Summary of Research Findings

This section refers to general character strengths research that does not better fit another category. Many of these studies constitute what researchers refer to as basic research.

Research Articles

  • Examines the central questions and initial answers in the state of the research on character strengths interventions. It examines the role of signature strengths, generic vs. personalized strength interventions, the impact on levels of strengths, and key areas to further explore (Ruch et al., 2020).
    Ruch, W., Niemiec, R. M., McGrath, R. E., Gander, F., & Proyer, R. T. (2020). Character strengths-based interventions: Open questions and ideas for future research. Journal of Positive Psychology. DOI:
  • Argues for advancing population-wide psychological maturity around building character strengths collectively, especially in response to the exponential growth of technology; offers a large number of specific future directions and studies to consider across areas of thriving (instrumentality, well-being, and collective good); surviving (resilience; modulating fight-or-flight responses); child-rearing; system dynamics; interpersonal dynamics; contextualizing character strengths; strengths-spotting; and development across the lifespan (both specific effects and non-linear effects) (Mayerson, 2020).
    Mayerson, N. H. (2020). The character strengths response: An urgent call to action. Frontiers in Psychology. DOI:
  • Explores how the VIA Classification of character strengths and virtues can advance the science of virtues. It reviews the three-dimensional model of cardinal virtues (moral, self-regulatory, and intellectual domains), dimensional vs. categorical characterization of virtue, evolution of adaptations underlying human capacity for using virtues, impact on both individual and communal levels, reciprocity among virtues, and practical wisdom (McGrath & Brown, 2020).
    McGrath, R. E., & Brown, M. (2020). Using the VIA classification to advance a psychological science of virtue. Frontiers in Psychology. DOI:
  • Provides evidence in comparative evolution noting cross-species adaptations for three fundamental virtues (the VIA 3-factor model by McGrath) relating to morality, self-regulation, and intellect (McGrath, 2020).
    McGrath, R. E. (2020). Darwin meets Aristotle: evolutionary evidence for three fundamental virtues. Journal of Positive Psychology. DOI:
  • Summarizes several character strengths findings, discusses the role of character strengths for optimal experiences, and summarizes the most recent studies in signature strengths (Rashid & Niemiec, 2020).
    Rashid T., & Niemiec R. M. (2020) Character strengths. In: Maggino F. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of quality of life and well-being research. Springer, Cham.
  • This study examined data from 1,241 individuals and found that 22 out of the 24 character strengths correlated with their assigned virtue, with the exceptions being hope correlating highest with courage and humor correlating highest with humanity. It also found that higher levels of reported “good character” occurred for those who either had one character strength in each virtue category or who had all the character strengths in at least one virtue category (Ruch, Heintz, & Wagner, 2020).
    Ruch, W., Heintz, S., & Wagner, L. (2020). Co-occurrence patterns of character strengths and measured core virtues in German-speaking adults. Frontiers in Psychology. DOI:
  • In a study evaluating the 24 character strengths and whether they are morally valued in a German sample, every strength was found to be positively morally valued even when there were no set consequences of the strength use. Some strengths were more morally valued than others with the top five being judgment, honesty, kindness, fairness, and hope (Stahlmann & Ruch, 2020).
    Stahlmann, A. G., & Ruch, W. (2020). Scrutinizing the criteria for character strengths: Laypersons assert that every strength is positively morally valued, even in the absence of tangible outcomes. Frontiers in Psychology.
  • This study found that behavioral examples of individuals’ highest character strengths in action was related to virtues as opposed to behavioral examples of lowest strengths or non-excellent examples; results converged strongly (not perfectly) with the VIA Classification’s current arrangement of character strengths and corresponding virtues (Giuliani, Ruch, & Gander, 2020).
    Giuliani, F., Ruch, W., & Gander, F. (2020). Does the excellent enactment of highest strengths reveal virtues? Frontiers in Psychology. DOI:
  • Examined the changes in U.S. Army soldiers who were deploying for the first time and found most soldiers had high levels of character strengths before and after deployment with very little change (described as “stable high”), while about 40% of soldiers had lower character strengths before deployment and showed declines after deployment (described as “persistently low”) (Chopik et al., 2020).
    Chopik, W. J., Kelley, W. L., Vie, L. L., Oh, J., Bonett, D. G., Lucas, R. E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2020). Development of character strengths across the deployment cycle among U.S. Army soldiers. Journal of Personality. Advance online publication.
  • Analyzes the disconnection and connection between virtue and good character and moral persons as well as the misalignment between academia and laypersons views of virtue (Gulliford, Morgan, & Jordan, 2020).
    Gulliford, L., Morgan, B., & Jordan, K. (2020). A prototype analysis of virtue. Journal of Positive Psychology. Advance online publication.
  • A study of nearly 1,000 students found that intellectual-oriented character strengths (e.g., love of learning, curiosity) are strongly connected with nature relatedness, with the strongest connection being for the character strength of appreciation of beauty/excellence (Merino, Valor, & Redondo, 2020).
    Merino, A., Valor, C., & Redondo, C. (2020). Connectedness is in my character: the relationship between nature relatedness and character strengths. Environmental Education Research. DOI:
  • A study using phenomenological analysis on the use of strengths cards during coaching conversations revealed several key themes including identifying strengths is instinctive, complex, multifaceted, and a positive experience. The findings may provide coaches with insights about how strengths identification tools and interventions are experienced subjectively (Fouracres & van Nieuwerburgh, 2020).
