Terminal Values: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Rokeach's Theory of Values
  • 1:17 Terminal Values
  • 2:45 Examples
  • 3:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Terminal values are one of two types of values distinguished by social psychologist Milton Rokeach. In this lesson, you'll learn about terminal values through examples, and then test your knowledge with a brief quiz.

Rokeach's Theory of Values

You are probably familiar with the term 'values', but what does it really mean? In his book The Nature of Human Values social psychologist Milton Rokeach set out to answer this exact question. Rokeach defined values as 'enduring beliefs that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence.' In other words, Rokeach believed that:

  • We have values for ourselves and values for society. These values may be the same or they may differ. For example, you may believe that you should be forgiving of others, but that society should be less concerned with being forgiving.
  • 'Enduring beliefs' means that values are generally stable, although they can change as people continue to make decisions that involve putting one value ahead of another.
  • There is a difference between values that are modes of conduct and values that are end-states of existence. Values that are modes of conduct are referred to as instrumental values. Values that are end-states of existence are terminal values.

Let us discuss the differences between terminal and instrumental values in more detail.

Definition of Terminal Values

Terminal values are the goals that we work towards and view as most desirable. These values are desirable states of existence. They are the goals that we would like to achieve during our lifetime. Instrumental values are the preferred methods of behavior. They can be thought of as a means to an end. Instrumental values consist primarily of personal characteristics and personality traits such as honest, polite, and ambitious. Rokeach developed a list of 18 terminal values:

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