the extent to which societies encourage or discourage the gratification of basic and natural human desires

Also influenced by the data contributed by Dr. Minkov and the World Value Survey, the dimension of Indulgence was added to the previous five dimensions by the year 2004.

This data uncovered patterns which so far had not been found in the previous dimensions regarding the level of restraint versus indulgence exhibited by the members of societies. Restrained societies, it was found, tended to suppress the gratification of basic human desires by strict regulations and social norms. Indulgent societies, conversely, tended to allow relatively free gratification of human desires, emphasizing the need to have fun and enjoy life.

Below is a comparison of some of the characteristics found in restrained versus indulgent cultures:


  1. People tend to feel less happy and less healthy
  2. Perception that events are out of personal control
  3. Stronger work ethic
  4. Pessimistic, Cynical attitude
  5. Introversion
  6. Friendships are less important
  7. Less active participation in sports
  8. Stricter moral discipline (also applies to sexual mores)


  1. People tend to feel healthier and happier
  2. Perception individuals have control over their personal lives
  3. Stronger leisure ethic
  4. Optimistic, Positive attitude
  5. Extroversion
  6. Friendships are more important
  7. More active participation in sports
  8. Less moral discipline and looser sexual mores

There is no absolute standard by which to judge a culture’s level of indulgence, and so this can only be judged by comparing one society to another. Hofstede measured this by the Indulgence Versus Restraint Index (IVR) on a scale of 1-100. Restrained societies, in his comparison, tended to have lower crime rates but larger police forces, lower birth rates, less obesity, and a propensity toward nationalism. Indulgent societies, on the other hand, tended to have higher crime rates but smaller police forces, higher birth rates, higher obesity levels, and greater tolerance of foreign cultures. Restrained societies also placed a higher importance on maintaining order while indulgent societies place a higher importance on the freedom of speech.

Hofstede found that societies have become more indulgent worldwide over the years, but their scores relative to one another have stayed relatively the same, so this rating can be assumed to be stable over time.

Disrupt This!

Perhaps the biggest red flag here is that what counts as a “basic and natural human desire” is context dependent rather than universal. For example, many nations mandate by law that employers offer new fathers several months of paternity leave, while others do not. On a much smaller scale, what constitutes a basic human desire for a church group might be very different from that of a darts league. As this is entirely subjective, designers should try not to get caught up in defining universal human rights and desires. Instead, try to focus on the opportunities stakeholders are given to pursue that which is important to them specifically.

  • What do stakeholders want/need at a basic level?
  • Are these wants/needs being fulfilled, and by whom (the stakeholders themselves, or a larger governing body)?
  • What degree of freedom is allowed for stakeholders to alter social norms to suit their individual needs, and what are the consequences for this?
  • How greatly do desires vary between individuals, and is there a median range that encompasses the group as a whole?

Understanding the wants and needs of individuals and how this relates to the wants and needs of the group may be an essential factor to defining the range of possible design solutions. Try comparing this with the dimension of Social Dependence. It may be that the best solution is one that suits the common denominator, or it may be that the best solution is found in examples of positive deviance from the norm.

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