    Fouracres, A. and van Nieuwerburgh, C. (2020). The lived experience of self-identifying character strengths through coaching: An interpretative phenomenological analysis, International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 18(1), 43-56. DOI:
  • Developed a broad measure of environmental self-efficacy and found the character strengths of zest and leadership showed relationships with environmental and generalized self-efficacy; in addition kindness, humility, prudence, fairness, and forgiveness showed relationships with only environmental self-efficacy (Moeller & Stahlmann, 2019).
    Moeller, B. L., & Stahlmann, A. G. (2019). Which character strengths are focused on the well-being of others? Development and initial validation of the environmental self-efficacy scale: Assessing confidence in overcoming barriers to pro-environmental behavior. Journal of Well-Being Assessment,3, 123-135.
  • Narrative review examining the 12 criteria of “character strengths” originally proposed by Peterson and Seligman (2004) in the VIA Classification, and the status of research on those criteria (Ruch & Stahlmann, 2019).
    Ruch, W., & Stahlmann, A. G. (2019). 15 years after Peterson and Seligman (2004): A brief narrative review of the research on the 12 criteria for character strengths – the forgotten treasure of the VIA classification. In M. Brohm-Badry, C. Peifer, J. M. Greve, & B. Berend (Eds.), Zusammen wachsen – Förderung der positiv-psychologischen Entwicklung von Individuen, Organisationen und Gesellschaft (pp. 142-172). Pabst Science Publishers.
  • Discusses key factors of virtues-based leadership development and emphasizes the relationship between virtues, character, and leadership; how virtue/leadership is teachable; and how virtue is the key connector between the individual and the common good (Newstead et al., 2019).
    Newstead, T., Dawkins, S., Macklin, R., & Martin, A. (2019). We don't need more leaders – we need more good leaders. Advancing a virtues-based approach to leader(ship) development. The Leadership Quarterly. Advance online publication.
  • This study used two samples to examine the internal consistency, factor structure, test-retest reliability, criterion-related validity, convergent and discriminant validity, and item discrimination statistics for the revised VIA Survey (VIA Inventory of Strengths) for adults, which includes short forms, virtues scales, and options for reverse-scored items. The results showed the VIA measures met appropriate psychometric standards (McGrath & Wallace, 2019).
    McGrath, R. E., & Wallace, N. (2019). Cross-validation of the VIA inventory of strengths-revised and its short forms. Journal of Personality Assessment. Advance online publication.
  • Examined the nesting of the 24 character strengths under the 6 particular virtues of the VIA Classification. Participants described situations of using their strength in an excellent matter and rated them by virtue; a second study had participants judge the goodness of fit between each strength and the virtue’s definition/function. Similar to previous findings, the results mostly converged with the current VIA Classification; the exceptions were humor, forgiveness, and gratitude which aligned better with the virtue of humanity than their original assigned virtue (Ruch et al., 2019).
    Ruch, W., Gander, F., Wagner, L., & Giuliani, F. (2019). The structure of character: On the relationships between character strengths and virtues. Journal of Positive Psychology. DOI:
  • Investigated the philosophical and religious notion of a “virtuous person” (someone who has attained a virtuous state) in a stratified sample of 10,000 adults. In reviewing a previous study and conducting a new one (two different methodologies), there was little evidence to support this concept, rather the results support thinking of virtue as something that is continuously pursued (not necessarily a state to be achieved) (Berger & McGrath, 2019).
    Berger, D. M., & McGrath, R. E. (2019). Are there virtuous types? Finite mixture modeling of the VIA Inventory of Strengths. Journal of Positive Psychology, 14(1), 77-85. DOI:
  • This study examines the new VIA Assessment suite, including long and short forms that measure character strengths and virtues. It shares internal consistency, test-retest reliability, criterion-related validity, and convergent and discriminant validity of scale scores. The inventory scale scores meet psychometric standards for a measure of the targeted character strengths and virtues (McGrath & Wallace, 2019).
    McGrath, R. E., & Wallace, N. (2019). Cross-validation of the VIA inventory of strengths-revised and its short forms. Manuscript submitted for publication.
  • This review examines, analyzes, critiques, and advances the scientific inquiry around the 12 criteria that informed Peterson, Seligman, and numerous scientists as to what constitutes a strength of character. In addition, it reviews research on this since 2004 and identifies important gaps (Ruch & Stahlmann, 2019).
    Ruch, W., & Stahlmann, A. G. (2019). 15 years after Peterson and Seligman (2004): A brief narrative review of the research on the 12 criteria for character strengths – the forgotten treasure of the VIA classification. In M. Brohm-Badry, C. Peifer, J. M. M. Brohm-Badry, C. Peifer, J. M. Greve, & B. Berend (Eds.), Zusammen wachsen – Förderung der positiv-psychologischen Entwicklung von Individuen, Organisationen und Gesellschaft. Lengerich, Germany: Pabst.
  • 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.
  • Content analysis of the transcendence character strengths within the examination of 4,000 Facebook posts in response to Mark Zuckerberg pledge to give away 99% of his Facebook shares to charity. Appreciation of beauty (moral beauty) was the most prevalent strength and correlated with hope, other-oriented hope, and spirituality (Zhao & Dale, 2019).
    Zhao, D., & Dale, K. R. (2019). Pro-social messages and transcendence: A content analysis of Facebook reactions to Mark Zuckerberg's donation pledge. Computers in Human Behavior, 91, 236-243.
  • Examined the shorter German translation of the VIA Survey (the VIA 120) and compared it to the original long form German translation (the VIA 240). The VIA 120 showed good convergence with the VIA 240, was reliable, showing a similar level of validity for assessing character strengths (Höfer et al., 2019).
    Höfer, S., Hausler, M., Huber, A., Strecker, C., Renn, D., & Höge, T. (2019). Psychometric characteristics of the German Values in Action Inventory of Strengths 120-Item Short Form. Applied Research in Quality of Life.
