Tradition as a value.

Personal Core Value: Tradition

Personal Core Value: Tradition


  5 Min Read

The Personal Core Value: Tradition is an Extrinsic Motivator.

Discover the vital role of tradition in shaping our personal core values. Drawing from Shalom Schwartz’s Basic Human Values Theory, this post explores how traditions anchor our identity and guide our beliefs. Uncover the intricate relationship between tradition and values in our ever-changing world and learn how they influence your personal journey.

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1. Understanding the Concept of 'Tradition'

Tradition forms a core part of our values, providing a sense of belonging and continuity. It's a thread that connects us to our past, influences our present, and guides our future. As the famous quote says,

"Tradition is not to preserve the ashes, but to pass on the flame."

Scholars have long studied the impact of tradition on personal values. Shalom Schwartz, in his groundbreaking work on value theory, identifies tradition as one of the ten basic human values. Tradition, in this context, involves respect for, commitment to, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that one's culture and religion impose (Schwartz, 1992). This respect for tradition is seen as a crucial component in maintaining societal cohesion and individual identity.

From a psychological standpoint, tradition offers stability and a sense of predictability in a rapidly changing world. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt highlights the importance of tradition in giving individuals a sense of belonging and purpose, which are fundamental human needs (Haidt, 2012).

Culturally, traditions play a vital role in defining social norms and behaviors. They are often seen as the moral and ethical guidelines that shape our decisions and actions. Sociologist Emile Durkheim viewed traditions as collective representations of society's conscience (Durkheim, 1912), essential in fostering social solidarity and group identity.

2. The Interplay of Tradition and Self-Determination Theory

Understanding how tradition interacts with Self-Determination Theory (SDT) provides valuable insights into the complexities of human motivation and value formation. SDT, developed by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, focuses on the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations driving human behavior.

Tradition may seem at odds with the concept of autonomy, as it often involves adherence to pre-established norms and practices. However, when individuals internalize traditions that align with their personal values, they can experience a sense of autonomy within the framework of those traditions. This alignment allows individuals to feel a sense of ownership and personal endorsement of traditional practices (Chirkov, Ryan, Kim, & Kaplan, 2003).

Traditions also play a critical role in fulfilling the need for relatedness. They often serve as a common ground that connects individuals to their community, culture, or family. This sense of belonging can be profoundly satisfying and can foster a strong sense of identity and security. Studies have shown that traditions and cultural practices contribute significantly to the sense of relatedness and community bonding (Kasser, Ryan, Zax, & Sameroff, 1995).

Additionally, while less direct, the role of tradition in fostering a sense of competence should not be overlooked. Traditions often involve skills, knowledge, or rituals passed down through generations. Mastery of these elements can provide individuals with a sense of competence and pride, further reinforcing their connection to the tradition (Weinstein, Przybylski, & Ryan, 2012).

3. Real-Life Examples of Tradition

Real-life examples abound in how tradition shapes our values. Family gatherings, religious practices, or even local festivals are not just events; they are embodiments of our values and the legacies we inherit and pass on.

One powerful example of tradition in action is the haka, a traditional Māori dance from New Zealand. The haka is more than a dance; it's a profound expression of cultural identity and values, deeply rooted in Māori history and tradition. The haka originated with the Māori, the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. Traditionally, it was performed by warriors before a battle, displaying their strength and prowess to intimidate the opponent. Today, it is performed on various occasions, including welcoming ceremonies, celebrations, and notably, before rugby matches by the New Zealand national rugby team, the All Blacks.

Relating back to Self-Determination Theory, the haka is an embodiment of the three psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The performers express their autonomy by embracing and presenting their cultural heritage. They demonstrate competence through mastery of the complex choreography and expression involved in the dance. Most importantly, the haka fulfills the need for relatedness, creating a profound sense of connection among the performers and between performers and their community and culture.

