Value Orientation &Amp; Media Consumption Behaviour

ABSTRACT - The individualistic-collectivist value dichotomy is reviewed in a New Zealand context and, specifically, the paper looks at the association between this particular classification of individuals’ value structures and television viewing behaviour.


Sarah Todd, Rob Lawson, and Hadyn Northover (1998) ,"Value Orientation &Amp; Media Consumption Behaviour", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3, eds. Basil G. Englis and Anna Olofsson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 328-332.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3, 1998      Pages 328-332


Sarah Todd, University of Otago, New Zealand

Rob Lawson, University of Otago, New Zealand

Hadyn Northover, University of Otago, New Zealand


The individualistic-collectivist value dichotomy is reviewed in a New Zealand context and, specifically, the paper looks at the association between this particular classification of individuals’ value structures and television viewing behaviour.

Schwartz’s (1992) Value Measure is used to measure respondents’ value orientation, together with questions regarding their television consumption. Results failed to support previous findings which have suggested the individualist-collectivist values dichotomy is related to particular viewing patterns. Specifically, collectivists do not appear to watch more television than do individualists, nor do they have a significantly higher preference for comedies.


Values are an established concept in consumer behaviour study. The purpose of this paper is to report on further investigation into the relationship between media behaviour - specifically television viewing, and one’s value orientation, based on the individualist-collectivist dichotomy. Not only is this relationship of potential interest to policy makers and programme compilers, but it is also relevant to other marketers who use television as a medium for advertising, sponsorship or other promotional messages. While some work has alread examined this association, a review of the literature shows conclusions have been mixed. The intent of this paper is therefore to further apply the individualist-collectivist construct to the explanation of television viewing behaviour in the cultural context of New Zealand.

The research also makes a further contribution to the work on values within consumer behaviour by drawing upon the framework developed and tested by Schwartz and Bilsky (1987) and Schwartz (1992, 1994). This approach to values measurement has had little application so far within consumer behaviour and the paper provides some additional evidence for its reliability in different cultures.


Values have been defined as

... enduring beliefs that specific modes of conduct or end-states of existence are personally or socially preferable to opposite or converse modes of conduct or end-states of existence

(Rokeach 1973:5)

Building on this definition, Schwartz & Bilsky (1987) identified five features specific to values. A value is (1) a belief (2) pertaining to desirable end states or modes of conduct, that (3) transcend specific situations, guide (4) selection or evaluation of behaviour, people and events, and (5) is ordered by importance relative to other values to form a system of value priorities. It is these same five features that are said to distinguish values from the concepts of needs and attitudes (Schwartz 1994).

Schwartz & Bilsky (1987) constructed a scale comprising 56 values, based on 11 underlying value dimensions, to measure individuals’ value structures. The basis of their 'universal value structure’ model is the assumption that there is an individualistic value orientation which is in direct contrast to a collectivist orientation. For example, Schwartz’s five values of 'self-direction’, 'stimulation’, 'hedonism’, 'achievement’ and 'power’ are operationally linked to the concept of an individualistic orientation. In the same way, 'conformity’, 'security’ and 'tradition’ can be considered collectivist in nature. 'Benevolence’ and 'universalism’ fit neither extreme, but are mixed in orientation. To date, Schwartz & Bilsky’s model has been replicated in over 40 countries, but has been little tested in the area of marketing and consumer behaviour in particular.

However, propositions regarding a connection between consumers’ values and their actual behaviour are not new within the marketing literature. Henry (1976) and Vinson & Munson (1976), whilst using different value measures, both segmented the car market by size of car. In a similar fashion, Pitts & Woodside (1983) found value structures to be related to product and brand choice criteria for cars, deodorants and vacations. There have also been reports of values being associated with store patronage, price-quality perceptions, leisure attitudes and activities, shopping orientation and media usage (Crosby, Bitner & Gill 1990).

