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The latest insights on community strategy, technology, and value by FeverBee’s founder, Richard Millington

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Value Translation Errors

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

Consider this:

In one study, we presented liberals and conservatives with one of two messages in support of same-sex marriage. One message emphasized the need for equal rights for same-sex couples. This is the sort of fairness-based message that liberals typically advance for same-sex marriage. It is framed in terms of a value — equality — that research has shown resonates more strongly among liberals than conservatives. The other message was designed to appeal to values of patriotism and group loyalty, which have been shown to resonate more with conservatives. (It argued that “same-sex couples are proud and patriotic Americans” who “contribute to the American economy and society.”)

Liberals showed the same support for same-sex marriage regardless of which message they encountered. But conservatives supported same-sex marriage significantly more if they read the patriotism message rather than the fairness one.

We call these value-translation errors.

Messages coded in my values are rejected by people that hold different values.

If I code a message in what’s best for the group and you care most about personal achievements, it’s not going to work.

It’s so incredibly hard to see things from the perspective of someone else. Yet it’s also the critical gap in learning how to code your messages to penetrate through the resistance.

Think about the next message you’re going to send in any group of people. What are their values? Uncovering values isn’t as difficult as you might think.

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