© Borgis - New Medicine 1/2010, s. 29-35
*Timea Tóth, Judit Mészáros
Drawing Value Profiles for Young Hungarians Selecting Careers in the Helping Professions
Head: Dr. Judit Mészáros, Dean, College Professor, Candidate of Pedagogic Studies
The aim of this study involving 255 elements is to map the value attitudes of young people selecting paramedic careers from an emotional aspect – by applying the method of Osgood's semantic differential scale. By using connotations related to the four value concepts and themselves (ego, helpfulness, creativity, freedom, cooperation), a multidimensional value assessment was performed on two samples (2003 and 2007). As a result, students in both target groups considered helpfulness to be the most valuable ability, and this resonates with the societal expectations for those wishing to make commitments to the helping professions. The most important conclusion is that the 18–26-year-old students polled consider themselves to be the least valuable, and this surprising result has definitely an indicative value and represents important feedback on the self-evaluation of young people entering higher education.
The aim of the assessment performed among students is the examination of starting value profiles and value attitudes of young people selecting careers in the helping professions. In the case of professionals practising helping professions – in comparison with general public thinking – the representation, conveyance and display of certain human values is of elemental importance, since the fine-tuning of personality as a „work tool” may also start with a person's own value orientation. In my opinion, a great deal depends on how the emotional relationships of persons with human values are characterized, especially if they select careers in the helping professions.
On one hand, the values and the view of humans of the future helper may affect the quality and success of the helping activity; thus, the work of the helping professionals is influenced by their view of life, the internal emotional world which determines their opinion about others, human nature, whatever they assume about themselves and their fellow human beings, their behaviour and attitudes. For example, in the case of persons selecting „helping” professions, it represents a great difference what kind of values they view in cooperation or how they prefer helpfulness or, as persons engaged in health development, what their attitudes and set of values are in their relationships to themselves and their future patients (1).
The tested target group is composed of 18-26-year-olds. This life stage is highly dominant from the aspect of an established value consciousness. Developmental psychology and andragogy considers this life phase as the period of young adulthood, and principal characteristics of developmental psychology, possible sources of success or crisis in this period of life must be definitely borne in mind, since the ( value-related) ideas, impressions and attitudes of young people having just started their higher education studies can be strongly influenced by a regular pattern in andragogy according to which a type of „regime change” takes place around the age of 18-20 in terms of the socialization and life path of the individual, and this may even give rise to a temporary crisis or vacuum of values in this cycle of self-trial (2).
The concept of value is considered by nearly all social sciences (and a good many natural or economic sciences) as their own, even if the concept is basically of a philosophical, metaphysical nature. We can only refer to values in the original sense of the word if a valid reference basis is available in comparison with which something can be regarded as valuable. However, it can be readily acknowledged that every human action is a type of decision, a type of satisfaction of needs and, simultaneously, a selection of values between different alternatives. The concept is determined by selecting one from the value definitions: „Values are objectivations of ideas. They accumulate those aspects of human experience and knowledge which are related to their direct societal existence and this is closely connected apart from rational thinking to their emotional emphasis, the qualifications of the given culture and society.”(3)
Material and methods
The tested sample is composed of two parts: the first, earlier sample was selected among full-time students with a nursing major attending the Faculty of Health Sciences in the academic year of 2003/2004, with 105 elements and by random sampling, representing 42.7% of the student population. The second, later sample was composed by random selection of full-time students majoring in Nursing and Patient Care, and 150 persons completed the questionnaire in a manner suitable for evaluation, representing 57.5% of the statistical total.
The semantic differential used by me is a special form of attitude measurement, a well-known and frequently used procedure of researching emotional fields of meaning. It was worked out by C. Osgood (1957, 4, 5), who started to elaborate his measurement system in the mid-fifties. This test was developed as a counterpoint to summarizing scales, and it can be regarded as a multidimensional measurement process. Osgood's attention was caught by the fact that in everyday life, words are located at three levels of semantics: the denotative level shows objective notation, the connotative level is an emotional-evaluating dimension, which can be personal and symbolic, as well, and the associative aspect is the linking of words and concepts with other ones. Here, the connotative dimension (referring to a specific relationship) has a special role, since it reflects the originally evaluative character of everyday thinking and fulfils the function of organizing reality via the relationship of valuThrough the use of the test, the differences between connotations of given persons linked to words, values, persons and phenomena can be detected, by which the psychological „distance” of concepts can be established. Thus, semantic differential denotes the difference in meaning, and it is a method of analysing words and concepts in which those concepts are associated with contrary attributes (e.g. good–bad, pleasant–unpleasant, strong–weak). Contrasting (bipolar) attributes are located at the two ends of a six-level scale and the subjects have to place the subject somewhere on the scale between the two contrasting attributes, which will indicate the connotative meaning of the concept.
After data processing, the researcher can draw a semantic curve, i.e. a value profile in which the connotations of the interview participants associated with the given word can be elucidated. In the course of my investigation, I asked questions regarding the following value concepts:
By using factor analysis, Osgood further showed that in the present study, the emotional relationship of words with values can be shown in terms of three factors: in the dimensions of force, activity, and value, respectively. Thus, this measurement procedure provides an opportunity to simultaneously and empirically handle impressions related to several attitude objects in the multidimensional, so-called semantic space.
The following attribute pairs are included in the force factor:
– decisive–indecisive, difficult–easy, strict–lenient, strong–weak, masculine–feminine, sharp–blunt.
Activity has the following value factor attributes:
– active–passive, soft–hard, languishing–persisting, warm–cold, fast–slow, relaxed–excited.
The value factor evaluation has the following components:
– good–bad, optimistic–pessimistic, clean–dirty, harmful–useful, ugly–beautiful, false–true.
The limitations of this assessment include that standard deviation should be taken into account as well when analyzing value profiles, since we have to face the so-called zero point problem when interpreting the Osgood scale: since the central or median elements of the scale may equally represent lack of opinion, caution, indecisiveness, indifference, or neutrality. Therefore, the application of the scale, reliability and information value of recorded data greatly depend on data spread.
The following statistical results were used in the course of the analysis by the software SPSS and the data were expressed in a three-dimensional coordinate system, and in a value profile in a radar diagram.
The group-level arithmetic averages (results) of two-sample connotations related to the value concepts are depicted in the following radar diagrams. The internal end-points of the seven-level scales are classified in the 17 attribute pairs from the extreme values of weak, passive and worthless to the qualifications of strong, active and valuable. The inner circle depicts the zero point.
The diagram image of the two samples shows that students primarily considered themselves to be „good”, „clean” and in 2003, somewhat „more true” (fig. 1). The interview participants also considered the „optimist”, „decisive” and „useful” attributes as fairly characteristic of them. The human quality characteristics of „lenient”, „soft” and „relaxed” were placed around the medium value (0). Moreover, the students considered themselves as „lenient”, „fast”, „decisive” and „active” rather than „strict”, „slow”, „passive” or „indecisive”.
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