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1) Strength

2) Alternative 'theories'

3) Critical assessment

3.1) Lack of self-criticism
3.2) Alternative explanation
3.3) Overall critism

3.4) Other Issues
3.5) Wild Claims
3.6) Synthesis of findings

4) Key papers

4.1) Media for strength

5) References

6) Appendix

Strength Approaches - Theory and Practice

This Wiki page has three parts.

In Part One we outline Park, Seligman & Peterson’s (2004) Theory of 24 Character Strengths. We then discuss the concepts and measures they have introduced, and provide examples of how this theory has been applied in diversity of settings. Finally, we provide critical assessment and analysis of the theory, as well as discussing its limitations and shortcomings.

Part Two describes few different Strength-Approaches, which have been inspired by Seligman & Peterson’s work, but which expand the original theory and the way we think about strengths.

Part Three consists of critical appraisal of the entire strengths literature and research as a whole.

Carolyn Foster, a speaker in Google Tech Talk, shared the knowledge on strength approach in different ideas, thories and systems. Researches from positive psychology, brain science, and resilience research were introduced. To know more Strength appraoch, please
to watch!

PART ONE - Theory of Character Strengths

(1) Background - Why are Strengths important?

Much of traditional and contemporary psychology is concerned with people’s weaknesses, or “negative psychology” such as depression, anxiety etc. Positive psychology focuses on optimal human functioning. Rather than emphasising the negative, positive psychology promotes the study and understanding of people at their best. It posits that the good life can be achieved by identifying our strengths and fostering them, rather than repairing weaknesses.

(2) History and origins of the Theory

(2.1.) Conneciton with Other Areas of Psychology:
Positive psychology was first proposed and subsequently widely researched in the twentieth century and may be traced back to Gordon Allport (1949), who was the first psychologist to propose the personality theory, and work on the goal of “promoting character and virtue;” aided by the development of strength approach. Seligman (2004) built on Allport’s work, believing that a person’s character is central to investigating human behaviour, and thus he further explored the ideas of 24 strengths and virtue.

Strength research itself has a broad spectrum of theoretical traditions. An abundance of theories from different paradigms such as psychodynamic therapy or behavior therapy have been presented and a lot of empirical testing has been done on this subject. One of the most empirically driven theories is that of Seligman (2004), who built on Allport’s work. Seligman believes a person’s character to be a central concept to investigating human behaviour. Therefore, he has created VIA, an independent institute that researches character and character strengths.

Given their focus on improving human functioning and well-being and developing the best in individuals, Positive Psychology is strongly related to Humanistic Psychology and Coaching Psychology. In Humanistic Psychology prompted person-centre approach. For example, Maslow argued that human experiences are mixture of the needs of fulfillment and needs for themselves. To develop a positive attitudes, the meaningful of experiences in external reality is important. People can find their ways (strength) to obtain cooperative social fulfillment or meaning connecting to external world,which can lead to self-actualization.

(2.2) Connection with Religions, and different cultural and philosophical traditions:

There is a vast convergence across time, place and tradition regarding certain strengths and core virtues. These strengths and virtues were established and applied long before positive psychology. Many religious texts place much emphasis on these strengths and virtues and there are obvious connections between the psychology of religion and the strength based approach to positive psychology. Such strengths of love, kindness, forgiveness, mercy, humility, gratitude and spirituality are ubiquitous to most if not all religions. The teachings of Confucius (551-479BC) focused much on education and leadership. Other virtues of Confucianism are benevolence, justice, etiquette, wisdom and truthfulness, some of which are included in the VIA list of character strengths. In Athenian times (427-374BC) Plato proposes that wisdom, courage, self restraint and justice are the 4 key virtues of the ideal city. This notion was continued by Aristotle, who added virtues of generosity, wit, friendliness, truthfulness, magnificence and greatness of the soul. Moving forward in time, Acquinas disregarded Aristotle’s additions to Plato’s virtues. Instead he added faith, hope and love, as proposed by St. Paul. Also, in Buddhist and Hindu traditions courage, justice, temperance, humanity, wisdom and transcendence are all explicitly named or thematically implied. These strengths can therefore be considered the essence of religiosity and spirituality.

Theory of 24 Character Strengths has, amongst others, arised through Seligman and his colleagues' research of writings of major religious and philosophical traditions ranging from Aristotle, Plato to those of the Buddha and Lao Tse and also Benjamin Franklin. They discovered the ubiquity of six virtues: wisdom and knowledge, courage, love and humanity, justice, temperance, spirituality and transcendence; which have been approved by different religious and cultural traditions.