It is this last association, namely that of values and media usage, which is the focus of this paper. Becker & Conner (1981) were the first to undertake a major study into this association. On the basis of values as measured by the Rokeach Value Survey (RVS) and a measure of subjects’ television viewing, they found that heavy television viewers assigned higher ratings to those values which would fit with Schwartz’s collectivist structure, than did those who watched less television. Conversely, the latter rated individualistic values higher. On the basis of such findings, it was concluded that personal values do influence one's media usage behaviour.

In a more recent study, Kapoor, Wolfe & Blue (1995) used Schwartz’s value instrument to analyse television viewing patterns. Triandis et al.’s (1990) proposal of an individualistic-collectivist dichotomy was applied.

Kapoor et al. found that the Indian university students in their sample who were of an individualist orientation watched more television than did their collectivist counterparts. At a societal level, India is classified as primarily collectivist. Thus, Kapoor et al.’s (1995) finding lent support to Triandis et al.’s earlier contention that exposure to contemporary mass media promotes a shift from collectivism to individualism. As part of the same study, but in the more individualistic United States of America, Kapoor et al. (1995) failed to find any link between television viewing behaviour and value orientation.

Based on the conflicting results of the above studies, it is difficult to form any hypotheses regarding who is more likely to be a higher viewer of television, but there is evidence to support the contention that value orientation is related to one’s television viewing habits.

In a more specific look at programme type and values, Beatty, Kahle, Homer and Misra (1985) implemented the RVS. Their findings suggest that those of a primarily individualistic orientation are less likely to prefer comedies than are those who value 'security’ and 'salvation’ (collectivist). McCarty & Shrum (1993) found a similar association between programme genre and value orientation, with collectivist individuals appearing to prefer romance films. Thus, on the basis of the limited research undertaken in this area, it is suggested that one’s value orientation will be associated with one’s preference for different kinds of television programme.




The two propositions driving this current study then are:

1. That heavy television viewers will be primarily collectivist in nature. With results of past studies conflicting regarding the direction of this relationship, this first proposition is based on the findings of Becker & Conner’s research in the individualist USA. That is, New Zealand is positioned closer to America in terms of individualism and collectivism than it is to India, where similar research has been undertaken.

2. That those who prefer comedies will be primarily collectivist in nature. This second proposition is based on Beatty et al.’s (1985) finding that viewers of comedies were more likely to be collectivist in orientation.

In terms of New Zealand television channel viewing, it is also proposed that

3. Viewers whose favourite programme is on Channel One will be primarily collectivist in nature.


4. Viewers whose favourite programme is on Channel Two will be primarily individualist in nature.

The state-run Television New Zealand (TVNZ) has held a dominant position in the New Zealand television marketfor a number of years. The two channels which they operate are broadcast nationwide and the only major competition faced comes from the more recently established private TV3. The focus of this research then is the two state-funded channels. Clear differences are evident in the images portrayed by TVNZ’s Channel One and Channel Two. These differences are reflected in the genre of programs run by each. Channel One’s offering primarily comprises programmes sourced in New Zealand and Britain, while the majority of programmes carried by Channel Two are bought from America. The former predominantly shows programmes that can be classified as being British humour and documentaries. Channel Two, on the other hand, is positioned more as a light entertainment channel, and tends to be aimed at the younger market with American sitcoms and soap operas dominating offerings. The segmentation strategy employed by TVNZ should accord with the propositions as described. Individuals responding to the survey (see below) were asked to identify their favourite television programme.

On the assumption that there will be a general relationship between a viewer’s general channel watching and the source of their favourite television programme, we were able to extend to propositions three and four which are in line with Triandis et al.’s (1993) proposition that exposure to American television results in a shift of value orientation from collectivist to individualist.

The data which is analysed for this study were collected as part of a comprehensive survey of New Zealand consumers’ lifestyles and opinions. The total database comprises 3773 respondents, of which 625 were excluded from this analysis due to non-response to either the questions regarding one’s values and/or television viewing behaviour.

