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 Attitude and Basic Values Chart

A tool for developing characters

Copyright © 1997, 1998, Dorian Scott Cole

This chart is meant to be fun and a tool for formulating characters. It isn't meant to be taken "scientifically," but usefully. It is not intended to portray any psychological "system." It is an independent description of human behavior, or theoretical influences on human behavior. 

At the very core of each of us there are a number of very fundamental values that we all have. Each of these is stronger or weaker in some than in others. Some of these values are irreducible - that is, they aren't learned and are not the result of other values. Other values we acquire through patterns that we see, such as our parents. Still other values are acquired because we choose to subscribe to them, such as a hypocratic oath, or religion. We may not consciously assent to subscribe to some values, but we do because we become indoctrinated with them by our peers, institutions, and involvement. 

Our attitude determines how we choose to pursue our values. We often wrap ourselves in a protective shell to prevent anything from assaulting our values. Protection is an attitude. Protection is sometimes expressed as fear, as rejection, as hate, as not becoming involved, as disinterest - anything that separates our values. Protection of our values may be essential to our survival while we grow in other areas. But this sometimes becomes perverted and comes out in very negative and destructive ways. The extreme of this is hate crimes, anxiety and stress, divorce, isolation, stagnation, etc.

We are sometimes proactive about pursuing our values. We actively pursue ways to achieve things. But this positive emphasis can also become perverted and come out in negative and destructive ways. For example, in our pursuit of love we sometimes desperately try to force others to love us, or we smother them, or we overemphasize sex or beauty. 

Have fun with the chart. Try putting in your own observations about human behavior. Try choosing different values and allowing the positive and negative expressions to interact and create some very convoluted and interesting behaviors. But remember that people usually aren't nearly as simple as this chart suggests. 

In the chart, a contributor is something that helps create or influences the core value. An influence isn't a direct cause.

Contributor Core value Pos. Attitude Pos. Expression Fear and/or Protective attitude Protective Expression
  Love, need for Receptive Accepting Distrust, fear of loss  Control, hate, dominance, feelings of unworthiness
sexual substitution: seduction, rape, sterile or provacative appearance, prostitution, perversion, boredom, promiscuity
Parental love, kindness of others, experience Love, need to give Loving, giving, caring Marriage, family, altruism, benevolence, sexuality Fear of others dominance, fear of rejection Rejection, stinginess, feelings of inadequacy and self doubt,
Sexual substitution: seduction, rape, sterile or provacative appearance, prostitution, perversion, boredom, promiscuity, food, other habits
Patterns: mother, father, peers, society
Symbols: beauty, form
Sexuality Appreciation Marital sex, roles, exploration of roles, sexuality Self doubt Sexual substitution: seduction, rape, sterile or provacative appearance, prostitution, perversion, boredom, promiscuity, food, other habits, seductive user, falsely inflated prowess
Spiritual  Personal growth Desire to grow Exploration. Open to challenges Fear, rejection, deprivation Power monger, Emphasis on wealth, possessions, position, immaturity, neurosis
Patterns: nature, color, organization and symmetry
Symbols: form (flowers, sunset, clothing), clean home, displays, art
Beauty Appreciation Inspired by Rejection, deprivation Not creative, overemphasis on appearance, uninspired, sterile appearance 
Experience, knowledge Competence Can do anything   Unrealistic goals, fear of failure Act as failure, ineffectual, clutz, self-conscious, "I can't" attitude, superior, inflated prowess
Valued Acceptance by others   Friendship, team player, social Fear of rejection, deprivation Antisocial, accusing, blaming, bully
Valued Contributor Productive, giving, creative   Fear of failure and rejection Stinginess, unproductive, selfish, lies about accomplishments
  Spiritual Desire to grow Less emphasis on self and pleasure, friendly, giving, loving, open to ideas, accepts responsibility Fear of loss of self or power or possessions Unfriendly, selfish, self oriented, aloof, controlling, closed to ideas, loss of purpose and meaning, death, fate to the wind, uncaring, not creative, accusing, blaming, hate, quarrelsome, takes from others, rejects responsibility, misuses power, mean, evil, inflated prowess
  Security   Planning, working Fear of loss Selfish, hoarding, overprotection, overprotective
Valued Be needed or part of something or have a place        
Valued Be respected or admired        
  Freedom See all choices, challenged Accept responsibility, responsible choices, sets own course Fear of bondage or loss, fear of failure, fear of responsibility Irresponsible, ignore choices, unmotivated, unregulated behavior, takes unfair advantage, indecision, overreliance on others
  Creativity Accepts Pursues creativity, creative, inventive, self-reliant, resourceful, sees positive future, generates ideas Rejects, ignores, fear of failure, fear of rejection, feels rejected or unwanted Dependent, cynical, fails to solve problems, not successful
Valued Work at ability and potential at career or other Feel responsible, feel fulfilled, contributor Productive, inspiring Fear of failure, fear of over dependence, denial of value Cynical, demoralizing to others.
  Challenge Growth Growth Fear of change, fear of growth, fear of failure Stagnation
The items in the chart are not "either/or" items, meaning either do the positive thing and you are productive or grow, or do the negative thing and you are cynical and become stagnant while dragging everyone down around you. What are listed are possible attitudes and possible outcomes of attitudes. The middle ground of when people choose to rest, or to not do something for some other reason, is not presented.

A study at Ohio State University was recently (mid 1998) published in some journal, and listed the 15 desires that motivate us. I haven't seen the study, but it looks very interesting and useful.

For those who want to learn more about attitude change, a leading researcher in the field is Irving L. Janis, who (is/was?) a Professor of Psychology at Yale University, and was associated with the Yale Communication and Attitude Change Program. Although much of the publication in this field is in journals of psychology, a few books by Janis are available. (Note: Attitude change, in my view, is much closer to what a writer deals with in characterization (character change) than most other areas in psychology. My study of the field dates from the late seventies, and although I remember Janis as a contributor to journals, I am not especially familiar with his work, and my thoughts and direction as placed in these articles on my web site should not be taken as a reflection of Janis, whether good or bad. I have read only portions of the Decision Making... book.)

Some of Janis's books include those listed below, which I list without recommendation for those who are interested in additional information:

Note:These books may be available at your local library, bookstore, or from Barnes and Noble,, or

Other distribution restrictions: None

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