VIA Research Projects

The VIA Institute offers a variety of supports to select researchers investigating important aspects of character strengths.  Some of the current and recent projects are described below.

A Theory of Character

Project coordinator: David G. Rand, Ph.D., Yale University
Length of study: 3 years

Description: Dr. Rand and his colleagues, including a VIA Research Fellow, embarked on a three-year project starting in 2013. They are leading a series of studies aimed at developing a theory of character strengths and making use of Martin Nowak’s computer modeling techniques and established experimental paradigms related to studying trust and cooperation.  This research aims to provide an evolutionary perspective on how each character strength may have evolved and important purposes for their development.  More specifically, this research aims to illuminate conditions under which certain character strengths lead to cooperative or competitive behavior and lead to trust or distrust.

Character Strengths at the Workplace

Project coordinator: Hadassah Littman-Ovadia, Ph.D., Ariel University, Israel.
Length of study: Year by year

Description: Dr. Littman-Ovadia, Dr. Shiri Lavy, and VIA Research Fellows have taken on a number of projects relating to character strengths. They are currently studying the use of character strengths in the workplace setting. They will investigate the advantages of deploying signature strengths at work vs. deploying lesser strengths vs. deploying work-related strengths vs. deploying the  happiness/well-being strengths. Negative outcomes of not deploying signature strengths will be explored, as will the optimal number of strengths that should be used at work. They will also focus on the role of context (e.g., tasks, people) within the workplace in terms of signature strengths use, and the connections between strengths and workplace relationships.

Decision-Making, Cooperation, Competition, and Character

Project coordinator: Steven Young, Ph.D., Baruch College-City University of New York
Length of study: 1 year

Description: Dr. Young, principal investigator and VIA Fellow, and colleagues will study character strengths as a predictor of trust and cooperation in a trust game. He will also study character strengths as a predictor of cooperation in a Prisoner’s Dilemma. These interactive decision-making game studies involve the evaluation of the willingness to trust others and demonstrate oneself as trustworthy (The Trust Game), as well as measure cooperation and competition that pits the pursuit of self-interest against the pursuit of the interests of others (Prisoner’s Dilemma). It is hypothesized that performance on both games will be predicted by VIA character strengths.


Partner Relationships and Character Strengths

Project coordinator:  Todd Kashdan, Ph.D., George Mason University
Length of study: 2 years

Description: Dr. Kashdan and colleagues are studying the role of recognizing and appreciating partner character strengths in love relationships. They are creating and validating a character strengths questionnaire for partners and studying the instrument in both community and college samples. They are examining the interaction between character strengths and romantic relationship functioning with an emphasis on the impact of awareness and appreciation of character strengths in one’s partner.

Factor Analysis of VIA Surveys

Project coordinator: Robert McGrath, Ph.D., Fairleigh Dickinson University

Length of study: Ongoing

Description:  Dr. McGrath is the Lead Consultant for Test Development and Psychometrics at the VIA Institute. He recently published the results of the largest scale and item based factor analysis of the VIA-IS Survey (McGrath, 2013).  This study supported most of the VIA Classification proposed by Seligman and Peterson (2004) and suggested consideration of some new constructs.  


Validation of a Three-Factor Character Strengths Model

Project coordinator: Robert McGrath, Ph.D., Fairleigh Dickinson University
Length of study: 1 year

Description:  Dr. McGrath has developed a 3-factor model for the VIA character strengths. McGrath and his colleagues are now conducting a study to validate the 3 factors.

Brief Assessments of Character Strengths

Project coordinator: Robert McGrath, Ph.D., Fairleigh Dickinson University
Length of study: Concluded

Description:  Dr. McGrath has helped to validate two brief versions of the original VIA Survey (240 questions) and one brief version of the original VIA Youth Survey (191 questions). He has conducted initial psychometrics of these versions. The VIA 120 for adults was created by statistically choosing the 5 best items for each character strengths scale that had the highest item-scale correlations; this was then done for the VIA 72 for adults in which the 3 best questions were statistically chosen. Basic psychometric data for these adult versions can be found here, and the process and analysis for validating the brief youth version (96 items) can be found


The Nature and Assessment of Signature Strengths

Project coordinator: Robert McGrath, Ph.D., Fairleigh Dickinson University
Length of study: 1 year

Description:  Dr. McGrath is conducting naturalistic observation through interviewing people about their signature strengths and then developing a direct measure of “signatureness.” The existing VIA Surveys are considered proxies for signature strengths but are not a direct measure that assesses whether or not each strength is core/essential to who the person is, energizing, natural, used across settings, and so forth.