  • Interviewed 10 people over the age of 50 about their strengths during key developmental periods in their childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Found that strengths (generically-speaking, not character strengths per se) fluctuated throughout the lifespan and that a number of individual and environmental factors affected this (Owens et al., 2018). Pointed to the importance of working on both strong and less prominent or “lost” strengths, engaging in strengths-based relational interventions, strengths mentoring, and identifying/sharing strengths with supports/friends (for examples of these interventions, see Niemiec, 2018).
    1. Owens, R. L., Baugh, L. M., Barrett-Wallis, R., Hui, N., & McDaniel, M. M. (2018). Strengths across the lifespan: A qualitative analysis of developmental trajectories and influential factors. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 4(3), 265-276.
    2. Niemiec, R. M. (2018). Character strengths interventions: A field-guide for practitioners. Boston: Hogrefe.
  • Analysis of character strengths in the Brazilian context of nearly 1,000 undergraduate students and finding a three-factor solution to be most theoretically appropriate – intellectual strengths, intrapersonal strengths and collectivism, and transcendence (Noronha & Zanon, 2018).
    Noronha, A. P. P., & Zanon, C. (2018). Strengths of character of personal growth: Structure and relations with the Big Five in the Brazilian context. Paidéia, 28, Article ID e2822.
  • Study examined character strengths in Poland, conducting a factor analysis, and delineating profiles using a person-centered approach (Najderska & Cieciuch, 2018). Note: this study did not use the validated Polish VIA Survey. For the official Polish version and to use it in research, find it on the VIA website, translated by teams in Poland led by Lucasz Kaczmarek.
    Najderska, M., & Cieciuch, J. (2018). The structure of character strengths: Variable- and person-centered approaches. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, Article ID 153.
  • Applies social theory to character and virtues, emphasizing their formation and sustenance within a social context, and arguing that while these are “traits” they are represented socially and practiced socially (Moulin-Stożek, 2018).
    Moulin‐Stożek, D. (2018). The social construction of character. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour. Advance online publication.
  • Military study finding several of the 24 character strengths were affected by military college education (nearly half of the strengths), and several remained stable (Giambra, 2018).
    Giambra, L. M. (2018). Character strengths: Stability and change from a military college education. Military Psychology, 30(6), 598-608.
  • Discusses two ways that statistical thinking can enhance how we understand wisdom (McGrath, in press).
    McGrath, R. E. (in press). The mathematics of wisdom. Journal of Value Inquiry.
  • Gathered data from 28 studies looking at individual differences in character strengths and found 4 factors – leadership, caring, inquisitiveness, and self-control. Leadership connected with inefficient, antisocial behaviors, risk-taking, and trusting intuition; Caring connected with willingness to pay costs to benefit others and with intuitive decision-making; Inquisitiveness associated with efficient behaviors in social and risk domains, and deliberate decision-making; and Self-control associated with delaying gratification, risk aversion, and reliance on reason (Jordan & Rand, 2018).
    Jordan, M. R., & Rand, D. G. (2018). The role of character strengths in economic decision-making. Judgment and Decision Making, 13(4), 382–392
  • Response to three critiques and discussion on the VIA Classification (McGrath, 2018). Han (2018) notes the lack of studies supporting the moral justifiability of the VIA model. Miller (2018) raises questions about the role of motivation, practical wisdom, conflicting virtues, and the lack of vices. Snow (2018) offers questions about the sensitivity to culture and variations on the meanings of certain character strengths. McGrath clarifies each critique offering research literature and concepts by which the critics missed as well as agreement by which their insights and challenges were accurate. Important paper for advancing the science of character strengths. 
    1. McGrath, R. E. (2018). Refining our understanding of the VIA Classification: Reflections on papers by Han, Miller, and Snow, Journal of Positive Psychology.
    2. Han, H. (2018). The VIA inventory of strengths, positive youth development, and moral education. Journal of Positive Psychology. DOI:
    3. Miller, C. B. (2018). Some philosophical concerns about how the VIA classifies character traits and the VIA-IS measures them. Journal of Positive Psychology. DOI:
    4. Snow, N. E. (2018). Positive psychology, the classification of character strengths and virtues, and issues of measurement. Journal of Positive Psychology. DOI:
  • Reviews key themes in the examination of character strengths and Aristotelian approaches, such as the relationship between character strengths and virtues, their universality and cultural embeddedness, and the reliability of self-report measures (Stichter & Saunders, 2018).
    Stichter, M., & Saunders, L. (2018). Positive psychology and virtue: Values in action. Journal of Positive Psychology.
  • Considers the role of personal choice in using strengths and the costs of over-reliance on particular strengths (Goodman, Disabato, & Kashdan, 2018).
    Goodman, F. R., Disabato, D. J., & Kashdan, T. B. (2018).   Integrating psychological strengths under the umbrella of personality science: Rethinking the definition, measurement, and modification of strengths. Journal of Positive Psychology.
  • In a study involving over 1 million people, three virtue categories emerged from the VIA Classification – caring, inquisitiveness, and self-control. It is argued that these are essential elements of a theory of virtue (McGrath, Greenberg, & Hall-Simmonds, in press).
    McGrath, R. E., Greenberg, M. J., & Hall-Simmonds, A. (2018). Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and Cowardly Lion: The three-factor model of virtue. Journal of Positive Psychology.
  • This study examined 8 comic styles across a variety of measures including the VIA Inventory. The comic style of fun was related to vitality, the style of humor was connected with the strengths of the heart, and the styles of sarcasm, cynicism, and irony correlated negatively with character strengths in the virtues of temperance, transcendence, and humanity (Ruch et al., 2018).