4. Tradition & Modernity

The relationship between tradition and modernity is often viewed as a complex and sometimes contentious dynamic. This interaction plays a crucial role in shaping societies and individual identities, with each influencing and modifying the other. However, balancing both can lead to a harmonious and fulfilling life. Embracing tradition doesn't mean rejecting change; it means valuing the past as we move forward.

  • Tradition refers to the beliefs, customs, and practices inherited from previous generations. It is often associated with continuity, cultural heritage, and historical identity.
  • Modernity, on the other hand, is characterized by ideas of progress, innovation, and change, often driven by technological advancement and new ways of thinking.

The interplay between tradition and modernity can be seen in various aspects of life, from cultural practices to technological advancements. This dynamic is not necessarily a conflict but can be a process of adaptation and integration.

  • Cultural Adaptation: Cultures worldwide are continually adapting traditional practices to modern contexts. For instance, traditional festivals may incorporate modern technology for wider reach and engagement while preserving their core cultural significance.
  • Technological Advancements and Tradition: Technology has allowed for the preservation and dissemination of traditional knowledge and practices in ways previously unimaginable. Digital platforms enable sharing of traditional music, art, and stories, ensuring their continuation for future generations.

Balancing tradition and modernity presents certain challenges. As societies evolve, there is often a tension between preserving traditional values and embracing modern practices. This can lead to debates over the relevance of tradition in a modern world and concerns about the loss of cultural identity.

  • Generational Perspectives: Different generations may have varying views on this balance. Older generations might prioritize tradition, while younger generations lean towards modernity. Bridging this gap requires dialogue and mutual understanding.
  • Globalization: Globalization has both positive and negative impacts on this balance. While it exposes societies to new ideas and practices, it can also lead to the homogenization of cultures, potentially threatening unique traditional practices.

A positive integration of tradition and modernity involves a respectful blend where both can coexist and enrich each other. This integration acknowledges the importance of heritage and roots while embracing progress and innovation.

  • Educational Systems: Incorporating traditional knowledge and modern education can provide a more holistic learning experience.
  • Innovation within Tradition: Many traditional crafts and industries have embraced modern tools and methods to enhance their art while maintaining their traditional essence.

5. Finding How Much Tradition as a Value Shapes Your Life

Understanding the role of tradition in your life can be enlightening. We invite you to take our PVQ-RR-based test at to uncover how tradition shapes your personal values. If you're curious about how tradition resonates with your personal values, we invite you to visit and take our PVQ-RR-based test to quantify it. How does this impact personal growth? Taking our personality assessment on can provide clarity. Based on the comprehensive PVQ-RR method (Schwartz & Cieciuch, 2022), it's tailored to offer a deep dive into your core values, including how much 'Tradition' influences your choices. Don't miss out on this opportunity for introspection and personal development!

  1. Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. In Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 25, pp. 1-65). Academic Press. DOI Link
  2. Haidt, J. (2012). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Pantheon Books. Link
  3. Durkheim, E. (1912). The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Free Press. Link
  4. Chirkov, V., Ryan, R. M., Kim, Y., & Kaplan, U. (2003). Differentiating Autonomy From Individualism and Independence: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective on Internalization of Cultural Orientations and Well-Being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(1), 97-110. DOI Link
  5. Kasser, T., Ryan, R. M., Zax, M., & Sameroff, A. J. (1995). The Relations of Maternal and Social Environments to Late Adolescents' Materialistic and Prosocial Values. Developmental Psychology, 31(6), 907-914. DOI Link
  6. Weinstein, N., Przybylski, A. K., & Ryan, R. M. (2012). The Index of Autonomous Functioning: Development of a Scale of Human Autonomy. Journal of Research in Personality, 46(4), 397-413. DOI Link
  7. Schwartz, S. H., & Cieciuch, J. (2022). Measuring the refined theory of individual values in 49 cultural groups: psychometrics of the revised portrait value questionnaire. Assessment, 29(5), 1005-1019. DOI Link

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