With regards programme preference, respondents were given a list of 12 options of which they had to indicate whether or not they watched each option. Options are detailed in Table 1. Additionally, they were asked to indicate which of the categories best described the amount of television they watched on average per day. These were subsequently grouped into Light viewers (didn’t watch/up to 1 hour), Moderate viewers (2-3 hours) and Heavy viewers (4+ hours).

Respondents’ values were measured using Schwartz’s value survey, comprising 56 individual values. A confirmatory factor analysis was employed to gauge the overall reliability of the measure based around Schwartz’s 11 dimensions. The RMSEA was calculated to be 0.065, suggesting a good fit considering the large sample size, and the main suggestions for improving the model related to adjustments to the mixed values of universalism and benevolence.

In order to separate consumers with individualist and collectivist values, a k-means cluster analysis was used based on factor scores extracted from a principal component factor analysis with a varimax rotation. Ten factors were extracted from this (see summary in Table 2) and show a close approximation to the major domains established by Schwartz. A three cluster solution was chosen, reflecting the individualist-collectivist dichotomy, and a mixed value structure. A check on the solution using discriminant analysis shows the proportion of cases correctly classified to be 95%. One-way analysis of variance and crosstabulations were then used to profile the clusters in terms of their ratings of the values and responses to questions regarding their television viewing behaviour and demographics.




A three cluster solution was chosen, with the intent of obtaining one cluster representing each of the extremes of individualism and collectivism, together with a mixed grouping. This rationale was successful for identifying the individualist and collectivist clusters relevant to the propositions but the mixed grouping was less clear. Cluster 1, whch is predominantly individualistic in orientation, comprised 1304 respondents. 694 respondents were classified into the second, predominantly collectivist cluster. Table 3 details the specific value profile of each cluster. The italicised values are those which were operationalised as being mixed in nature but which results suggest are associated with the individualistic and collectivist groupings.

From the table, it is evident that Cluster 2 is in fact a combination of both mixed and collective values as defined in the original model. However, it is also apparent that those mixed values associated with this cluster are more closely associated with the collective dimensions of the theory and they are clearly separate from the individualists in Cluster 1. The third cluster was more problematic. The profile showed a mixture of three individualistic, two collectivist and two mixed values. While this could clearly be described as 'mixed’, the group did not conform to the set of mixed values as defined by Schwartz. In part, this is not surprising with the confirmatory factor analysis showing room for improvement in the structure of some of the mixed dimensions.

However, since the propositions were concerned with the behaviour of individualist and collectivist individuals, the failure to identify a clear mixed group was not felt to be essential to the rest of the analysis.

In demographic terms, the individualists are slightly male dominated, as opposed to 60% of the collectivists being female. Marital status and age distribution are similar for the two groups. Collectivists are higher educated than their individualist counterparts, but the latter are more likely to be in full-time work or self-employed. Individualists are also represented to a greater extent in the higher household income categories.

Table 4 profiles the clusters with regards members’ television viewing behaviour. Several areas of difference are apparent. In contrast to what was proposed, heavy television viewers are individualistic in orientation. In terms of specific programme genres, this difference is most evident for sports programmes, with over 50% of the individualistic grouping indicating they viewed sports on television, compared to only 29.7% of the collectivists.

Additionally, more individualists make up the viewer profile of news and current affairs programmes, movies, comedies and evening soaps. As well, they are more likely to watch Shortland Street, Coronation Street and Holmes than are their collectivist counterparts. There was no difference in individualists’ and collectivists’ viewing behaviour with regards documentaries, action programmes and daytime soaps. Although significant differences were observed for other programme categories, other than that for sports, the differences were minimal in real terms.