    Ruch, W., Heintz, S., Platt, T., Wagner, L., & Proyer, R. T. (2018). Broadening humor: Comic styles differentially tap into temperament, character, and ability. Frontiers in Psychology.
  • Considers the role of personal choice in using strengths and the costs of over-reliance on particular strengths (Goodman, Disabato, & Kashdan, 2018).
    Goodman, F. R., Disabato, D. J., & Kashdan, T. B. (2018).   Integrating psychological strengths under the umbrella of personality science: Rethinking the definition, measurement, and modification of strengths. Journal of Positive Psychology.
  • Using Spanish translations, all VIA character strengths and virtues were associated with the emotional clarity and emotion repair elements of emotional intelligence, while emotional attention was correlated with all virtues but temperance (Ros-Morente et al., 2018).
    Ros-Morente, A., Mora, C. A., Nadal, C. T., Blasco-Belled, A., & Berenguer, N. J. (2018). An examination of the relationship between emotional intelligence, positive affect and character strengths and virtues. Anales de Psicología, 34(1), 63-67.
  • A landmark paper involving two studies in the investigation of the VIA character strengths and personality. The VIA Classification showed substantial distinction from standard personality measures in that only 8 of the 24 strengths were redundant with a personality facet (using HEXACO) and only 1 strength was redundant with the five factor facets. This shows evidence that the VIA character strengths provide incremental validity over and above the Big 5 personality dimensions (McGrath, Hall-Simmonds, & Goldberg, 2017).
    McGrath, R. E., Hall-Simmonds, A., & Goldberg, L. R. (2017). Are measures of character and personality distinct? Evidence from observed-score and true-score analyses. Assessment. [Epub ahead of print]
  • In a literature review involving over 1 million people across 65 samples, gender differences were examined for the 24 character strengths. Males and females were mostly similar in their strengths with females scoring higher than males on love, kindness, gratitude, and appreciation of beauty (Heintz, Kramm, & Ruch, 2017).
    Heintz, S., Kramm, C., & Ruch, W. (2017). A meta-analysis of gender differences in character strengths and age, nation, and measure as moderators. Journal of Positive Psychology.
  • In a study of over 1,000 Filipinos, the top character strengths that emerged were kindness, fairness, hope, teamwork, and judgment (Resurreccion, 2017).
    Resurreccion, R. R. (2017). A survey of character strengths of Filipinos: Using VIA-IS Filipino version. Philippine Journal of Counseling Psychology, 19(1), 81-94.
  • Development, analyses, and psychometrics of the new VIA suite of assessment instruments, designed to scientifically improve upon the popular VIA Survey. Tests include the VIA-IS-R (revised) now with 192 positively and negatively keyed items, 8 items per scale. Items were chosen based on multiple criteria, including: Correlation with parent scale versus other scales; readability; item response theory discrimination and threshold statistics; prototypicality ratings. From this measure, there are 2 short forms and 2 virtues measures that can be used. The suite also includes the Global Assessment of Character Strengths (72 items and 24, single item measures) and the Signature Strengths Survey (McGrath, 2017).
    McGrath, R. E. (2017). Technical report – the VIA test suite for adults: Development and preliminary evaluation. Cincinnati, OH: VIA Institute on Character. Available at  
  • In a community sample, researchers noted the emergence of four character strengths profiles: high strengths, low strengths, heart strengths, and mind strengths; heart strengths were especially beneficial, however, unfortunately the study used a non-validated measure of character strengths (Haridas et al., 2017).
    Haridas, S., Bhullar, N., & Dunstan, D. A. (2017). What's in character strengths? Profiling strengths of the heart and mind in a community sample. Personality and Individual Differences, 113, 32-37.
  • The character strength of spirituality was found to be the bedrock strength in a study of resilience among community members in Suriname; other important strengths included hope, perseverance, harmony, and acceptance (Hendriks et al., 2017).
    Hendriks, T., Graafsma, T., Hassankhan, A., Bohlmeijer, E., & de Jong, J. (2017). Strengths and virtues and the development of resilience: A qualitative study in Suriname during a time of economic crisis. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 1–9.
  • Character strengths predict behavior in the moral domain and explain incremental variance in economic games above the Big 5 trait of Honesty/Humility. Honesty and humility predict fair and altruistic decisions in economic games (Ruch, Bruntsch, & Wagner, 2017).
    Ruch, W., Bruntsch, R., & Wagner, L. (2017). The role of character traits in economic games. Personality and Individual Differences, 108, 186-190.  
  • Discusses the importance of signature strengths in the Native American population and strategies to work with signature strengths that appropriately align with culture (Garrett et al., 2016).
    Garrett, M. T., Garrett, J. T., Curtis, R., Parrish, M., Portman, T. A. A., Grayshield, L., & Williams, C. (2016). Positive psychology practice with Native Americans. In E. C. Chang, C. A. Downey, J. K. Hirsch, & N. J. Lin (Eds.), Cultural, racial, and ethnic psychology book series. Positive psychology in racial and ethnic groups: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 281-304). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.
  • Students learned and used the 24 strengths in a course teaching them the English language, with males focusing more on creativity and females on authenticity and love (Abolfazli & Sadeghi, 2016).
    Abolfazli Khonbi, Z., & Sadeghi, K. (2016). Language learning histories, learner variables, in an MA TEFL programme: A wellbeing perspective. Teaching English Language, 10(2), 151-185.
  • Philosophical argument against universality noting that virtue classifications always reflect the polis, the political community being served, and as a result can be useful and sometimes cross-cultural (Kinghorn, 2016).
