Perceptions Matter: Report & Summary

February 2016
Common Cause Foundation Report

It is not just our own values that shape and guide how we think and act. We can also be influenced by our perceptions of the values of others’. But what if our perceptions are often inaccurate? Common Cause surveyed 1000 adults across Britain to find out what they value and what they think their fellow citizens value. This report explores the results, and offers suggestions of ways that social institutions can help to bridge our perception gap, leading to more civic engagement and community connection.

this if...

  • You’re interested in reading more about how our perceptions of others peoples’ values can affect our own behaviour
  • You’ve read ‘Humankind: A Hopeful History’ by Rutger Bregman and are interested in the idea that human nature may not be as selfish as we once thought
  • You want to build greater levels of public concern about today’s social and environmental challenges.

Key Takeaways

  1. Our behaviours and attitudes can be influenced by our own values, our perceptions of the values held to be important by other people, and the values promoted – either deliberately or inadvertently – by social institutions.
  2. The majority of survey participants were found to place greater importance on intrinsic values, such as equality, unity with nature and community, than on extrinsic values, such as wealth, ambition and public image.
  3. The majority of survey participants underestimated the importance that a typical fellow citizen places on intrinsic values and overestimated the importance they placed on extrinsic values.
  4. The more strongly a person perceives a typical fellow citizen to hold intrinsic values to be important, the more likely that person is to take part in civic engagement.
  5. Survey participants felt that social institutions, such as businesses, places of education, the media, government and arts and cultural institutions, encourage extrinsic values more so than intrinsic ones.
  6. If UK citizens are to respond collectively to profound social and environmental problems and to build social cohesion, social institutions need to build on our shared, intrinsic values.

Toolkit resources

Why fundraise?

Is there a way to fundraise without being in direct competition with other charities?

Do you feel like a fraud?

Are your communications engaging people as citizens or consumers?

Free gifts and supporter journeys

Exploring some of the challenges posed by the pressures of short-term fundraising

Reasons to volunteer

Reflecting on intrinsic motivations to volunteer

Value surveys and maps

More information on the two values surveys that Common Cause draws on in its work

Material tested in our experiments

Further information on the texts used in the study with WWF and Scope

Summary of published research

A summary of results from research into priming values

Other resources
you might like

Discover and share: ways to promote positive values in arts and cultural settings

Meeting environmental challenges: the role of human identity

Common Cause: The Case for Working with our Cultural Values

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