VIA Blog

Signature Strengths-Frequency Analysis

August 18, 2015 by ·

Multiracial Group of People Jumping at Beach, BacklightChris Peterson and Marty Seligman define signature strengths as “strengths of character that a person owns, celebrates, and frequently exercises”. They recommend taking a look at the top 5 ranked VIA character strengths as a point of departure in the process of identifying signature strengths. In August of last year we reported the results of a random sampling of VIA survey results in which we looked at the frequency with which various strengths appear in people’s “top 5” rankings of their character strengths. We recently revisited this question by looking at an entire sample of 655,000 survey results.

In addition to finding similar results (see below) in terms of the rank ordering of most common and least common “signature strengths” (defined as a top-5 ranked character strength), other interesting results were found. These results may be useful to practitioners who are consulting with groups and those who are giving workshops, since they provide a guideline for guessing what signature strengths might be represented most commonly and least commonly in an audience.

We found that in this large sample that:

  • 93% of respondents have either fairness, curiosity, love, judgment, or kindness among their top-5 ranked character strengths.
  • 87% of respondents have either fairness, curiosity, love, or judgment as one of their top-5 strengths.
  • 77% of respondents have either fairness, curiosity or love as one of their top-5 strengths.
  • 61% of respondents have either fairness or curiosity as one of their top-5 strengths.

So, as someone prepares a presentation they can guess that nearly everyone in their audience will have might guess that at least a third of the audience could have fairness, curiosity, love, judgment, and/or kindness among their top-5 VIA character strengths, and by simply focusing on the strengths of fairness, curiosity and love as examples they will be personally connecting with over three-fourths of their audience.

Frequencies of “Signature Strengths” in a Sample of 655,000 VIA-IS respondents:

  1. Fairness – 36%
  2. Curiosity – 34%
  3. Love – 34%
  4. Judgment – 33%
  5. Kindness – 32%
  6. Honesty – 31%
  7. Gratitude – 29%
  8. Humor – 27%
  9. Love of learning – 27%
  10. Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence – 26%
  11. Creativity – 25%
  12. Religiousness – 18%
  13. Forgiveness – 17%
  14. Perseverance – 17%
  15. Teamwork – 16%
  16. Bravery – 15%
  17. Social intelligence – 14%
  18. Hope – 14%
  19. Leadership – 13%
  20. Perspective – 12%
  21. Prudence – 9%
  22. Modesty – 9%
  23. Zest – 8%
  24. Self-regulation – 4%

The 10 most frequent “signature strengths” are represented in the Virtue categories as follows:

  • Wisdom/Knowledge – 30% of the top 10 most frequent “signature strengths”
  • Transcendence – 30%
  • Humanity – 20%
  • Courage – 10%
  • Justice – 10%
  • Temperance – 0%

The most dominant character strengths are in the Virtue categories of Wisdom/Knowledge, Transcendence, and Humanity, while strengths of Temperance are consistently less dominant. It should be noted that Transcendence is not represented by spirituality but instead by hope, humor, and gratitude.

In terms of the least frequent “signature strengths” we see that self-regulation, modesty, prudence (all strengths of Temperance), and zest are ranked at the bottom, as they consistently have been across a number of analyses.

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