    Kinghorn, W. (2016). The politics of virtue: An Aristotelian-Thomistic engagement with the VIA classification of character strengths. Journal of Positive Psychology.  
  • In a sample of nearly 24,000 youth taking the VIA Youth Survey, the data best fit a four-factor model, generally including 2 interpersonal factors, one general engagement factor, and one other-oriented factor (McGrath & Walker, 2016).
    McGrath, R. E., & Walker, D. I. (2016). Factor structure of character strengths in youth: Consistency across ages and measures. Journal of Moral Education, 45, 400–418.  
  • In a study of multiple strengths measures across 4 samples encompassing over 1 million individuals, a 3-factor model for representing the 24 character strengths was revealed and labeled as inquisitiveness, caring, and self-control (McGrath, 2015).
    McGrath, R. E. (2015). Integrating psychological and cultural perspectives on virtue: The hierarchical structure of character strengths. Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(5), 407–424,  
  • In a study of 10-, 11-, and 12-year-olds in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the most commonly reported strengths were honesty/integrity and kindness/goodness while love of learning, spirituality, and prudence were least reported (Grinhauz & Castro Solano, 2015).
    Grinhauz, A. S., & Castro Solano, A. (2015). An exploratory study about character strengths in Argentinean children. Avances en Psicología Latinoamericana, 33(1), 45-56.  
  • A study of young adults in India found that love, gratitude, kindness, fairness, and honesty were the highest self-perceived character strengths while the lowest were social responsibility (teamwork), perseverance, prudence, and self-regulation; in addition, males were higher on social strengths while females were higher on relational strengths (Tripathi, Banu, & Mehrotra, 2015).
    Tripathi, R., Banu, H., & Mehrotra, S. (2015). Self-perceived character strengths in urban Indian youth: Observations and reflections. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, 41(3), 176-187.  
  • Offers analyses and validity information for VIA Survey translations. Languages from the following nations were examined in this study: Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Portugal, Brazil, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, mainland China (simplified Chinese), and Hong Kong (traditional Chinese) (McGrath, 2015).
    McGrath, R. E. (2015). Measurement invariance in translations of the VIA inventory of strengths. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 32(3), 187–194.
  • This study provides an alternative to traditional factor analyses in understanding factors and examining the VIA Classification. Several analyses were conducted included studying the views of 70 experts (from philosophy, psychology, theology) and 41 laypersons on how they would rate the strengths and the categories they would place them in. Most of the character strengths aligned with the original projected virtue with one main exception (i.e., humor lined up best under humanity and wisdom) A subsequent factor analysis performed across these ratings revealed 6 factors (Ruch & Proyer, 2015).
    Ruch, W., & Proyer, R. T. (2015). Mapping strengths into virtues: the relation of the 24 VIA-strengths to six ubiquitous virtues. Frontiers in Psychology.  
  • In a unique study involving the development of a three-factor model for character strengths, results were consistent across three data sets constituting over 1 million cases, revealing strong evidence for strengths reflecting 3 components – caring, inquisitiveness, and self-control (McGrath, 2015).
    McGrath, R. E. (2015). Integrating psychological and cultural perspectives on virtue: The hierarchical structure of character strengths. Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(5), 407-424.
  • Offers psychometric data on the shortened version of the VIA Survey (240 items). Robert McGrath took the 5 items with the highest corrected item-total correlations to create the 120-question version. He did the same for the best 3 items on the 72-item version but only the former is discussed in this paper (Littman-Ovadia, 2015). Littman-Ovadia, H. (2015). Short form of the VIA Survey: Construction of scales and preliminary tests of reliability and validity. International Journal of Humanities Social Sciences and Education, 2 (4), 229-237.  
  • Among youth, females typically scored higher on character strengths than males, and personality factors such as Big Five traits of agreeableness and openness were consistently more predictive of character strengths than demographic or well-being measures (Neto, Neto, & Furnham, 2014).
    Neto, J., Neto, F., & Furnham, A. (2014). Gender and psychological correlates of self-rated strengths among youth. Social Indicators Research, 118 (1), 315-327.  
  • In a study of over 500 adolescent students in Spain, girls showed more prominent strengths relating to prosocial behavior and peer relationships (Ferragut, 2014). Ferragut, M. (2014). Analysis of adolescent profiles by gender: Strength, attitudes toward violence and sexism. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 17, Article E59.  
  • Discusses ideas for a relational developmental systems model of character development and considers necessary research testing of such a model (Lerner & Callina). Lerner, R. M., & Callina, K. S. (2014). The study of character development: Towards tests of a relational developmental systems model. Human Development, 57, 322–346.  
  • Examined sustainable behavior, defined as positive behavior aimed at the protection of the soci-physical environment including ecological, altruistic, and equitable beahviors. The character strengths most associated with sustainable behavior included kindness, fairness, hope, love, and teamwork (Corral-Verdugo, Tapia-Fonllem, & Ortiz-Valdez, 2014).
    Corral-Verdugo, V., Tapia-Fonllem, C., & Ortiz-Valdez, A. (2014). On the relationship between character strengths and sustainable behavior. Environment and Behavior.
  • Character strengths were found to be part of recurring themes in African traditional religion (Selvam & Collicutt, 2013), and all 24 character strengths have been mentioned in oral legends from the country of Vanuatu in the South Pacific (Millar, 2008).
