Latest Research in the Science of Character Strengths
There are a large number of studies on character strengths published each year, with conservative estimates being at least one per week. This does not include the thousands of studies on specific strengths in the classification such as the various studies on creativity, leadership, gratitude, and so forth. The number of character strengths studies has consistently grown each year since the publication of the VIA Classification a decade and a half-ago. Below are just a handful of highlights of very recent publications.
- Building off the ever-increasing science of character, this article offers a new theory of character strengths for thriving across the adversities/struggles and opportunities/positives of life. In mapping across time orientations, six character strengths functions are articulated: the priming and buffering functions (future); mindfulness and reappraisal functions (present); appreciation and resilience functions (past) (Niemiec, 2019).
Niemiec, R. (2019). Six functions of character strengths for thriving at times of adversity and opportunity: A theoretical perspective. Applied Research in Quality of Life. DOI: doi:10.1007/s11482-018-9692-2
- Examined the stability and malleability of character strengths using two samples and different instruments longitudinally. The results showed character strengths are stable over long periods of time, that the strongest relationships between changes in strengths and well-being parallel reports in cross-sectional studies, and the strongest relationships were zest, hope, curiosity, and love. The strengths that seemed most malleable were humor, spirituality, and prudence (Gander et al., 2019).
Gander, F., Hofmann, J., Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2019). Character strengths – Stability, change, and relationships with well-being changes. Applied Research in Quality of Life. doi:10.1007/s11482-018-9690-4
- Using self-repots and informant-reports, the 24 character strengths were examined across the five dimensions of well-being (PERMA). While many significant associations were discovered, the top two strengths for each are shared here: positive emotions (zest, hope), engagement (creativity, curiosity), positive relationships (love, kindness), meaning (curiosity, perspective), and accomplishment (perspective, perseverance) (Wagner et al., 2019).
Wagner, L., Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2019). Character strengths and PERMA: Investigating the relationships of character strengths with a multidimensional framework of well-being. Applied Research in Quality of Life. doi:10.1007/s11482-018-9695-z
- A study comparing MBSP (mindfulness-based strengths practice), MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction), and controls found the while the two mindfulness-based programs boosted well-being and job satisfaction and reduced stress significantly more than controls, it was MBSP that was most effective for boosting task performance (using supervisor ratings of employees) (Pang & Ruch, 2019a).
Pang, D., & Ruch, W. (2019a). Fusing character strengths and mindfulness interventions: Benefits for job satisfaction and performance. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 24(1), 150-162. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ocp0000144
- Study showing a variety of findings regarding character strengths application among physicians. For example, fairness, honesty, judgment, and love were important for work engagement and psychological well-being while judgment and kindness had negative interactions with accomplishment (Huber et al., 2019).
Huber, A., Strecker, C., Hausler, M., Kachel, T., Höge, T., & Höfer, S. (2019). Possession and applicability of signature character strengths: What is essential for well-being, work engagement, and burnout? Applied Research in Quality of Life. doi:10.1007/s11482-018-9699-8
- Offers central arguments, concepts, and theory for the existence of character strengths overuse, underuse, and optimal use. Tables for overuse, underuse, optimal use, and top correlates across the 24 strengths are provided. Suggests practical strategies for researchers, based in theory, to test and for practitioners to experiment with, such as the tempering effect, the towing effect, strengths-spotting, direct questioning, feedback, and mindfulness (Niemiec, 2019).
Niemiec, R. M. (2019). Finding the golden mean: the overuse, underuse, and optimal use of character strengths. Counselling Psychology Quarterly. DOI: 10.1080/09515070.2019.1617674
- The first study to investigate Twitter responses and character strengths patterns. Examining over 3.9 million tweets from 4,423 people who had taken the VIA Survey and finding that Twitter characterizes and predicts character strengths (Pang et al., 2019).
Pang, D., Eichstaedt, J. C., Buffone, A., Slaff, B., Ruch, W., & Ungar, L. H. (2019). The language of character strengths: Predicting morally valued traits on social media. Journal of Personality. https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12491
- This study examines various occupational subgroups (nurses, physicians, supervisors, office workers, clinical psychologists, social workers/educators, economists, and secondary school teachers) and their highest strengths. It also showed several strengths that were most associated with overall job satisfaction – zest, hope, curiosity, love, and gratitude (Heintz & Ruch, 2019).
Heintz, S., & Ruch, W. (2019). Character strengths and job satisfaction: Differential relationships across occupational groups and adulthood. Applied Research in Quality of Life. doi:10.1007/s11482-018-9691-3
- Explores mechanisms for developing character strengths in schools and examines the connections between character strengths and 21st century competencies, which are cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal competencies identified by the American National Research Council (Lavy, 2019).
Lavy, S. (2019). A review of character strengths interventions in twenty-first-century schools: Their importance and how they can be fostered. Applied Research in Quality of Life. doi:10.1007/s11482-018-9700-6
- Strengths-based parenting of adolescents had a significant positive effect on academic achievement and predicted engagement and perseverance of teens (Waters, Loton, & Jach, 2019).
Waters, L. E., Loton, D., & Jach, H. K. (2019). Does strength based parenting predict academic achievement? The mediating effects of perseverance and engagement. Journal of Happiness Studies, 20, 1121-1140.
- Explores a number of findings of character strengths in older adults. Character strengths scores were higher for those employed than retired and for those living with a partner than those alone, while fewer relationships with being widowed (vs. married) were found. The character strengths link with life satisfaction slightly decreased with age but increased for some strengths such as humility and prudence (Baumann et al., 2019).
Baumann, D., Ruch, W., Margelisch, K., Gander, F., & Wagner, L. (2019). Character strengths and life satisfaction in later life: An analysis of different living conditions. Applied Research in Quality of Life. doi:10.1007/s11482-018-9689-x