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VIA Survey of Character Strengths

Updated: Jan 28, 2010

The VIA Survey of Character Strengths is a scientifically validated measurement designed to identify what your top signature strengths are. It was developed from and is based on the multi-year work of Chris Peterson and Marty Seligman. They have identified, with a team of professionals, 24 Virtues and Character Strengths that are found across cultures.

Character Strengths

If you are interested to learn more about how it came about, you can find the culmination of their work in their book called Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, which is sometimes referred to as the un-dsm manual or more accurately it provides a counter balance to the DSM.

VIA Survey: There are three version of the VIA Survey:

The VIA Survey of Character
Age: 18 and above
questions: 240
Time: 30-45 min
Created by: Chris Peterson
More in-depth details about the VIA-IS:

The VIA–IS is a 240–item self–report questionnaire that uses a 5–point Likert scale to measure the degree to which respondents endorse strength–relevant statement about themselves. There are a total of 24 strengths of character in the VIA Classification, and the VIA–IS includes 10 items per strength. Responses are averaged within scales, all of which have satisfactory in- ternal consistency measured by Cronbach’s alpha coefficient (αs > .70) and substantial test–retest correlations (rs =.70). Scale scores are nega- tively skewed (Ms: range from 3.5 to 4.0) but somewhat variable (SDs: range from .5 to .9). Coefficients of variation ranged from 15 to .25, im- plying acceptable variability (Tabachnik & Fidell, 2001). (Park, Peterson, Seligman, 2004, p.608)

The VIA Brief Strengths Test:
Age: 18 and above
Questions: 24
Time: 5 min
Created by: Chris Peterson
(If you can take the VIA Survey of Character instead)

The VIA Youth Survey
Age: 10-17
Questions: 198
Time: 40 min
Created by: Nansook Park
(great for teenagers, their parents, or anyone who cares to build on their strengths)

Taking the Survey: There are two places you can take any of the three variations of the survey.

Option 1: The primary website is the VIA Survey Center, which is made possible thanks to the initiative of the Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation.

Option 2: The other place to go is Marty Seligman‘s Authentic Happiness Test Center

Differences: It is important to note the differences between the two options. The up & down sides are: The VIA Survey Center allows you to order a 17 page more in-depth analyses of your strengths and what they mean. This includes not only the relative ranking of your strength but also you’ll see five graphs that include your raw data scores; your percentile ranking compared to people of similar age, education and gender; your strengths loaded into the virtue categories; and where your signature strengths fall: head vs heart and self vs others. (link) With your raw scores you will be able to know how significant each of your strengths are by themselves and relative to each other, which you cannot know when they are just listed from 1 to 24. The scores for each strength range between 1 (low) and 5 (high). Just think of the big difference it would make if your strength #5 has a score of 4.2 and #6 a score of 4.1 then when strength #6 has a score of 3.0. A small gap between the two might indicate that #6 could also be a signature strength while a big gap indicates the opposite.

This in-depth 17 page analysis costs $40. For students it costs $20 and all you need to do is e-mail from your .edu email to lparker@viacharacter.org and request a student discount. Consultants can buy volume licenses at $35 for 11-20 reports and $30 from 21 or more reports (buy licenses).

This in-depth report is missing from the Authentic Happiness Test Center. On the other hand the Authentic Happiness Test Center provides a number of other questionnaires all in one place, which the VIA Survey Center does not.

My advice, take the VIA Survey of Character at the VIA Survey Center and take all other questionnaires over at the Authentic Happiness Test Center. This way you get the best of both worlds and you can buy the in-depth analysis whenever you want.

(I used to take the VIA Survey in the Authentic Happiness Test Center. Results of the VIA Survey of Character Strengths prior to 10/2008 will be available in the VIA Survey Center as long as you have accounts on both with the same e-mail address. This means you will be able to get the in-depth analyses for those backlogged results.)

Tracking Changes: Since 2007 I have been taking the VIA Survey of Character Strengths yearly roughly around the same time. I have created a spreadsheet that will help me have an overview of all my results from every time I took the VIA. This is especially helpful if you are interested how your strengths have changed or stayed the same over time. You can get the spreadsheet to help you do just this in one of two ways:

  1. Get the spreadsheet (click File->Download as or if you have a Google account click File->Make a copy)
  2. e-mail me at hans[at]optimalfunctioning.com and I’ll send you a copy

The spreadsheet has three sheets:

Data_Entry – This is the only place where you need to enter any information. Enter your results from the VIA Survey of Character Strengths & the other two sheets will be automatically updated.