    1. Millar, V. U. (2008). Exploring the character strengths of an oral tradition: Vanuatu through analysis of its archived oral legends (Dissertation). University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved from
    2. Selvam, S. G., & Collicutt, J. (2013). The ubiquity of the character strengths in African traditional religion: A thematic analysis. In H. H. Knoop & A. Delle Fave (Eds.), Well-Being and Cultures (Vol. 3, pp. 83–102). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
  • Fascinating and unique psychological/biographical examination of legendary chess champion, Bobby Fischer. One lens used by the two biographers was the VIA Survey who took the test from the perspective of Bobby at age 29 (when he was crowned chess champion) and at age 61 (when he was a fugitive of the U.S. living in Iceland).  Creativity, bravery, and curiosity were in his top 5 strengths across both time periods, and only two strengths were different across his top 10 strengths over the two time periods (Ponterotto & Reynolds, 2013).
    Ponterotto, J. G., & Reynolds, J. D. (2013). The “genius” and “madness” of Bobby Fischer: His life from three psychobiographical lenses. Review of General Psychology, 17(4), 384-398.
  • Found significant correlations between character strengths and temperament, character strengths and resilience, and that temperament could accurately predict high or low levels of resilience and character strengths (Hutchinson, Stuart, & Pretorius, 2010; 2011).
    1. Hutchinson, A. K., Stuart, A. D., & Pretorius, H. G. (2011).The relationships between temperament, character strengths, and resilience. The Human Pursuit of Well-Being, 133-144.
    2. Hutchinson, A. M. K., Stuart, A. D., & Pretorius, H. G. (2010). Biological contributions to well-being: The relationships amongst temperament, character strengths and resilience. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 36(2), 1-10.
  • Examined the character strengths of residents across 50 U.S. cities and examined city-level outcomes such as entrepreneurship and voting behavior, and the relation to strengths of the head (intellectual and self-oriented) and strengths of the heart (emotional and interpersonal) (Park & Peterson, 2010).
    Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2010). Does it matter where we live? The urban psychology of character strengths. American Psychologist, 65(6), 535–547.
  • Discusses two classes of character strengths (not mutually exclusive): focus and balance strengths. Focus strengths (e.g., creativity, perseverance, leadership) help the individual develop and express personal strengths while balance strengths (e.g., perspective, fairness, teamwork) help the individual develop and bring about harmony within the self and between the self and others” (Bacon, 2005).
    Bacon, S. F. (2005). Positive psychology’s two cultures. Review of General Psychology, 9, 181-192.
  • The process of working with character strengths involves three main steps, the Aware-Explore-Apply model, which involves strengths-spotting, combating strengths blindness and cultivating strengths awareness (aware); exploring strengths overuse, underuse, use across contexts, past use with problems and successes (explore); and taking action with goal-setting, deploying and aligning strengths, and valuing strengths in others (apply) (Niemiec, 2013).
    Niemiec, R. M. (2013). VIA character strengths: Research and practice (The first 10 years). In H. H. Knoop & A. Delle Fave (Eds.), Well-being and cultures: Perspectives on positive psychology (pp. 11-30). New York: Springer.
  • The connection between character strengths and positive emotions was explored and the strengths most strongly loading as emotional strengths were zest, hope, bravery, humor, love, and social intelligence (Gusewell & Ruch, 2012).
    Güsewell, A., & Ruch, W. (2012). Are only emotional strengths emotional? Character strengths and disposition to positive emotions. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-being, 4 (2), 218–239.
  • A review of character strength interventions found small to moderate effect sizes while hypothesizing reasons why strength interventions work, such as factors relating to strengths use, need satisfaction, goal-setting, and goal-striving (Quinlan, Swain, & Vella-Brodrick, 2012).
    Quinlan, D., Swain, N., & Vella-Brodrick, D. A. (2012). Character strengths interventions: Building on what we know for improved outcomes. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13 (6), 1145-1163.
  • In examining the packages of positive psychology interventions (offering 2, 4, or 6 exercises, or placebo), it was found that those offered 2 or 4 had the largest decreases in depression (Schueller & Parks, 2012). Exercises included using signature strengths in new ways, savoring, three good things, life summary, gratitude visit, and active-constructive responding.
    Schueller, S.M., & Parks, A.C. (2012). Disseminating self-help: Positive psychology exercises in an online trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 14 (3), e63.
  • In a randomized controlled study of interventions involving “strengths development” and “talent identification,” only the latter group was linked with a fixed mindset in which individuals believe their personal attributes are not amenable to change efforts (Louis, 2011).
    Louis, M. C. (2011). Strengths interventions in higher education: The effect of identification versus development approaches on implicit self-theory. Journal of Positive Psychology, 6 (3), 204-215.
  • In a study of gender differences and character strengths, women scored highest on the strengths of honesty, kindness, love, gratitude, and fairness, while men scored highest on honesty, hope, humor, gratitude, and curiosity. Life satisfaction was predicted by zest, gratitude, hope, appreciation of beauty/excellence, and love for women, while life satisfaction was predicted by creativity, perspective, fairness, and humor for men (Brdar, Anic, & Rijavec, 2011). Another study of gender differences found women to be higher on gratitude than men (Mann, 2014).
    1. Brdar, I., Anic, P., & Rijavec, M. (2011). Character strengths and well-being: Are there gender differences? The Human Pursuit of Well-Being, 145-156.
    2. Mann, N. B. (2014). Signature strengths: Gender differences in creativity, persistence, prudence, gratitude, and hope. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 74(7-B(E)), np.
  • In a study of attachment orientations among 394 individuals, most character strengths were negatively associated with both avoidant and attachment orientations, and the strength of hope was a mediator for both orientations (Lavy & Littman-Ovadia, 2011).
    Lavy, S., & Littman-Ovadia, H. (2011). All you need is love? Strengths mediate the negative association between attachment orientations and life satisfaction. Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 1050-1055.
  • Strengths can be cultivated through enhanced awareness, accessibility, and effort and are highly contextualized phenomena that emerge in patterns and alongside goals, interests, and values (Biswas-Diener, Kashdan, & Minhas, 2011).
