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Value-Neutrality: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 When Value-Neutrality Matters
  • 0:35 Value-Neutrality Defined
  • 2:03 Practical Value-Neutrality
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Duane Cloud

Duane has taught teacher education courses and has a Doctorate in curriculum and instruction. His doctoral dissertation is on ''The Wizard of Oz''.

Value-neutrality is an important part of many disciplines. The precise meaning of this term varies, depending on where one hears it. The different degrees to which value-neutrality is important - and some of the disciplines in which it has importance - are discussed here.

When Value-Neutrality Matters

A reporter travels to a distant, war-torn land to cover the fate of civilians caught in the middle. A scientist performs a genetic experiment to discover whether intelligence has a genetic basis. A philosopher listens to a colleague give a detailed counter-argument regarding a recent publication. These three examples, and others, are situations in which value-neutrality are important. This lesson will discuss value-neutrality and explain its significance to some varying fields.

Value-Neutrality Defined

As the name suggests, value-neutrality is a principle that directs us to keep our emotions and biases in check when dealing with certain situations. Like our examples illustrate, these situations include times when our emotions can get in the way of observing and reporting facts. Value-neutrality is important in a variety of professions, and each such profession has a specific reason for requiring it.

In terms of the reason for value-neutrality, it often comes down to recognizing the difference between fact and emotion or between logical and illogical arguments. Though the specific means and limits vary by profession, value-laden thinking, or thinking that relies heavily on our own personal values, can interfere with observing, reporting, or discussing the truth. This is the reason doctors are not supposed to work with members of their own family. Their emotional attachment to the patient can prove dangerous and may cause them to make mistakes.

As human beings, many of the things we observe and experience in life tend to draw some sort of emotional response. At the level of a person's biochemistry, a truly value-neutral attitude is difficult to maintain. Our tendency as people when we observe something is to think either 'that's good' or 'that's bad.' This does not mean, however, that value-neutrality is impossible, merely that it often takes practice and intentional adherence to a variety of specific guidelines.

Practical Value-Neutrality

Let's go back to our reporter from the beginning of the lesson. Value-neutrality is similar to a number of journalistic principles, such as their obligation to the truth, the need to retain some professional distance, and the need to verify sources. A journalist should maintain some degree of professional, emotional distance from what he or she is observing. In many cases, excessive emotion can get in the way of relating what is going on, especially in forms of media like radio or television where the audience can see or hear the reporter. Some passion is allowed, as long as this passion does not interfere with the truthfulness of their reports.

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