(3) Virtues and Strengths:

Two concepts are central to Theory of Character Strengths: Virtues and Strengths (explained below) as classified by Virtues in Action Classification of Character Strengths (VIA Classification). This list has been created by thorough review and research of world literature in diverse fields, such as philosophy, psychiatry, youth development, organizational studies, psychology, and even Klingon Code from the Star Trek television series Biswas-Diener (2006). These sources have been used in order to determine qualities that would be valued across cultures and times. The research was also supported by focus groups, self report questionnaires, content analysis of diaries or journals in which people documented positive traits, structured interviews, case studies and informal reports. Currently much research on Strength is being done by VIA Institute – a non-profit research organization created in 1998 by Dr. Neal H. Mayerson and Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, with help of Dr. Christopher Peterson (VIA Institute website is the best resource on Strengths research and theory, and Positive Psychology as a whole).

"The Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues represents the most ambitious project

self-consciously undertaken from the perspective of positive psychology." (Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson, 2004, p.411)

Virtues: This extensive research has lead to identification of 6 Virtues that are claimed to be valued by moral philosophers and religious thinkers around the world, and to be supported by historical surveys. Furthermore, Peterson & Park (2004) believe that these six virtues are "grounded in biology through an evolutionary process that selected for these predispositions toward moral excellence as means of solving the important tasks necessary for survival of the species"

Character Strengths: The same research identified numerous human qualities, and among these, 24 were selected as Character Strengths - processes or mechanisms that define and lead to the six Virtues. It has been proposed that each Virtue can be displayed through few distinct and independent Strengths (e.g. Humanity through Love, Kindness, or Social intelligence), thus resulting in the following VIA Classification:

Wisdom and Knowledge
  • creativity,
  • curiosity,
  • judgement
  • love of learning
  • perspective and wisdom
  • citizenship/teamwork
  • fairness
  • leadership
  • bravery
  • persistence
  • authenticity
  • zest
  • forgiveness/mercy
  • humility/modesty
  • prudence
  • self-regulation
  • love
  • kindness
  • social intelligence
  • appreciation for beauty
  • gratitude
  • hope
  • humour
  • spirituality

Criteria for 24 Character Strengths: The 24 Character Strengths selected have been claimed to fulfil 10 criteria set forward by Seligman & Peterson (2004):

  • Ubiquitous – widely recognised across cultures
  • Fulfilling – they promote satisfaction and happiness
  • Not something that diminishes others
  • Morally valued
  • Measurable
  • Distinctiveness
  • Trait like – generally stable over time
  • Absent in some people
  • Observable in child prodigies
  • Not a combination of other VIA strengths
  • A deliberate target of societal practices in order to cultivate it

Nature of Character Strengths: when we think about a particular human strength, we generally consider it as a capacity or potential for effective action. Similarly, Character Strengths are referred to as sets of positive traits or abilities which provide consistent performance on a given activity. They are also said to be the best qualities we have as human beings (VIA Institute). Finally, Strengths are dimensional traits - individuals have a degree of most if not all of these strengths, rather than a discrete set of few.

Stability vs Change: Strengths are considered to be partially innate, even hereditary to some extent, although Strengths such as Love, Humour, Modesty, and Teamwork are most influenced by environmental factors, as shown by twin studies (Steger et al., 2007). They also tend to be stable over time, although they can change due to certain life events and illnesses rather dramatically. For example, people can develop new strengths or increase pre existing strengths (Appreciation of beauty, Bravery, Fairness, Curiosity, Humour and Kindness) following certain serious, life threatening illnesses such as recovery from heart disease and cancer. (Linley & Joseph, 2004). Similarly, Americans who took the VIA-IS after 9/11 attacks scored higher on 10 Strengths (Gratitude, Hope, Kindness, Leadership, Love, Spirituality, and Teamwork) than those who took the survey before the attacks. 10 months after 9/11 the scores remained higher, althouhg to a lesser extent. (Peterson & Seligman, 2003).

Gender and age differences: Expression of certain Character Strengths was also shown to depend on age and gender. In a large scale UK cross-sectional study by Seligman and and colleagues, women typically scored higher on all strengths (with the exception of humour) than men. There was also small but significant difference for age with older individuals scoring higher on Wisdom and Knowledge; Curiosity was also correlated with age (.16). However, in both cases, the top 4 signature strengths, notably Fairness, Curiosity, Open-mindedness and Love of Learning, were always highest regardless of age and gender. These results are consistent with a USA sample.

