In her most recent study, Prof. Abele-Brehm first explains how social interaction can be divided in two rough categories, according to underlying traits and values - called the "Big Two" of social psychology: "agency" and "communion". The first refers to qualities relevant for goal attainment, like assertiveness, competence and persistence. The corresponding agentic values are the importance a person places on wealth, power and achievement. "Communion", on the other hand, describes qualities relevant for the establishment and maintenance of social relationships, like being friendly, helpful or fair. Communal values put a high emphasis on helpfulness and altruism.
In her study, Abele-Brehm integrated these Big Two with questions from life satisfaction research. She predicted that high scores both on communal values and in agentic traits would be associated with life satisfaction. These predictions were tested in two studies in two different countries, Germany and Russia, together with standardised questions on life satisfaction. The findings support the prediction: across both countries, the researchers find positive associations of communal values and agentic traits with life satisfaction. Individuals that rank high in communal values and high in agentic traits are most satisfied with their lives.
"The countries Russia and Germany are very different, both in their cultural tradition and in their present economic situation," Abele-Brehm explains. All in all, Russians are less satisfied with their lives than Germans, and communal values were seen as more important. But apart from these differences, the study's findings point in the same direction. "Agentic values don't increase life satisfaction, instead communal values do. But these communal values can only help life satisfaction if they are pursued with a certain degree of assertiveness." (© University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU), AcademiaNet)