Intro to Independence

collage graphic of girl standing alone people around her

While today’s federal holiday commemorates The United States’ Declaration of Independence from the British in 1776, we’ll be focusing on a different type of independence: one that is highly personal and behavioral in nature. This Fourth of July, we’ll take a deep dive into Independence as one of the ways we use to measure who you are and what you stand for.

We define “Independence” as how much you value your freedom to determine your own actions, as well as how much you respect and protect others’ rights to do the same.

We derived our Independence subcategory from Shalom Schwartz’s Refined Theory of Basic Human Values, a model widely regarded in the psychology world as the most empirically supported and comprehensive model of human values. Americans tend to take independence (as a value) for granted, but it’s good to remember that independence is a distinct value that some people have, and some people don’t.

People who score low in independence don’t mind being told what to do, and are gladly dependent on others. They don’t care about being independent for the sake of being independent, and believe more in interdependence as a guiding principle of life. In practice, this might look like two partners who put their relationship above their individual selves—and who are okay with sacrificing their independence for the sake of the collective.

In contrast, people who score high in independence need independence and autonomy in their relationships, and are unwilling to allow the relationship to take precedence over their individual freedom. These people must maintain their (and their partner’s) independence above all else, and don’t tolerate any unwanted invasion of privacy or autonomy from anyone.

It’s important to remember that people who score highly in independence aren’t all “me, me, me.” Those who value independence despise when others’ freedoms are encroached on, and will likely fight for others’ right to choose their own actions, even if they disagree with the actions themselves. They’re likely to agree with the phrase (often misquoted to Voltaire but actually written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall in 1906 on her interpretation of Voltaire’s thoughts): “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” 

On a societal level, Americans surely love and appreciate their freedom. But for people who value independence on a personal level, it’s also a guiding principle for how they act in, and what they expect from, their relationships.