The VIA Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS) is a 240-item questionnaire that measures 24 key character strengths. These are organised under six broad “virtue” categories: Wisdom and Knowledge (creativity, curiosity, love of learning); Courage (bravery, perseverance, honesty), Humanity (love, kindness, social intelligence), Justice (teamwork, fairness, leadership), Temperance (forgiveness, humility, self -regulation), Transcendence (appreciation of beauty, humour, spirituality). Items are presented in statements, such as “I am a spiritual person”. Participants rate their agreement with each item on a 5-point Likert scale. The participant then receives a list of all 24 strengths, ranked from highest (most like them) to lowest (least like them; Peterson & Seligman, 2004).
The VIA-IS was developed by eminent positive psychology researchers, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, in the US in 2004. It was created as a reaction to the ‘disorder focus’ of the DSM. They hoped to identify what was ‘right’ as well as ‘wrong’ with people by creating a single taxonomy of core character strengths (Niemiec, 2013). To achieve their goal, they worked with a team of researchers, who brainstormed a comprehensive list of positive personal traits. They then consulted a wide range of poetry, literature, pop-culture, and works by moral philosophers and religious thinkers, across history and cultures, to find representations of virtuous traits: everything from Exodus to Pokémon (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). To refine their list to the core character strengths 12 criteria were established, such as ubiquity across cultures and stability of the trait (Lopez & Snyder, 2011). This led to the final classification of 24 strengths arranged under six key virtues. A factor analysis showed a reasonable fit between the apriory model and the data (McGrath, 2014).
The VIA-IS is reasonably psychometrically sound. It was shown to have good concurrent validity with the Wellsprings and Gallup Strengths Finder, and correlated reasonably with self-nominations of strengths (r=0.5) (LaFollette, 2010). Its overall internal consistency was high, α=0.83. Each sub-scale also had satisfactory internal consistency, all α >0.70 (VIA Institute of Character, 2017). Test-retest reliability over four months was also fair, r>0.70 (VIA Institute of Character, 2017). Later research using data from over one million participants from 75 nations has also found good cross-cultural convergence (McGrath, 2014).
The questionnaire is available for free at www.viacharacter.org. There are adult and adolescent versions, both of which have been widely translated. No permission is needed to use the tool – it is intended to be freely available to provide insight for the population. However there are rules about publishing and reproducing materials, which can be found at www.viacharacter.org/www/About-Institute/Guidelines-and-Permission-for-Use. Though it has been used for research (VIA Institute of Character, 2017), it is lengthy and so may be impracticable. It is more suited to clinical work and can be used to identify client strengths; inform therapeutic interventions; bolster self-esteem; build resilience; strengthen the therapeutic relationship; and empower the client (Via Institute of Character, 2017).
LaFollette, A. M. (2010). The Values in Action Inventory of Strengths: A test summary and critique. Graduate Journal of Counselling Psychology, 2(1), 1–8. Retrieved from: http://epublications.marquette.edu/gjcp/vol2/iss1/3
Lopez, S. J. & Snyder, C. R. (Eds.) (2011). The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology (2nd Ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
McGrath, R. E. (2014). Scale-and-item-level factor analyses of the VIA Inventory of Strengths, Assessment, 21(1), 4–14. doi: 10.1177/1073191112450612
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.
Peterson, C. & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
VIA Institute of Character. (2017, March 13th). Retrieved from https://www.viacharacter.org