How to Use the PVQ? (3+ Basic Versions)

In this guide we will discuss values theory and PVQ

Values constitute the basic part of our lives as our thought process, emotions and actions are guided by them. The three components of attitude that is cognitive, affect and behavior are fueled by our values.

Thus this makes values a widely studied topic in the field of sociology, philosophy and psychology.

Values act as a guiding principle in our life. They are strongly associated with our morals and judgments.

They are deeply immersed in the decision making process and prepare individuals to act in a certain way depending on the consequences of those actions.

According to Wilson and DuFrene (2009)

“Values are freely chosen, verbally constructed consequences of ongoing, dynamic, evolving patterns of activity, which establish predominant reinforcers for actions that are intrinsic in engagement in the valued behavioral pattern itself”

Values have transformative elements attached to them as they are transformed depending on the life experiences of a person.

In the early ages these values are given to a person through socialization by their parents but he later evaluates his values and constructs them according to his own experiences.

Researchers have established that values change the perception and reaction of an individual to a particular stimulus. Values are exhibited in all domains of life as personal or professional.

Whether personal, professional or social values make individuals have heightened self-realization and self-esteem.

Each individual selects a different set of values as guiding principle of his life depicting his own individuality and uniqueness.

Schwartz’s Theory of basic values:

PVQ questionnaire is based on Shalom Schwartz theory of values. Schlom Schwartz based his theory on Milton Rockeach definition of values.

According to his definition of values one state of conduct is usually preferred to its opposite state of conduct.

He further explained that values change over the course of life as opposed to individual’s relatively permanent traits.

According to him values are derived from three basic needs of human existence which are as follow:

·         Need of person as biological organism

·         Social interaction

·         Group survival

Schwartz based his theory on this basic idea and defined values as transitional, desirable and abstract goals having different degrees of importance that guide’s individual’s life.

All the values have five common features:

1.  Values are concepts

2.  Values are desirable behavior

3.  Values exist beyond any specific situation

4.  Values defines evaluation of a behavior

 Thus it implies that there exist numbers of values because of difference in underlying motivational goals.

Schwartz established 10 basic values with different motivational goals which are as follow:


It has a motivational goal of understanding and protecting the welfare of humans and nature.


It involves protecting and enhancing the welfare of human beings with whom one is constantly in contact with.


It is acceptance of ideologies and beliefs that one’s tradition provides.


It involves restricting one’s impulses that might result in harm of some other preson.


It has underlying motivational goal of harmony and safety of society, oneself and other


It involves status and prestige and power over other individuals and resources.


It involves succeeding by showing competence that falls under the standards defined by society


It has the underlying motivational goal of gratifying one’s own impulses.


It involves seeking excitement and thrill in life.


It involves defining and exploring one’s own way.

Schwartz organized these values in a circular way according to compatibility or incompatibility of values. Values having similar underlying motivational goals lay close to each other.

For example value of benevolence and universalism have the same underlying motivational goal and are in opposition to power values.

He then further organized these values into four higher values with opposite motivational values that form orthogonal in a bipolar dimension.

There is an opposition between self transcendence which constitutes universalism and benevolence and self-enhancement which constitute achievement and power.

On the other dimension there is contrast between openness to change which constitute hedonism, self-direction and stimulation and conservative which includes conformity, tradition and security.

 Schwartz model of values has been validated cross-culturally by a number of studies.

Result of 200 studies from 60 different countries with different languages and religions supported this theory.

Measures to Assess Values:

Psychological research has always struggled to assess human values. In this regard Schwartz and his colleagues have established a number of questionnaires.

Following two of them are most widely used questionnaires:

Schwartz Value Survey:

This questionnaire was first developed by Schwartz in 1987 in which he maintained the distinction between values as defined by Rokeach that is Terminal values and instrumental values.

Terminal values are desirable values that function as guiding principle for life while on the other hand instrumental values are values that lead towards terminal values.

Thus two different list of values are presented in Schwartz survey value one measuring terminal values and other measuring instrumental values consisting of 57 value items.

For example sense of belonging and this value is immediately followed by brief explanation of values such as the feeling of being associated with others.

Participants rate each value on a 9 point scale in terms of how much a value is important for guiding an individual’s life.

This scale was criticized for a lot of shortcomings such as it required participants to respond to abstract ideas that were difficult for an adolescent or illiterate person to understand.

Thus another scale that is a Portrait value questionnaire was designed.

Portrait Value Questionnaire (PVQ):

PVQ was developed by Schwartz and his colleagues in 2001. Two versions of this scale exist, the original one where there are 40 portraits that define values and shortened versions that consisted of only 21 portraits.

This scale measures the basic 10 values as proposed by Schwartz in his original theory. PVQ has been validated in different contexts.

It is also administrable on individuals who cannot perform on Schwartz value scale. PVQ is also considered an implicit test because it measures an individual’s value without revealing the purpose of the study.