VIA Survey Spreadsheet - Data_Entry

Top Strengths List – your top down list of your strengths

VIA Survey Spreadsheet - Top_Strengths_List

Indepth – strengths are grouped by the 6 virtues

VIA Survey Spreadsheet - Indepth

Recommended Readings:

  • Strengths of character and well-being (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004) [free full text PDF]

List of Strengths: The 24 Strengths are grouped under 6 Virtues with a brief description and links to the respective chapters from Character Strengths and Virtues. (Peterson & Seligman, 2004)

WISDOM & KNOWLEDGE

Creativity, ingenuity, and originality
Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible. (further reading)

Curiosity and interest in the world*
You are curious about everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery. (further reading)

Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind. (further reading)

Love of learning
You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn. (further reading)

Perspective (wisdom)
Although you may not think of yourself as wise, your friends hold this view of you. They value your perspective on matters and turn to you for advice. You have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and to yourself. (further reading)

COURAGE

Bravery and valor
You are a courageous person who does not shrink from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain. You speak up for what is right even if there is opposition. You act on your convictions. (further reading)

Industry, diligence, and perseverance
You work hard to finish what you start. No matter the project, you “get it out the door” in timely fashion. You do not get distracted when you work, and you take satisfaction in completing tasks. (further reading)

Honesty, authenticity, and genuineness
You are an honest person, not only by speaking the truth but by living your life in a genuine and authentic way. You are down to earth and without pretense; you are a “real” person. (further reading)

Zest, enthusiasm, and energy*
Regardless of what you do, you approach it with excitement and energy. You never do anything halfway or halfheartedly. For you, life is an adventure. (further reading)

HUMANITY

Capacity to love and be loved*
You value close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated. The people to whom you feel most close are the same people who feel most close to you. (further reading)

Kindness and generosity
You are kind and generous to others, and you are never too busy to do a favor. You enjoy doing good deeds for others, even if you do not know them well. (further reading)

Social intelligence
You are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know what to do to fit in to different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease. (further reading)

JUSTICE

Citizenship, teamwork, and loyalty
You excel as a member of a group. You are a loyal and dedicated teammate, you always do your share, and you work hard for the success of your group. (further reading)

Fairness, equity, and justice
Treating all people fairly is one of your abiding principles. You do not let your personal feelings bias your decisions about other people. You give everyone a chance. (further reading)

Leadership
You excel at the tasks of leadership: encouraging a group to get things done and preserving harmony within the group by making everyone feel included. You do a good job organizing activities and seeing that they happen. (further reading)

TEMPERANCE

Forgiveness and mercy
You forgive those who have done you wrong. You always give people a second chance. Your guiding principle is mercy and not revenge. (further reading)

Modesty and humility
You do not seek the spotlight, preferring to let your accomplishments speak for themselves. You do not regard yourself as special, and others recognize and value your modesty. (further reading)

Caution, prudence, and discretion
You are a careful person, and your choices are consistently prudent ones. You do not say or do things that you might later regret. (further reading)

Self-control and self-regulation
You self-consciously regulate what you feel and what you do. You are a disciplined person. You are in control of your appetites and your emotions, not vice versa. (further reading)

TRANSCENDENCE

Appreciation of beauty and excellence
You notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience. (further reading)

Gratitude*
You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. Your friends and family members know that you are a grateful person because you always take the time to express your thanks. 10 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude & Become Happier. (further reading)

Hope, optimism, and future-mindedness*
You expect the best in the future, and you work to achieve it. You believe that the future is something that you can control. (further reading)

Humor and playfulness
You like to laugh and tease. Bringing smiles to other people is important to you. You try to see the light side of all situations. (further reading)

Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith
You have strong and coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. You know where you fit in the larger scheme. Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you. (further reading)

*Hope, Zest, Gratitude, Curiosity, and Love, in their respective order, are the strengths that have been most highly correlated with life satisfaction (Park et al., 2004, p. 610) and for children Zest/Love and Hope were most highly correlated with happiness (Park & Peterson, 2006, p. 333)

Criteria for a Character Strength

1. Ubiquity—is widely recognized across cultures.
2. Fulfilling—contributes to individual fulfillment, satisfaction, and happiness broadly construed.
3. Morally valued—is valued in its own right and not for tangible outcomes it may produce.
4. Does not diminish others—elevates others who witness it, producing admiration, not jealousy.
5. Nonfelicitous opposite—has obvious antonyms that are “negative.”
6. Traitlike—is an individual difference with demonstrable generality and stability.
7. Measurable—has been successfully measured by researchers as an individual difference.
8. Distinctiveness—is not redundant (conceptually or empirically) with other character strengths.
9. Paragons—is strikingly embodied in some individuals.
10. Prodigies—is precociously shown by some children or youth.
11. Selective absence—is missing altogether in some individuals.
12. Institutions—is the deliberate target of societal practices and rituals that try to cultivate it.
(Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004, p. 605)

References:

Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2006). Character strengths and happiness among young children: Content analysis of parental descriptions. J Happiness Stud, 7(3), 323-341.

Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2006). Character strengths and happiness among young children: Content analysis of parental descriptions. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(3), 323-341.

Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Strengths of character and well-being. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23(5), 603-619. [free full text PDF]

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington, DC: Oxford University Press US.


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