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Values and Beliefs

Values and Beliefs

Author: Paul Hannan

Identify the values and beliefs that influence American life.

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Notes on "Values and Beliefs"

Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain Images from; Public Domain

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Welcome to this episode of Sociology Studies of Society. Today's lessons on values and beliefs. As always, don't be afraid to pass, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So today we're looking at values and beliefs. So what exactly are our values and beliefs? Well, values are just cultural guidelines which help individuals decide what is desirable and good. So there are ways that culture shapes what you want in life and what are good things to do.

And beliefs, on the other hand, are specific ideas that people believe to be true. Believing in God would be a belief. It is a specific idea that people believe to be true or some people believe to be true.

Robin Williams Jr. is a-- not the actor Robin Williams, but this is actually a sociologist. And he studied US culture. And he came up with 10 different central values to American life. These things really define the values of America.

The first one is equal opportunity. So that is the belief that people in America really want equality, not for outcomes, but give everyone the chance to succeed based on their individual talents and efforts. He also thought that Americans really valued achievement and personal success.

Our way of life really wants people-- it encourages people to be competitive. And it rewards people who do well, the winners in society. The United States also, as a general principle, you could say they have material comfort, which is that generally making money and enjoying that kind of stuff will make you happy.

Now sometimes you hear a saying like, money won't buy you happiness, but in general, our society really values material objects. Williams also argued that our society values activity and work. So the people that we look up to in society are people who are active, interacters. They're doers.

They're people that go out there and, well, get the job done. You don't have people dreaming and planning to become couch potatoes. We value people who are active winners.

We want to be Olympic gold medalist. We want to win the Super Bowl. Another value is that we value practicality and efficiency. We value doing overdreaming.

You might you be asked to maybe dream at points in your life from what you want, but it's really about, don't spend all your time daydreaming about that you want to be the king or you want to be in power. It's how do you get there. When parents talk to their children, they often focus on the steps you need to take. So maybe they should be planning on college or getting good grades so they can get into a good college.

And that's really something that's key to American society. American society also values progress. We want to be on the cutting edge. And we kind of think that things are better now than the past. And we think that they'll keep getting better as we go forward.

American society also values science. We, as a nation, are rational people. And we really think that problem-solving and using scientific methods is a way to further our society. And it's something that we think is good.

We also value democracy and free enterprise. So recognize that our society is made up of many individuals and government shouldn't-- and government should be a part of those individuals. And democracy is really the best representation for that. In general, Americans want a political system based on free elections, where adults select individual leaders that are going to let the economy respond to the choices of individual consumers.

Another key value of the US culture is freedom. We value the ability to make individual decisions. We really want people to be able to pursue whatever they want as their personal goals. And the last key value that Williams found was actually racism in group superiority.

Now you notice all the other ones. Maybe you wouldn't necessarily call them positive for sure, depending on what your background is, but you could at least see the positivity in them. This one there really isn't any, but Williams though it was important enough to include. Many people in his state still judge others according to these other groups.

So that males are better than females or that one social class is better another one or one race better than another one. And so in general, the US has a history of this group's superiority battle and that some people are actually more equal than others. So today's takeaway message, values are just cultural guidelines which help individuals decide what is desirable and good. And beliefs are specific ideas that people believe in as true.

Robin Williams Jr. is a sociologist who came up with 10 central values of the American way of life. And the 10 such values are equal opportunity, achievement and personal access, material comfort, activity and work, practicality and efficiency, progress, science, democracy and free enterprise, freedom, and racial and group superiority. That's it for this lesson. Good work, and hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know

Convictions, understandings, and ideas that people hold as truth.

Ten Values Central to American Life

Devised by Robin Williams Jr. these values are: 1) Equal Opportunity; 2) Achievement and Success; 3) Material Comfort; 4) Activity and Work; 5) Practicality and Efficiency; 6) Progress; 7) Science and Rational Thinking; 8) Democracy; 9) Freedom; 10) Group Superiority.


Cultural guidelines that delineate what is good and bad and provide instruction for social living.

People to Know
Robin Williams Jr.

American sociologist who made a career out of studying American cultural life and gave us the Ten Values Central to American Life.