'Top' or ‘Signature Strengths'- the 3 to 5 Strengths most strongly presented in a given individual and which are also believed to be unique to each individual . They were proposed to be mostly associated with the first of the 10 criteria for all Strengths outlined above (i.e. "Fulfilling - they provide satisfaction and happiness"). Based on this, the following sub-criteria for Top Strengths have been proposed (Peterson & Seligman, 2002; available here):

Potential Criteria for Top Strengths

1. A sense of ownership and authenticity (“this is the real me”) vis-à-vis the strength.
2. A feeling of excitement while displaying it, particularly at first.
3. A rapid learning curve as themes are attached to the strength and practiced.
4. Continuous learning of new ways to enact the strength.
5. A sense of yearning to act in accordance with the strength.
6. A feeling of inevitability in using the strength, as if one cannot be stopped or
dissuaded from its display.
7.The discovery of the strength as owned in an epiphany.
8. Invigoration rather than exhaustion in using the strength.
9. The creation and pursuit of fundamenta
10. Intrinsic motivation to use the strength.

Usefulness of discovering one's Top Strengths. According to the VIA Institute, 'knowing our personal character strengths is a powerful knowledge. It lets us understand and nurture what’s right with us versus our faults. Moreover, they are said to powerfully affect our decisions, actions and preferences, whether one is aware of it or not. Finally, expressing them in work settings, or in communities and close relationships should bring greatest benefits and satisfactions. Therefore, discovering Top Strengths, and then using them ('playing to them', living according to them) should be a priority, as this can lead to optimised functioning, life-satisfaction and reaching of one's full potential. Click Here to discover your top Strengths.

(4) Measurements of Strengths:

There are several measures of Character Strengths (For a detailed explanation of Virtues, Strengths & VIA Assessment Strategies look at this short document)

  • VIA-IS - Values in Action Inventory of Strengths is survey developed by Peterson and Seligman (2004). It is said to be a positive counter-part for DSM in that it is a psychological assessment tool which classifies positive character strengths in individuals. There are several different versions of the VIA: The adult questionnaire is composed of 240 items with a 5 point Likert scale response. The VIA-IS is being translated into many different languages.
  • VIA Youth - VIA-IS adopted for youth 10-17 years of age.
  • VIA-RTO - 9-item VIA-Rising-to-the-Occasion Inventory - short (10min)measure of adult Character Strengths that are arguably phasic - rise and fall depending on the situation(e.g. bravery), as opposed to tonic (e.g. kindness). Analyses strength use in strength-relevant settings, also using a 5-point Likert-style scale.
  • VIA-SI - VIA Structured Interview - individual interview format for adults adopted from the VIA-RTO, 25-minute-long, analyses phasic and tonic Strengths. Follow-up questions about a strength that seems to be common ask for: (i) “name” the strength; (ii) is it really who you are?; and (iii) would others agree with this?
  • Content analysis - Character Strengths can be also determined using content analysis of open-ended written or spoken material – method developed by Nansook Park.

Validity and reliability of the measures:

There is some disagreement amongst researchers as to the internal validity of the above measures. VIA Institute claims it is satisfactory or even high for some Strengths (all have α above 0.70;) but other studies not - e.g. in a study of councillors in Canada, Russell found that 5 of the strengths had low internal validity (α below .70): Capacity to Love and Be loved (α = .61); Citizenship (α = .67); Honesty (α = .68); Gratitude (α = .68) and Love of learning (α = .69) (see this VIA Institute website).

(5) Excercises to develop one's Strengths:

Exercise #1: Using Signature Strengths in a New Way.

(1) Complete VIA questionnaire to find out about your Top or Signature Strengths.
(2) Choose on which of the Top 5 Strengths you will concentrate.
(3) Use these one top strengths in a new way each day, for a week.

Exercise #2: Paragons

This exercise will help you discover ways in which others have used your strengths, which you could then use yourself. After finding your own Top Strengths, try finding out persons, who would be the best role models or exemplars of these strengths. Think of the ways you could improve your life and actions by following their steps.