    Biswas-Diener, R., Kashdan, T. B., & Minhas, G. (2011). A dynamic approach to psychological strength development and intervention. Journal of Positive Psychology, 6 (2), 106-118.
  • In a sample of over 83,000 people taking the VIA-Survey, researchers did not find evidence for a distinct state of superior functioning (e.g., enlightenment or wisdom) indicating that character strengths are dimensional (not categorical like DSM mental disorders; McGrath, Rashid, Park, & Peterson, 2010).
    1. McGrath, R. E., Rashid, T., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2010). Is optimal functioning a distinct state? The Humanistic Psychologist, 38, 159-169.
    2. Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2010). Does it matter where we live? The urban psychology of character strengths. American Psychologist, 65 (6), 535–547.
  • In examining participants’ preferences for positive psychology exercises, those who benefited most from using signature strengths in new ways had a strong preference for the gratitude visit intervention (Schueller, 2010). Participants had a preference for matched exercises than unmatched exercises and subsequently reported higher well-being; no differences were found in terms of adherence (Schueller, 2011). Another study found that two groups (a group who selected their preference for an intervention and a group randomly assigned) had equally positive increases in happiness and decreases in depression; in addition to gratitude exercises, another intervention was using signature strengths in a new way (Silberman, 2007).
    1. Schueller, S. M. (2010). Preferences for positive psychology exercises. Journal of Positive Psychology, 5 (3), 192-203.
    2. Schueller, S. M. (2011). To each his own well-being boosting intervention: Using preference to guide selection. Journal of Positive Psychology, 6 (4), 300-313.
    3.  Silberman, J. (2007). Positive intervention self-selection: Developing models of what works for whom. International Coaching Psychology Review, 2 (1), 70-77.
  • Character strengths are moderately heritable (Steger, Hicks, Kashdan, Krueger, & Bouchard, 2007).
    Steger, M. F., Hicks, B., Kashdan, T. B., Krueger, R. F., & Bouchard, T. J., Jr. (2007). Genetic and environmental influences on the positive traits of the Values in Action classification, and biometric covariance with normal personality. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 524-539.
  • Character may occupy the most central role in the field of positive psychology. Pleasure, flow, and other positive experiences are enabled by good character (Park & Peterson, 2009a; Peterson, Ruch, Beerman, Park, & Seligman, 2007).
    1. Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2009a). Character strengths: Research and practice. Journal of College and Character, 10 (4), np.
    2. Peterson, C., Ruch, W., Beerman, U., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2007). Strengths of character, orientations to happiness, and life satisfaction. Journal of Positive Psychology, 2, 149-156.
  • Twin studies show that love, humor, modesty, and teamwork are most influenced by environmental factors (Steger et al., 2007).
    Steger, M. F., Hicks, B., Kashdan, T. B., Krueger, R. F., & Bouchard, T. J., Jr. (2007). Genetic and environmental influences on the positive traits of the Values in Action classification, and biometric covariance with normal personality. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 524-539.
  • The most prevalent character strengths in a UK sample were open-mindedness, fairness, curiosity, love of learning, and kindness (Linley et al., 2007).
    Linley, P. A., Maltby, J., Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Harrington, S., Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2007). Character strengths in the United Kingdom: The VIA inventory of strengths. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 341-351.
  • Young adults (ages 18-24) from the US and Japan showed similar distributions of VIA strengths – higher strengths of kindness, humor, and love and lower strengths in prudence, modesty, and self-regulation; in addition females reported more kindness and love while males reported more bravery and creativity (Shimai, Otake, Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2006).
    Shimai, S., Otake, K., Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Convergence of character strengths in American and Japanese young adults. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 311-322.
  • The most prevalent character strengths in human beings in descending order are kindness, fairness, honesty, gratitude, judgment (McGrath, 2014; Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2006).
    Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Character strengths in fifty-four nations and the fifty US states. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1 (3), 118-129.
  • The least prevalent character strengths in human beings are prudence, modesty, and self-regulation (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2006).
    Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Character strengths in fifty-four nations and the fifty US states. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1 (3), 118-129.
  • Character strengths are universal (Dahlsgaard, Peterson, & Seligman, 2005; Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2006). High rates of agreement, desirability, and development of VIA character strengths were found in remote cultures (Kenyan Maasai & Inughuit in Northern Greenland) and the U.S. (U. of Illinois students; Biswas-Diener, 2006). VIA character strengths are remarkably similar across 54 nations and across the United States (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2006).
    1. Dahlsgaard, K., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Shared virtue: The convergence of valued human strengths across culture and history. Review of General Psychology, 9 (3), 203–213.
    2. Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Character strengths in fifty-four nations and the fifty US states.   Journal of Positive Psychology, 1 (3), 118-129.
    3.Biswas-Diener, R. (2006). From the equator to the North Pole: A study of character strengths. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 293–310.
  • There are 24 strengths of character that meet 8, 9, or all 10 of the following criteria: fulfilling, morally valued, do not diminish others; nonfelicitous opposites; traitlike; distinctiveness; paragons; prodigies; selective absence; institutions/rituals (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).
    Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • A number of factor analyses have been conducted on the adult VIA Survey. Most studies find four or five factors to emerge. By far, the largest study using over 650,000 subjects (McGrath, 2013) found four factors. For citations, see Brdar and Kashdan (2010); Choubisa & Singh (2011); Khumalo, Wissing, & Temane, (2008); Littman-Ovadia & Lavy (2012); Macdonald, Bore, and Munro (2008); McGrath (2013); Peterson et al. (2008); Ruch et al. (2010); Shryack, Steger, Krueger, and Kallie (2010); Singh and Choubisa (2010), Azanedoa et al. (2014), Seibel, DeSousa, & Koller, (2015).
