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Talent, Character, and the Dimensions of National Culture

Gerhard Meisenberg

Published: 2004/12/01


This study investigates the dimensions of cultural variation in the modern world as assessed by the World Values Survey. It confirms the previously reported existence of two major dimensions of cultural variation that can be described as modern and ‘postmodern,’ respectively. Modern values are characterized by skepticism and critical thinking, with a rejection of religion and traditional authority along with an interest in politics. In multiple regression models, modern values are directly related to the IQ of the population. Postmodern values are characterized by trust, tolerance, and self-realization. In multiple regression models, they are inversely related to corruption. Subjective wellbeing is positively related to postmodern values and negatively to modern values. Modern values are interpreted as the emancipation of reason from the constraints of traditional custom and religion, and postmodern values as the emancipation of pleasure-seeking and social emotions from the constraints of dysfunctional social systems. The historical context and the roles of these value orientations in the evolution of contemporary societies are discussed.