In the first three parts of this series we have been on a voyage of discovery, looking for some universal answers about the connection between human personality and human values. We’ve discovered that no one model gives us complete answers, but that by combining several models we can allow a more holistic/realistic understanding to emerge. In developing a robust hybrid model, the CDSM Values Space Map provides a solid grounding for measuring a variety of scales from different models of thought, attitudes and behaviour.
In Part 3 we explored an expansion of OCEAN called HEXACO, which provided a more rounded view of personality than the basic model. It was shown that the two personality measures, though not measuring values, did correlate with parts of the Values Space and could add nuance to the understanding of values and motivations in personal values systems.
In the conclusion to that article it was noted that the ‘extreme end’ of a likely axis within HEXACO was not extreme in terms of the CDSM Values Space. To understand the limitations of the OCEAN/HEXACO personality model it was time to take a step back and review what we knew about that area of the Values Map that correlated with Emotionality in the HEXACO system, but wasn’t measured within the OCEAN system.
Introducing Golden Dreamers and dreams of power
Originally this Values ModeTM was an area of the Values Map that was mostly defined by positive factors measuring aspiration and fantasy and similar benign orientations - so much so that we named these people ‘Golden Dreamers’.
This group presently makes up about 12% (1 in 8) of the British population. It is an important group and needs to be understood.
The 12 Values Modes are shown here.
The following short description highlights Golden Dreamer drives and ambitions, though they may not necessarily have the life skills to achieve them. Some of them will cut corners to satisfy their desires.
The Schwartz Values Model showed clearly that much of the Golden Dreamer area was dominated by the Power segment – and that the high drive for power and achievement it demonstrated - and the ease for this segment to take a decision to ‘bend a few rules’ - can lead to personal and group decisions that produce behaviourally moral and ethical dilemmas that may adversely affect others.
We have been studying this area of Values Space for over a decade in relation to dysfunctional high performance organizations and CEOs (especially in the financial sector), terrorist networks, populist political organizations and voters - and a range of less controversial topics.
As we continued to run British Values Survey we continued to test new models to improve our insights. We ran a range of new questions in 2012 that gave us a whole new understanding of this aspirational group. But the picture was darker than could have been forecast – and helped us understand this ‘danger zone’ in more depth.
The questions we asked and the scales the answers populated were measurements of a model known as Social Dominance Orientation. It measures factors like ‘Force’, ‘Revenge’, ‘Catharsis’ and ‘Bender’ - and other measurements of values and attitudes that are associated with authoritarian and physically violent orientations which often challenge moral or ethical norms. It was these questions within the model that gave a new insight into people holding these values.
When we look more closely at the Power component of the Danger Zone and compare it to the Golden Dreamers Values Mode we can see huge areas of overlap – something that wasn’t seen in the Golden Dreamers in the less comprehensive research conducted in earlier days. Or in the OCEAN model.
This was clearly a factor not measured by the OCEAN and HEXACO models - it was more extreme, further out towards the edge of Values Space. Just as importantly it formed an axis with the CDSM/Schwartz values research factor called Universalism – seen on both maps as dark blue, meaning those espousing a Power orientation or being a Golden Dreamer were much less likely than the whole population to care about others. Golden Dreamers were more interested in having power over others than caring for them. It was also important for them to be recognized as ‘better than others’ - often judged by the size of their personal income or the wealth they could accumulate.
Breaking a few rules in pursuit of these objectives created dissonance with the ‘rule-driven’ behaviours they exercised at earlier times in their lives. One of the ways of staving off dissonance is the adoption of new values – ones that support the change in values. We see examples of this on the Map.
Scales that measure values orientations in this extreme part of the Power vs. Universalism axis contain - in addition to the afore mentioned Force, Revenge, Catharsis and Bender – CDSM Attributes that correlate with other factors like Divided, Two Classes and Unobliged . These factors demonstrate a belief that there is a natural order of winners and losers and the winners have no obligation to help losers. Patriarchy (men are superior to women) and Fantasy, strongly agreeing that sometimes they find it difficult to separate reality and fantasy are significant also. Taken together, these factors create a values system that dehumanizes others and supports a world view that rules are for others, winning at all costs is preferable to being ‘a loser’, that life is a constant battle and Power is an end in itself. Literally having a big house, fast car and having the right ‘trophy partner’ on your arm in public places is the ultimate satisfaction in life. Did I hear the words ‘Donald Trump’?
This outlook on life has always been with us – it is part of an individuation process. As individuals get older they tend to shed a range of moral values that worked for them as they grew up. They now want to make their own minds up about the rules they live by. They become more pragmatic – it’s about ‘what works for me’ - and less concerned about how their behaviour impacts negatively on others. It’s important to realise that for most of us this is phase in life, not an end point. It tends to peak in 18-24 year old males, though continuing to be the dominant orientation for many up to around 45 years of age. It then begins to decline steadily. Having this orientation at 70 is quite disturbing. But a look at history and at highly dysfunctional authoritarian government will reveal many instances of older power figures (not just men, but predominantly men) likely holding this values set. They simply haven’t acquired, and may be incapable of acquiring, the breadth and depth of insight typically found in 25 year olds.
Masters of the Universe
In his bestselling era-defining novel "Bonfire of the Vanities" the author Tom Wolf had one of the characters refer to people who worked on Wall Street in the go-go 1980s, and typified by this values set, as ‘Masters of the Universe’. Michael Lewis’s depiction of his time as a trader on Wall Street in his bestselling autobiography "Liar’s Poker" shows how fact can follow fiction. He recalled real traders referring to each other as 'Masters of the Universe' while exhibiting anti-social, misogynistic behaviours, including fantasy-driven violence of language, with the carefree aplomb of people who were comfortable with themselves – displaying no signs of dissonance.
When we discovered these factors and added them to our database (and by now a continually growing knowledge base) we could no longer accept that this set of values could typify the people who held them as 'Masters of the Universe'. They might have power and wealth, but were very one-dimensional compared to people who held values at the other end of the axis.
Bastards of the Universe
We reconceptualised them as ‘Bastards of the Universe’, or BOTUs, and have subsequently had many hours of troubling, but often fun, discussion, working with clients, analysing the antics and moral and ethical gyrations of public figures who hold this set of values. Bookshelves containing management theory and best practice are laden with guides to success written by and about many BOTUs. Documentary film makers like Michael Moore have built whole careers on highlighting the emotional fall out and economic destruction caused by the powerful people making decisions rooted in this values system.
As this series of short articles has noted time and again, the purpose of getting better answers is to find better questions.
We started out trying to find better answers in the CDSM values space and tested OCEAN to see if it could improve our knowledge base – which it did to a limited extend but was highly skewed to one particular area of the Map. To try to rectify the skew we examined other models also attempting to rectify the skew. We discovered and tested the model called HEXACO, which through its own skew did rectify and expand the OCEAN model, and provided a potential personality axis within the values space.
But this led to the insight that personality was a limited tool compared to a values-based tool and an examination of the farther reaches of psychological research lead us to test and analyse a model called Social Dominance Orientation.
We asked a better question and found an independently derived model could provide and improve understanding. Analysis showed how it fits into CDSM values space. It also validated parts of the Schwartz Model specifically in the Power and Achievement segments.
But the analysis also provided another good question.
Was there something beyond the BOTU? Something that had roots in the BOTU outlook but was even more dark and, by extension, contained the power to be even more disruptive to others – all the while making the holder of the factor more driven and even less aware of their impact on others?
Were there factors that could create havoc beyond the BOTUs? Was there a true Prince of Darkness?
Part 5 of this series will search for and find – and then analyse - where these ultimate outliers lie in Values Space.