    1.  McGrath, R. E. (2013). Scale- and item-level factor analysis of the VIA Inventory of Strengths. Assessment. DOI: 10.1177/1073191112450612.
    2.  Brdar, I., & Kashdan, T.B. (2010). Character strengths and well-being in Croatia: An empirical investigation of structure and correlates. Journal of Research in Personality, 44, 151-154.
    3. Choubisa, R., & Singh, K. (2011). Psychometrics encompassing VIA-IS: A comparative cross cultural analytical and referential reading. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, 37 (2), 325-332.
    4.  Khumalo, I. P., Wissing, M. P., & Temane, Q. M. (2008). Exploring the validity of the Values-In-Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS) in an African context.  Journal of Psychology in Africa, 18 (1), 133-142.
    5.  Littman-Ovadia, H., & Lavy, S. (2012). Differential ratings and associations with well-being of character strengths in two communities. Health Sociology Review, 1378-1410.
    6.  Macdonald, C., Bore, M., & Munro, D. (2008). Values in action scale and the big 5: An empirical indication of structure. Journal of Research in Personality, 42 (4), 787-799.
    7. Peterson, C., Park, N., Pole, N., D’Andrea, W., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2008). Strengths of character and posttraumatic growth. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 21, 214-217.
    8.  Ruch, W., Proyer, R. T., Harzer, C., Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2010). Values in action inventory of strengths (VIA-IS): Adaptation and validation of the German version and the development of a peer-rating form. Journal of Individual Differences, 31 (3), 138-149.
    9. Seibel, B. L., DeSousa, D., & Koller, S. H. (2015). Brazilian adaptation and factor structure of the 240-item VIA Inventory of Strengths Scale. Psico-USF, Bragança Paulista, 20(3), 371-383.
    10.  Shryack, J., Steger, M.F., Krueger, R.F. & Kallie, C.S. (2010). The Structure of virtue: An empirical investigation of the dimensionality of the virtues in action inventory of strengths. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 714-719.
    11. Singh, K., & Choubisa, R. (2010). Empirical validation of values in action-inventory of strengths (VIA-IS) in Indian context. National Academy of Psychology India Psychological Studies, 55 (2), 151-158.
    12. Azañedoa, C.M., Fernández-Abascalb, E. G., & Barracac, J. (2014). Character strengths in Spain: Validation of the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS) in a Spanish sample. Clínica y Salud, 25, 123-130.
  • Additional structural, cross-cultural, and psychometric analyses have been conducted in the VIA Survey, for other examples, see Duan, Li, & Zhang (2011); Haslam, Bain, & Neal (2004); Littman-Ovadia & Lavy (2012), Wen-jie et al. (2011).
    1. Duan, W., Li, T., & Zhang, Y. (2011). Values in Action Inventory of Strengths and its review of process in applied research.  Chinese Journal of Clinical Psychology, 19 (2), 205-208.
    2. Haslam, N., Bain, P., & Neal, D. (2004). The implicit structure of positive characteristics. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30 (4), 529-541.
    3. Littman-Ovadia, H., & Lavy, S. (2012). Character strengths in Israel: Hebrew adaptation of the VIA Inventory of Strengths. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 28 (1), 41-50.
    4. Wen-jie, D., Yu, B., Yong-hong, Z., & Xiao-qing, T. (2011). Values in Action Inventory of Strengths in college students: Reliability and validity. Chinese Journal of Clinical Psychology, 19 (4), 473-475.
  • Properties of the VIA Youth Survey (for ages 10-17) are discussed in several articles, for examples, see Park & Peterson (2005); Park & Peterson (2006b); Ruch et al. (2014); Toner et al. (2012); van Eeden et al. (2008).
    1. Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). The Values in Action Inventory of Character Strengths for Youth. In K. A. Moore & L. H. Lippman (Eds.), What do children need to flourish? Conceptualizing and measuring indicators of positive development (pp. 13-23). New York: Springer.
    2.Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2006b). Moral competence and character strengths among adolescents: The development and validation of the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths for Youth. Journal of Adolescence, 29, 891-905. 3. Ruch, W., Weber, M., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2014). Character strengths in children and adolescents: Reliability and initial validity of the German values in action inventory of strengths for youth (German VIA-Youth). European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 30 (1), 57-64. DOI: 10.1027/1015-5759/a001160
    4.Toner, E., Haslam, N., Robinson, J., & Williams, P. (2012). Character strengths and wellbeing in adolescence: Structure and correlates of the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths for Children.  Personality and Individual Differences, 52 (5), 637-642.
    5. van Eeden, C., Wissing, M. P., Dreyer, J., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2008). Validation of the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths for Youth (VIA-Youth) among South African learners.  Journal of Psychology in Africa, 18 (1), 143-154.
  • There are two studies that examine relationships between the VIA Survey and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). One study (Choong & Britton, 2007) found nine significant covariations such as creativity-intuition; fairness-sensing; gratitude extroversion; perseverance-judging. The other study (Munro, Chilimanzi, & O'Neill) found several findings including extraverts scoring stronger on curiosity and humor compared to introverts and appreciation of beauty excellence scorers being higher on intuition.
    1. Choong, S., & Britton, K. (2007). Character strengths and type: Exploration of covariation. International Coaching Psychology Review, 2 (1), 9-23.
    2. Munro, N., Chilimanzi, Y., & O’Neill, V. (2012). Character strengths and psychological type in university peer educators.  South African Journal of Psychology, 42 (1), 12-24.

Updated May 2021