Recent Lecture Highlights Significant Research on Values Undertaken at School of Psychology
Values have a great influence in our life. They play a constant role in economics, politics and societies or in disciplines like philosophy, psychology, religion, and sociology. They are fundamental in the construction of a good life for every individual, for achieving quality of life, and for finding meaning.
But what are values? They are often understood as an abstract category like health, education, truth, economic growth, or freedom of opinion. What motivates some of us to fight for these values, whereas for others there is no such motivation? These are just some of the questions that were addressed on October 17, when the HSE School of Psychology hosted a lecture entitled ‘What matters in life? An existential perspective of values,’ delivered by Austrian Professor Alfried Längle.
In his lecture, Professor Längle discussed how existentially relevant values are tightly connected with an experience of personal feelings for them. This interconnection is often not known, but it sheds light on the inherent potential of values as well as the difficulty in understanding different ways that people and societies deal with values.
‘Personal values that are felt are motivators – only those,’ said Professor Längle. ‘It is often less values than purposes, goals, achievements,’ he added. ‘The human being needs personal values in each situation, but of course their specific form can change according to the needs and the environment. Nevertheless, they must be felt to become real existential values.’
A Long History of Collaboration
Professor Längle carries out research and delivers lectures at many European universities in order to institutionalize his method of therapy. At his initiative, centres of existential analysis have been founded in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Russia and other European countries. He has published over 300 papers, including those co-authored with leading Russian psychologists. Several of his books on existential analysis have been translated into Russian. For six years, Dr.Längle served as Vice President of the International Federation of Psychotherapy.
Alfried Längle is one of world’s most renowned therapists and personality/motivation psychologists today. He is widely known in the professional community not only as a successor of the academic school of Viktor Frankl, a renowned Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, but as a developer of his own type of psychotherapy – existential analysis.
Assistant Professor at the HSE School of Psychology
‘He has cooperated with HSE since 2005,’ noted Shumskiy. ‘ He started as a visiting professor who delivered lectures to undergraduate students on the theory of personality and the foundations of existential psychotherapy. He then co-authored and headed the Master’s programme in Personology and Existential Psychotherapy. Today, he leads the Existential Analysis and Logotherapy specialization in the Master’s programme in Counselling Psychology. Personality Studies.’
HSE Research Accomplishments
‘Positive psychology deals with the problems of flourishing, or eudemonia,’ noted Evgeny Osin, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences (School of Psychology). ‘This is a deeper understanding of psychological well-being as a positive functioning of personality, which is not limited to the feeling of satisfaction or positive emotions. Research proves that one of the key themes here is purpose (meaning): a sense of purpose predicts a person’s well-being, success, and successful dealing with problems and traumas. But positive psychology doesn’t explain where meaning comes from and how it is related to values. This correlation has been discussed in existential psychology and psychotherapy.’
Unlike psychology theories of value, which are concerned with classification of various contents of values (i.e., studies by Milton Rokeach and Shalom Schwartz at the HSE International Laboratory of Sociocultural Research), the work of Professor Osin and his colleagues is mostly focused on the mechanisms that make personality accept values and that provide meaning for the individual’s activities.
‘On the basis of Alfried Längle’s existential approach, at our laboratory we empirically develop the concept of self-transcendence as personality’s readiness to notice values in the world and pursue them,’ he said. ‘We’ve recently implemented two experimental studies – Osin, Malyutina, Kosheleva (2016) and another with I. Peresetskaya that is currently being prepared for publication – which demonstrate that people who have this feature more easily find meaning in their activities; they find it easier to get into the flow state, experience more pleasure and are more productive.’
Another significant area of studies is existential approach-based psychological well-being diagnostics. Alfried Längle has suggested a fundamental existential motivation model, and in recent years, Professor Osin’s team, which includes Vladimir Shumsky and Elena Ukolova, has worked with students to develop several options of research methods to diagnose the realization of fundamental existential motivations in life in general, and in interpersonal relations.
‘We also study other existential themes at the Laboratory of Positive Psychology,’ he noted. ‘For example, recently we’ve published a study of freedom and responsibility in Americans and Russians (Sheldon et al., 2018). Together with Alfried Längle, we are now working on similar tools in English and German. At the same time, we are implementing theoretical and empirical correlation of the concepts of existential psychology and other personality psychology theories. This will allow for existential analysis to achieve the status of not only a therapeutic field, but an academic one as well.’
Christopher S. Swader is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Sociology and a Senior Research Fellow at the Laboratory for Comparative Social Research at the HSE in Moscow. He also serves as Program Director for the new International Master’s Program in Comparative Social Research. Professor Swader sat down with HSE News Portal Editor Marina Selina to discuss his recently published book — The Capitalist Personality: Face-to-Face Sociality and Economic Change in the Post-Communist World.
Russians are more concerned about material success than self-realization, in spite of a global shift from survival values to self-expression values. ‘Happiness in Russia in Comparative Perspective’, is a paper by Edouard Ponarin, Director of the HSE Laboratory for Comparative Social Research (LCSR).