With regards the preferred channel of each group, the top 25 programmes were analysed in terms of which channel they were broadcast on. No difference was noted between the individualists’ and collectivists’ preferences, with Channel Two carrying the favourite programme of both groups. It is possible that using this as a surrogate indicator of viewers’ favourite channel may be misleading. The favourite programme for both groups was Shortland Street. This is a unique programme offering in that it is a locally-made soap opera which has been running every evening for a number of years and has attained cult status within New Zealand.


While there is some evidence to suggest that one’s value orientation does affect both the amount of television watched and what is watched, results suggest the opposite of what was proposed. That is, individualists rather than collectivists appear to be the heavy television viewers in New Zealand, and they are also more likely to watc comedies than are the collectivists. The first finding is consistent with that of Kapoor et al. with regards their Indian sample, rather than the American one on which this proposition was based. The difference in preferred programme genre is so slight as to require more investigation before any conclusions can be drawn.

That is, while differences emerged in the viewer profiles of all programme genres except documentaries, action programs and daytime soaps, those differences are minimal in real terms.

Clearly though, individualists watch more sport on television than do collectivists. However, it is not necessarily the individualist-collectivist value orientation of viewers which is driving this preference. With the individualist cluster membership being dominated by males, and given the amount of male-oriented sport shown on New Zealand television, the difference observed may be attributable to gender rather than value structure.

With reference to the third and fourth propositions regarding channel preference, no difference was observed. For just under two-thirds of both clusters, their favourite programme was Shortland Street, which is broadcast on Channel Two.


With the sample profile for this study being representative of New Zealand as a whole, it would appear that the individualist-collectivist dichotomy on its own is too simplistic to provide meaningful information regarding the population’s television consumption. The variation contained within each of the two clusters means that there is little in the way of practical implications.

While there is evidence to suggest some weak associations between consumers’ value orientations and their media usage, findings do little to clarify the direction of that association. With Becker & Conner’s (1981) results suggesting that heavy consumption is associated with those of a collectivist nature, and Kapoor et al.’s (1995) conclusion that individualistically oriented viewers were likely to watch more television, the debate is continued, rather than resolved, by current results.

Triandis’ dichotomous framework for value structure does not appear to distinguish among New Zealand consumers well. While the discriminant analysis suggests a high proportion of cases to be correctly classified, the cluster solution itself contained so much variation as to prove of little predictive or explanatory use. It is thus recommended that future research focuses on the use of a more specific measure of individual consumer values, such as that provided by Schwartz’s 56 item scale, or its underlying eleven motivational dimensions rather than simplifying value structures to fit the two categories of individualism and collectivism Aggregation of the values to the level required to fit the dichotomous framework may have contributed to the failure to identify clear relationships between media usage and values.


Beatty, S., Homer, P., Kahle, L. & Misra, S. 1985 Alternative measurement approaches to consumer values: The List of Values and the Rokeach Value Survey Psychology & Marketing 2(3):181-200

Becker, B. & Conner, P. 1981 Personal values of heavy users of mass media Journal of Advertising Research 21:37-43

Crosby, L., Bitner, M. & Gill, J. 1990 Organisational structure of values Journal of Business Research 20:123-134

Henry, W. 1976 Cultural values do correlate with consumer behavior Journal of Marketing Research 13:121-17

Kapoor, S., Wolfe, A. & Blue, J. 1995 Universal value structure and individualism-collectivisim: A U.S test Communication Research Reports 12(1):112-113

McCarty, J. & Shrum, L. 1993 The role of personal values and demographics in predicting television viewing behavior: Implications for theory and application Journal of Advertising 22(4):77-101

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Triandis, H., McCusker, C. & Hui, C. 1990 Multimethod probes of individualism and collectivism Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 59(5) 1006-1020

Vinson, D. & Munson, J. 1976 Personal values: An approach to market segmentation IN K. Bernhadt (ed.) Marketing:1877-1976 and beyond Chicago AMA 313-317



Sarah Todd, University of Otago, New Zealand
Rob Lawson, University of Otago, New Zealand
Hadyn Northover, University of Otago, New Zealand


E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3 | 1998

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