A common search of the internet gives you this: values can be defined as broad preference concerning appropriate courses of action or outcomes. As such, values reflect a person's sense of right and wrong or what "ought" to be. "Equal rights for all", "Excellence deserves admiration", and "People should be treated with respect and dignity" are representative of values. Values tend to influence attitudes and behavior.
I'd say that is broad enough to capture what values mean. The study, linked above, goes on to highlight how these values unite us in motivation. In other words, values are the construct for how we think of something, but we move based on a Value Concept. The chart below acts as an illustration to showcase how values compliment and conflict with each other. For example, Openness to Change has a polar (my word) opposite, which is Conservation. The underlying Motivation being Stimulation or Security. Those that have an Openness to Change are more likely to seek Stimulation and excitement. However, those with a Conservation Value Concept will look for Security. The study does a much better job at highlighting this, but the concept, at least to me, is clear: there are underlying motivations that drive our value structure.
A better definition of the Value Concepts are below:
- Self-Direction. Independent thought and action; choosing, creating, exploring.
- Stimulation. Excitement, novelty, and challenge in life.
- Hedonism. Pleasure and sensuous gratification for oneself.
- Achievement. Personal success through demonstrating competence according to
- Power. Social status and prestige, control or dominance over people and resources.
- Security. Safety, harmony, and stability of society, of relationships, and of self.
- Conformity. Restraint of actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm
others and violate social expectations or norms.
- Tradition. Respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that
traditional culture or religion provide the self.
- Benevolence. Preserving and enhancing the welfare of those with whom one is infrequent personal contact (the ‘in-group’).
- Universalism. Understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature.