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The psychology of ultimate values: A computational perspective

Rigoli, F. ORCID: 0000-0003-2233-934X (2022). The psychology of ultimate values: A computational perspective. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 52(1), pp. 105-126. doi: 10.1111/jtsb.12311


Ultimate values can be defined as abstract rules or goals transcending specific contexts and defining the utmost purposes of existence. Although the literature about human values is vast, several fundamental questions about ultimate values remain open. What are the processes responsible for the formation of ultimate values? What is the impact of inbuilt affective processes and of learning, respectively? Regarding learning, what is the role of society? Empirical evidence shows dramatic variability in ultimate values pursued by different people. Why? These open questions suggest that a precise picture of ultimate values is lacking. This paper offers a computational theory of ultimate values. The key idea is that our brain represents values along a hierarchy where ultimate values are built upon experiences with inherent affective nature (basic values). Based on these representations, the proposal is that the brain infers the rules that foster basic values in a variety of contexts. These would become ultimate values and drive human behaviour independent of the ongoing context. We discuss how the theory can contribute to understanding a variety of aspects of human values, including morality, to what degree values are innate or culturally determined, and how values shape and are shaped by society.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: Bayesian, computational modelling, ethics, goal
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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