What is a hierarchy of values?

The hierarchy of values ​​is that structure that allows us to determine which aspects of life are most important to us. Do you already have yours?

Last update: 01 February, 2022

What is important to you does not have to be for the rest of the people. In fact, it is so. Everyone we have a mental structure in which we value differently aspects of life, such as money, religion, family, work, etc. In this sense, we developed a hierarchy of values.

Everyone interprets reality based on their belief system. They are constituted from upbringing, education, personal experiences, personality, cultural context, among others. Let’s see it in detail.

What is a hierarchy of values?

Before defining what a hierarchy of values ​​is, it is pertinent to know what we mean by value. In this sense, values ​​are those principles and qualities that allow us to differentiate between good and bad, right and wrong, pleasant and unpleasant. Therefore, they guide our individual and social behaviors.

Now, the hierarchy of values ​​is a mental structure in which we order them according to their importance, in such a way that some become more of a priority than others. For example, for me the most important values ​​are family and love, while for others it may be work and material goods.

It is pertinent to emphasize that the order of the hierarchy will vary depending on the person and will depend on the context social, cultural and religious. However, cohesive social groups (such as family or religious communities) often have a fairly similar hierarchical order.

In addition, the hierarchy of values it is not an immutable entity. On the contrary, it changes as the person lives new experiences and adopts other perspectives.


To establish our hierarchy of values, we must first have a clear idea about it. For this we present its most defining characteristics:

  • The values ​​that make it up have two poles: one positive and one negative.
  • It is presented as a rangewhich goes from worst to best.
  • The order of the hierarchy will depend on social, moral and ethical aspects.
  • They are flexibleso they can change over time, based on experiences and needs.
Money is an aspect that plays an important role in various value hierarchies. For some it is not significant and for others it is everything.


For its part, the hierarchy of values ​​is made up of the following elements:

  • Person: who will determine what are the most important values ​​according to their needs, interests, desires, education, social and cultural context.
  • Value Qualities: related to the personal preference of each one and the interpretation (positive or negative) from a social perspective.
  • Status of the person: the current circumstances. It is the most unstable element.

Value Types

To establish a hierarchy of values, it is also important to know how to identify the variety of values ​​that exist. For this we present a classification by types.


They are that have the same value for most people. Among them are respect, freedom, kindness, solidarity, love, honesty, friendship, peace and courage.


They represent the principles and behaviors adopted by people according to the religion or dogma they profess. These values ​​usually appear in sacred texts and have been transmitted from one generation to another.


They are acquired based on experience. In general, they are inherited or transmitted by society to citizens. Such as loyalty, tolerance, generosity, responsibility and respect.


They are that emerge from the basic needs of mansuch as food, health, housing, personal care, hygiene.


Here are included those values ​​that perfect man, helping you to have better living conditions. Some examples are productivity, savings, success, wealth.


They refer to the feelings of liking, admiration, or dislike that are generated when you are appreciating a work, a sport, a person, an object, an animal, etc. For example, harmony, perfection, delicacy, obscenity.


They are that they connect you with the tangible reality or the material part of life. For example, organization, perseverance or money.


It refers to those values ​​that are captured through the spirit, the psyche or the mind. That is to say, do not involve the body. Among them are harmony, faith, hope, love, charity and grace.


It refers to those principles that govern the actions of the individual in society, such as honesty, responsibility, cooperation, trust, respect, etc.

Max Scheler’s Hierarchy of Values

To better understand what this structure consists of, we will present the hierarchy of values ​​proposed by the German philosopher Max Scheler (1874 – 1928). In it he organizes the principles that guide the attitudes of the human being based on what he considers important.

Remember that it is a subjective structure. Each one can establish his according to his priorities.

That said, Max Scheler’s hierarchy of values, starting from lowest to highest level of importance, is as follows:

  • Pleasant values: also called hedonistic valueswhich correspond to the affective states that allow us to experience pleasure and pain.
  • Vital values: They refer to bodily life. That is, those that are related to health, disease and instinct.
  • Spiritual values: they are those that we can capture through our spirit and that do not involve the corporeal.
  • religious values: for Scheler they are the most important. They are composed of the sacred and the divine, that is, the holy and the profane. They are also related to faith and unbelief.
Religion is capable of determining values ​​in people, since it sets a specific context of what is considered good or bad.

Importance of a hierarchy of values

Being clear about our hierarchy of values ​​is of the utmost importance, since it is a useful tool to orient and guide our actions based on the principles. In addition, it is a way of getting to know each other, since the most important values ​​are part of our identity.

For its part, it has a beneficial function for society. To the extent that each individual forms a common hierarchy of values ​​(composed of socially desirable values), there will be greater balance and harmony in the group. So, what are you waiting for to form yours?

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