In PVQ portraits are presented to participants in which hypothetical characters have different values as their guiding principle in life such as ‘He likes to be creative in his ways’ or ‘He likes doing things the way they value’.

Values given to character are operationalized on the basis of definition of values given by Schwartz.

Participants respond considering how much they relate to the hypothetical character presented in portrait.

Their responses are recorded on a 6 point Likert type scale where 1 stands for not at all like me and 6 stands for very much like me.

Scores on items measuring the same value are averaged to obtain the score of participants on each value.

PVQ has a complete guideline for its administration. It can be administered on any age group and on both male and female as the hypothetical character is given the gender same as the participant. 

It takes only 5 to 7 minutes to complete the test and participants only have to think about how much he relates to a hypothetical person.

In two different versions of PVQ that is PVQ-40 and PVQ-21, the number of items assessing the value varies.

This number also varies within the scale such as in PVQ-40, three items measures each hedonism, stimulation and power, four items measures each benevolence, traditionalism and achievement and self-direction, five item measures security and six items measures universalism.

Versions of Portrait Value Questionnaire:

There are four different versions of portrait values questionnaire. These four values are as follow:

1.  Portrait value Questionnaire-40 (Consisting of 40 items)

2.  Portrait Value Questionnaire-21 (Consisting of 21 items)

3.  Male version (Either PVQ-40 or PVQ21 with hypothetical depicted as male)

4.  Female version (Either PVQ-40 or PVQ21 with hypothetical depicted as male)

PVQ can be adapted according to the participant on which it is administered.

Validity of PVQ:

PVQ has been validated cross culturally with different populations by a number of studies.

A study on two nations was conducted to measure the validity and reliability of a questionnaire.

Results of the study indicated that PVQ-21 has strong construct validity and modifying few of its items does not have any significant effect on its reliability and validity.

Researchers have also established its practicality and efficiency across different cultures.

Results of a study conducted on 20 different European countries indicated that the multi group structure of the test is valid for participants belonging to different age, gender and culture.

Exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis also yielded the same factor as proposed by Schwartz theory and these same factors have also been consistent among different populations adding to the validity of scale.

Hence PVQ provides statistical basis for Schwartz theory as results of factor analysis arrange 10 values along 4 dimensions.

PvQ-21 is a more valid instrument to test four factor models than PVQ-40. 

A research was conducted by Thijs Bouman et al. (2018) in which they used a variant of portrait value questionnaire to measure environmental beliefs.

Environmental beliefs are comprised of four human values including biospheric, altruistic, egoistic and hedonic values.

Previously adapted version of SVS to measure these environmental values of individuals but because of inherent flaws in SVS, a variant of PVQ was used for research purposes.

Results of research indicated that people preferred variants of PVQ over adapted versions of SVS to measure environmental values.

Difference between SVS and PVQ:

·         SVS is a direct self report measure in which individuals are directly asked to rate each value as their guiding principle while in PVQ individuals are asked to rate how much similarity exist between them and some other person so the judgment task is quite different.

·         The item in PVQ are presented in form of individual who have goals, dreams and aspiration while in SVS item are quite abstract ideas

Access to PVQ:

PVQ is a straightforward assessment of one’s values. Individuals can assess their own values through this questionnaire.

This questionnaire is available online for self-assessment and can also be accessed on the website of the University of Cambridge.

FAQs about PVQ

What are the 10 basic values according to Shalom Schwartz?

Shalom Schwartz presented a theory of values in which he presented 10 basic values arranged around four dimensions that function as guiding principle for individuals. They are as follow:

1.  Self transcendence (Universalism and benevolence)

2.  Self- enhancement (Achievement and Power)

3.  Openness to change (Hedonism, Self-direction and Stimulation)

4.  Conservative (Conformity, tradition and security)

2.  How do you assess personal values?

Two instruments developed by Shalom Schwartz and his colleagues can be used to
measure personal values that is:

·         Schwartz value Scale

·         Portrait value questionnaire

These tests can be taken online which are easily accessible to individuals.

What is Portrait value questionnaire test?

PVQ is based on Shalom Schwartz’s theory of values.

This scale measures 10 basic values given in this theory that function as guiding principles when a person makes a judgment or takes a particular action.

By taking this test individuals come to know what are the major guiding values of his life.


Jacques, P., Bacher, J., & Wetzelhütter, D. (2016). Towards greater validity in Schwartz’s portrait values indicator using experimental research. Quality & Quantity, 50(4), 1567-1587.

Bouman, T., Steg, L., & Kiers, H. A. (2018). Measuring values in environmental research: a test of an environmental portrait value questionnaire. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 564.

Simon, J., Pérez-Testor, C., Kurz, E. A., Danioni, F., Iriarte, L., Cormenzana, S., & Martínez, A. (2017). The Portrait Values Questionnaire: A bibliographic and bibliometric review of the instrument. Aloma: revista de psicologia, ciències de l’educació i de l’esport Blanquerna, 35(1), 39-50.

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