Top 10 New Research Findings on Character Strengths
How new research on social media, mindfulness, and work can help you.
Each year there are over 100 new studies in the science of character. At the VIA Institute on Character, in addition to catalyzing studies and supporting researchers, I gather the studies, distill key themes and results, and share that with the world. Therefore, rather than 50 people learning about the research findings in one article, millions have the chance to learn about findings from hundreds of articles. We hope this helps people apply their strengths in a better, more fine-tuned way and that that helps our world.
Below are snippets of the results of 10 studies, all released in 2019, across different domains of life and different topic areas. For summaries of other 2019 studies and over 600 studies of character strengths, go to the research section of the VIA Institute website.
1. In a study that is of high interest to practitioners, the 24 character strengths were examined across five dimensions of well-being (PERMA). The study used self-reports and informant-reports to gather top correlations between strengths and well-being areas. While many significant connections were discovered, the top two strengths for each area were positive emotions (zest, hope), engagement (creativity, curiosity), positive relationships (love, kindness), meaning (curiosity, perspective), and accomplishment (perspective, perseverance) (Wagner et al., 2019).
Might the particular character strengths noted be potential pathways for you to develop greater meaning in life, more positive emotions, or stronger positive relationships?
2. Another study looked at happiness/well-being and to what degree character strengths were stable over time or malleable to change. This longitudinal study used two samples and different instruments. The results showed that 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 that the strongest relationships with happiness were zest, hope, curiosity, and love. The strengths that seemed most malleable were humor, spirituality, and prudence (Gander et al., 2019).
Do you find that your top and bottom character strengths are consistent when you take and re-take the VIA Survey?
3. This study compared MBSP (mindfulness-based strengths practice), MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction), and a control group and found that while the two mindfulness-based programs boosted well-being and job satisfaction, and reduced stress significantly more than controls, MBSP was most effective for boosting task performance. To make this finding even stronger, task performance was measured using supervisor ratings of employees (Pang & Ruch, 2019).
Do you bring mindfulness approaches to enhance your strengths use? And, do you use your character strengths to help you practice meditation and mindful living?
4. This paper offers central arguments, concepts, and theory for the existence of character strengths overuse, underuse, and optimal use. It 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).
How good are you at examining your problems and stressors through the lens of overuse/underuse? In other words, what character strengths were you overusing and underusing in your latest struggle?
5. This is the first study to investigate Twitter responses and character strengths patterns. It examined over 3.9 million tweets from 4,423 people who had taken the VIA Survey and found that Twitter characterizes and predicts character strengths (Pang et al., 2019).
What character strengths are you using when you post a tweet? Which character strengths are you underusing or overusing?
6. In a Facebook study, this content analysis examined the transcendence character strengths across 4,000 Facebook posts in response to Mark Zuckerberg’s pledge to give away 99 percent of his Facebook shares to charity. Appreciation of beauty (the moral beauty of others) was the most prevalent strength and correlated with hope, other-oriented hope, and spirituality (Zhao & Dale, 2019).
When you look at Facebook posts and pictures, use character strengths as a lens for spotting the strengths in the post. Does this say something about the person’s actual character strengths?
7. A study in the hospital setting found that among physicians, fairness, honesty, judgment, and love were important for physician’s engagement at work and their psychological well-being while too much judgment/critical thinking and kindness had negative interactions with their accomplishment (Huber et al., 2019).
What are the highest character strengths of your physician? Have you ever pointed that out to him or her?
8. This study explored the mechanisms for developing character strengths in schools and examined 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).
What character strengths does your school do a good job at teaching? Do you believe your child’s highest strengths are supported and encouraged at school?
9. A new study of parents and adolescents showed that strengths-based parenting had a significant positive effect on academic achievement and predicted engagement and perseverance of teens (Waters, Loton, & Jach, 2019).
How might you be a strengths-based parent? Do you regularly point out, teach, and dialogue about character strengths with your children? In your family?
10. A study found that counselors scored at significantly higher levels on 13 of the 24 strengths, especially love of learning, perspective, and social intelligence. Meanwhile, the strengths of prudence, hope, love, perspective, and zest predicted meaningful work for counselors and prudence, hope, forgiveness, honesty, and self-regulation predicted burnout (Allan, Owens, & Douglass, 2019).
Which of your character strengths do you most easily bring forth at your job? Which of your character strengths do you wish you could use more often at work?
Allan, B. A., Owens, R. L., & Douglass, R. P. (2019). Character strengths in counselors: Relations with meaningful work and burnout. Journal of Career Assessment, 27(1), 151-166. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1069072717748666
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
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
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
Niemiec, R. M. (2019). Finding the golden mean: the overuse, underuse, and optimal use of character strengths. Counselling Psychology Quarterly. DOI: 10.1080/09515070.2019.1617674Education
Pang, D., & Ruch, W. (2019). 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
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
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
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.
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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2018.09.042