Classifying and Measuring Strengths of Character

Christopher Peterson and Nansook Park

in The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology

Second edition

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780195187243
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:
Classifying and Measuring Strengths of Character

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What is the good of a person? Answers to this question lie at the heart of traditional moral philosophy as well as contemporary positive psychology. For the past few years, we have been involved in a project describing important strengths of character and ways to measure them. Our research program is sometimes identified as the Values in Action (VIA) project. The VIA classification includes two dozen strengths of character on which our research has focused. Various VIA measures comprise a family of assessment devices that measure individual differences in the strengths in the classification. The present contribution describes the process by which the VIA classification was created, the ways character strengths are measured, and empirical findings: distribution and demographics; correlates and consequences; origins and development; deliberate cultivation; interventions; and structure and trade-offs. Work is ongoing to refine our measures and to use empirical findings to generate theory. Especially important lines of future research include the relationship of character strengths to hard outcome measures, cultural differences and similarities, development, interventions, and the processes by which strengths of character give rise to actual behavior. Our project supports the premise of positive psychology that attention to good character sheds light on what makes life worth living.

Keywords: assessment; character; life satisfaction; virtue; VIA classification

Article.  5442 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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