As applied work continues, we would like to provide some guidelines for those interested in using the VIA Inventory of Strengths Survey.
1. The VIA measures are reliable and have promising validity, although the relevant work is ongoing. We therefore believe that the most appropriate uses of the measures in applied settings are to gain insight into groups of people—aggregated data—and to provide points of departure in discussing the lives of individuals.
2. In particular, the VIA measures should not be used for personnel selection or for placement decisions. Doing so at present would be irresponsible from a scientific point of view.
3. The measures are thoroughly transparent, which means that they can be faked if there is a payoff for given results. In our basic research, we worry about such issues under the rubric of social desirability and try to establish a frame in which respondents are candid. We believe that they usually are, but payoffs for given results would drastically alter the frame.
4. Despite the accumulating validity of the scales, we implore users of these measures not to treat the results as more “real” than the traits and habits that the scales attempt to measure. Psychology has gone down that road with respect to IQ scores and intelligence, and we should learn some lessons from that sorry story. So, if someone scores relatively low on the VIA scale of kindness yet lives a life of obvious charity and benevolence, the scale does not trump the life. The discrepancy points to the less-than-perfect success of the measure and not to anything about the individual.
5. Occasionally, an individual’s results from the VIA Survey will include one or more ties (when the raw score of a strength is the same as another). When this circumstance occurs, we suggest that the individual simply rank the tied strengths according to his/her own perception.
6. Feedback is often provided to individuals about their top (“signature”) VIA strengths, which is but convenient shorthand for capturing what characteristics are most important to an individual. But the comparison is to other measured strengths of the individual and not to the strengths of other people.
7. Furthermore, we conceive character strengths as dimensions and not as categories, a point that simple feedback can obscure. People have more-or-less of all the strengths and not simply a set of discrete strengths versus weaknesses.