Measuring Virtues

Project coordinator: Robert McGrath, Ph.D., Fairleigh Dickinson University
Length of study: 1 year

Description:  Dr. McGrath developed a 47-item virtue inventory after examination of the VIA Survey and determining the 8 best items statistically for detecting each of the 6 virtues of the VIA Classification (i.e., wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, transcendence). He is currently examining reliability and validity for these measures.


Character Strengths Across Nations

Project coordinator: Robert McGrath, Ph.D., Fairleigh Dickinson University
Length of study: Concluded

Description:  Dr. McGrath replicated and expanded an earlier study of character strengths across nations originally conducted by Nansook Park, Christopher Peterson, and Martin Seligman (2006). McGrath’s study looked at over 1 million adults who completed the VIA Survey across 75 countries. He found strong cross-cultural similarity in terms of highest-endorsed and least-endorsed character strengths. Both of these studies have been published in the Journal of Positive Psychology.


Character Strengths and the Big 5 Personality Factors

Project coordinator: Robert McGrath, Ph.D., Fairleigh Dickinson University
Length of study: 1 year

Description: Dr. McGrath continues to investigate the incremental validity of the VIA character strengths above and beyond the Big Five personality factors (i.e., neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness). He is examining the incremental validity across 6 behavioral measures.


Factor Structure of Character Strengths in Youth and Adolescents

Project coordinator: Robert McGrath, Ph.D., Fairleigh Dickson University
Length of study: 1 year

Description: This study will examine the factor structure of two scales of character strengths for youth. Youth will take the VIA Youth Survey, a specific measure of "signature strengths", and a measure of specific behaviors that are associated with each character strength. The intention is that a consistent model for examining youth character strengths will emerge.

VIA Survey Inclusivity for People with Intellectual Disability

Project coordinators: Karrie Shogren, Ph.D., Kansas University, and Michael Wehmeyer, Ph.D., Kansas University
Length of study: 1 year

Description:  Drs. Shogren and Wehmeyer and colleagues are focusing on validating the VIA Youth Survey for adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Rather than create a separate (exclusive) measure for this population, the intention is to validate a more inclusive measure for youth. This is part of a larger study in which the researchers are examining a self-determination assessment among youth with intellectual/developmental disabilities.


Assessing the Role of Character Strengths in Male and Female Offenders

Project coordinator: Kimberly Sperber, Ph.D., Talbert House
Length of study: 3 years; ongoing multi-phase project

Description: In the first phase, Dr. Sperber and colleagues investigated the differences in VIA character strengths among offenders
and non-offenders. In the second phase, they examined the differences among subgroups of offenders that are relevant to correctional programming as well as looking at male and female offenders, high-risk vs. low-risk offenders, and the relationship between character strengths and antisocial attitudes. The next phase focuses on examining the benefits of adding a character strengths-based treatment group to treatment-as-usual programming.


The Role of Character Strengths in Work Team Functions

Project coordinator: Willibald Ruch, Ph.D.
Length of Study: 1 year

Description: The VIA Team Report presents a model of how the 24 character strengths might play roles in 7 different functions that are common for work teams.  This study is examining those proposed relationships.


The Character Strengths of Youth

Project Coordinator: Tayyab Rashid, Ph.D., University of Toronto-Scarborough
Length of Study:

As a consultant to the VIA Institute, Dr. Rashid has assisted in the creation of a number of projects relating to the character strengths of youth over the years. These include consultation projects around surveys, a youth report, and resources for youth.


The Role of Character Strengths in Education

Project Coordinator:

Jane Gillham, Ph.D. and Mark Linkins
Length of Study:
3 years

The VIA Institute has collaborated with the Mayerson Academy to develop a program for helping teachers deploy their own character strengths and the character strengths of their students in the process of teaching and learning.  This program is being implemented in the Bethlehem, New York school district. Process and outcome measures are being obtained for both teachers and students.