Examining personal values in extreme environment contexts: Revisiting the question of generalizability

Nathan Smith, Gro M Sandal, Gloria R Leon, Anders Kjaegaard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Land-based extreme environments (e.g. polar expeditions, Antarctic research stations, confinement chambers) have often been used as analog settings for spaceflight. These settings share similarities with the conditions experienced during space missions, including confinement, isolation and limited possibilities for evacuation. To determine the utility of analog settings for understanding human spaceflight, researchers have examined the extent to which the individual characteristics (e.g., personality) of people operating in extreme environments can be generalized across contexts (Sandal, 2000) [1]. Building on previous work, and utilising new and pre-existing data, the present study examined the extent to which personal value motives could be generalized across extreme environments. Four populations were assessed; mountaineers (N =59), military personnel (N = 25), Antarctic over-winterers (N = 21) and Mars simulation participants (N = 12). All participants completed the Portrait Values Questionnaire (PVQ; Schwartz; 2) capturing information on 10 personal values. Rank scores suggest that all groups identified Self-direction, Stimulation, Universalism and Benevolence as important values and acknowledged Power and Tradition as being low priorities. Results from difference testing suggest the extreme environment groups were most comparable on Self-direction, Stimulation, Benevolence, Tradition and Security. There were significant between-group differences on five of the ten values. Overall, findings pinpointed specific values that may be important for functioning in challenging environments. However, the differences that emerged on certain values highlight the importance of considering the specific population when comparing results across extreme settings. We recommend that further research examine the impact of personal value motives on indicators of adjustment, group working, and performance. Information from such studies could then be used to aid selection and training processes for personnel operating in extreme settings, and in space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-144
Number of pages7
JournalActa Astronautica
Early online date8 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Personal values
  • Extreme environments
  • Human spaceflight


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