). Enculturation references the agentic individual’s process of identification with whatever cultural elements of influential others are accessible to the person (Weinreich 1983). In the main, the young child identifies with mother and father in the first instance but identifying only with limited aspects of them apprehended from the child’s perspective (Mikhail 2011). Subsequently, the person as older child, adolescent, and then young adult successively identifies with members within their direct environment, and beyond with agents of the wider community, and part-identifies with their salient features according to increasing levels of comprehension (Erikson 1950, 1968). As a consequence, over a formative period, the child who becomes the adult migrant will have enculturated major aspects of heritage culture including some elements that are incompatible with others, since cultures are not entirely monolithic (Wrangham 1987). According to ISA, identity is a modification of earlier ones and emphasizes people’s construal of their biographical past and their aspirations for the future. For human species, their biographical past scenarios can be located in their heritage locations and cultures (Boesch 2007), while their future aspirations mat entail considerations about their intended modes of engaging with their receiving communities (Weinreich 2003).

Embodiment of the Self in the Community

Rites of Passage

A rite of passage is a ceremony and marks the transition from one phase of life to another. It plays a critical role in the evolution of human civilization as it defines the common values of a society (Tooby and Cosmides 2005). A rite of passage manages to conserve social order and the sense of community among the members of a group who come together to celebrate an occasion and practice traditions and customs on the foundation of shared social values (Yamamoto and Tanaka 2009). Rites of passage are characterized by the ordeals with which a youth is formally invested with adult status in a community. Intriguingly, these rituals and ceremonies allow adults to transition into new life roles along the path of adulthood, all the way into meaningful elderhood. When humans design rite of passage experiences, they work to assure that initiates come out of the experience with a new and empowering story that helps them take responsibility for the decisions that set the course of their future (Sober and Wilson 1998). Members of social group initiates create the story of who they are and the kind of life they wish to build based within the exploration of their own personal values (Haidt 2003). Initiates are encouraged to select the story that connects them to their community. Through this self-exploration, they emerge with a stronger sense of personal responsibility to all aspects of their lives, stretching all the way out to the larger world of which they are a part of (Carrithers et al. 1985). Consequently, both the community and the initiate benefit from a rite of passage. An intentional rite of passage experience provides the space for the community to transmit its core values and ethics and confer the role responsibilities appropriate to the initiate’s stage of life (Frank 1988), hence, insuring cultural continuity and knitting together of the generations.

The Role of Honor Code

A fundamental aspect of culture is its embodiment of the societal processes of substantial groups of people who perceive themselves as belonging to a commonality of values and beliefs, moral imperatives and religious beliefs, dress and behavior, history, and modes of living, whereby one group is culturally distinctive from another (Henry 2008). From evolutionary perspective, Honor Codes appear to maintain cohesive order within communities. The role of an Honor Code is to encompass a set of ideals in a society and govern accordingly a group of individuals that abide by moral rules. It is based on what constitutes honorable behavior among group members, and its use depends on the notion that individuals within the group can be trusted to act honorably (Locke 2014). In many cultures, an Honor Code exists parallelly to ethics that require proper compliance according to societal rules, by members who seek to be recognized for their individuality and be inviolably included in community. Punishments upon disregard of the Honor Code underline that values-driven individuals ought to be more successful within a society.

Development Levels for Compliance and Ethics

From evolutionary perspective, crucial components that characterize Honor Codes of human societies appear to be diachronic as they influence critically the man of today who seems to adhere to values that had always fostered healthy functions in communities since ancient times (Hagan and Hammerstein 2006). Modern society has adopted these values and incorporated them into organizational Honor Codes. Foundation level programs set the basis for establishing a healthy organizational culture and preventing, detecting, and resolving legal and regulatory compliance violations (Shafer-Landau 2012). The behavioral focus is on compliance and the business focus is on the organization. Transformation level programs support a shift from a compliance focus to a compliance and ethics focus. The behavioral focus is on compliance and ethics promoted by values-based leadership. The business focus is on the organization and primary stakeholders which might be customers, suppliers, investors, financers, and communities in operating area. Sustainability level programs foster aspirational behavior and contribute to the organization’s continued success. The behavioral focus for this level is on compliance, ethics and honor, collaboration, and meaning, all promoted by values based on leadership. Hence, the business focus is on the organization, primary stakeholders and secondary stakeholders which might be special interest groups, media, government, competitors, consumer advocates, and global society (Henry 2008).


The continuous process of human enculturation is the foundation of the person’s identification as well as the coexistence of mixed cultural elements within the person’s identity. Ultimately, the goal is the creation of elemental identification that is characterized by common social values and is expressed within social boundaries and moral incentives. The values of shared ethics, Honor Codes, and rites of passage appear to be among some of the most crucial components to maintain social norms and community order intact in human communities. The purpose of social values is not to cultivate individuals who blindly appraise ideals of a rather unknown cultural history. The concept of culture is not only characterized by participation of the individual in community but also by the separation from the massive group in an attempt to acquire identity and authentically accustom by the values that define the broader society they live in. The goal is a new emerging self that can actively engage in rituals and celebrate ideals while she or he questions the nature of traditions and seeks to gain knowledge regarding the historical background that determines their identity.



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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Karaiskaki
    • 1
  • Xenia Anastassiou-Hadjicharalambous
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.University of IowaIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.University of NicosiaNicosiaCyprus

Section editors and affiliations

  • Menelaos Apostolou
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NicosiaNicosiaCyprus