Value conflict: its identification, maintenance, prediction and reduction

A participant observation study was made of four political issue-oriented groups. The study focused on conflicts between professed values and the tacit operational values which were actually served by behavior. Data were analyzed to find whether behavior supported or conflicted with professed values, to identify devices used to avoid recognition of the discrepancies, to compare operational values with other important reference group values, to attempt the construction of an operational value hierarchy, to discover what characteristics identify group value conflict (in contrast to groups exhibiting isolated instances of value conflict), and to determine some of the characteristics which might predict value conflict. Interpretation of these findings was fourfold. First, the group involved in value conflict was identified by the presence of institutionalized devices for avoiding cognitive dissonance (thereby retaining both sets of values), by manifestation of the conflicts throughout the Club membership, and by legitimization of value conflicts within an official context. Second, patterned defense mechanisms for avoiding awareness of dissonance were learned from other members who gave mutual support in the use of these devices, thus perpetuating the conflicts. Third, hypothetically predictive characteristics peculiar to the value conflict group included membership in another important reference group whose principles conflicted with this Club's professed values but which were in line with members’ self interests , lack of mechanisms for working toward stated values, and indications of authoritarianism through the membership. Fourth, education to develop a critical approach leading to awareness of inconsistencies and thus to reevaluations may help reduce value conflict.