Exercise #3
The “Defining Moments” Exercise

A VIA-creted exercises that builts on the 'you at your best' exercise and helps you explore further your strengths and learn from your past about your future posibilities. There are four steps:
(1) Think of or tell a story about a defining moment in your life (e.g. winning a comptetition).
(2) List the Character Strengths involved in this story
(3) Reflect on how your character strength of bravery/courage was used in order to employ the other strengths
(4) Reflect on how this story has shaped your identity and impaced the present day?


Support for the Theory derives from two appraoaches: one one hand, Positive Psychologists carry out studies to test internal and external validity of the measures and concepts developed (above and below). On the other hand, much support comes from studies in which researchers (or professionals) have applied the theory and found positive outcomes - the ultimate evidence in the field.

(A) Support for the concepts and theory of Character Strengths:

a) Strengths are ubiquitous: The validity of Seligman's 24-strengths approach has been tested in a study by Biswas-Diener (2006). In his research, he took a sample from three very different populations from across the globe: the Maasai from East Africa, the Inughuit from Northern Greenland and students from the University of Illinois in America. They were asked to rate the 24 strengths that Seligman proposed on their desirability and virtue. All of the strengths, except for forgiveness, were excepted as strengths and deemed as important characterists by all three of the populations. The only exception to this was gratitude, which was not deemed a character strength by 60% of the Pennsylvania student population. All in all this test indicates that the 24 strengths proposed by Seligman are universal strengths that describe desirable qualities in very distinct populations.

b) They are represented in many communities and populations. Although there are some demographic differences (as outlined above), the distribution of strengths is relatively equal across different samples. For example, The relative distribution of all 24 strengths (Except for Religiousness more present in the South), are similar across USA (Seligman, et al,).

c) Top Strengths: Benefits of the exercise Using Signature Strengths in a New Way have been studied in a randomized study on a large adult sample (n=577). Results showed that participants who were in the experimental group (and thus completed this exercise) were significantly happier and less depressed than those in the control group (placebo exercise). The effects lasted still 6-months later (although weakened with time) (Seligman et al, 2005).

d) Use of One Strengths: In a longitudinal study on the Use of Strengths (n=207), Wood et al (2010) found that using one strengths leads to improved well-weing, less stress, greaer vitality, higher sself-eseem and positive affect at 3 and 6 months follow-up.

There is much support for a notion that appropriate choice of self-concordant goal leads to well-being. Strength approach may be effective, because use of one's Strengths is supporting pursuit of such self-concordant goals (that are personally valued). This in turn is increasing chances that one will attain the set goal, which is also associated with greater well-being and satisfaction. Additionally, Strength use may play an important role in 'affective learning loop', where fulfilment due to initial goal attainment is motivating individuals to sustain efforts and to further goal progress) (Linley et al, 2010).

(B) Further Support for Character Strength Theory from Applied Settings:

Below are examples of how Seligman & Peterson's theory (24 strengths measured using VIA) has been successfully applied in different settings:

a) Clinical & Health Applications of the 24 Strenght Approach

Positive Psychology in gerenal, as well as Seligman & Peteron's Theory of Ch.Strengths have been sometimes criticised for being over-focused on positive aspects of human life, thus potentially ignoring clinical populations (see more <here>). Nevertheless, this approach has found some supporters among clinical psychologists as well, whom incorporated it into their practice. For example, counsellors believe that use of their Strengths makes them more ethical practitioners and more likely to experience flow during their therapeutic sessions (Russell, on VIA Institute website).

A rather curious example from a psychotherapist using VIA (more examples here)
She would use VIA as a diagnostic and planning tool with 80% of her clients, and set it as homework after each of the first three sessions. She felt that VIA gives her and the client 'hope and direction', and helps depressed people name their strengths, which they otherwise cannot do. The therapist would then generate ideas for how to use client's Top Strengths (eg. use Kindness to interpret client's emotional reactions'). In case of a depressed, unemployed men with Curiosity and Creativity as Top Strengths, she encouraged him to search for more creative jobs than before, and she helped him develop questions he could ask to his father (since he was curious!).
BUT! She also discovered that he was *shy* (weaknesses), and set him exercises to address it and there is no mention of the client succeeding at finding the job. Therapist'a (revealing) statement: 'Without the VIA, I would never have identified him as a curious person. He seemed quite antisocial. But he did overcome his weakness, i.e. generated the conversation with the receptionist, I had been evesdropping from the top of the stairs.'

Additionally, much of correlation data suggests that some strengths are associated with better clinical and health outcomes, which has led to suggestions that development of such Strengths could cause better outcomes. Among those with psychological disorder Life Satisfaction is associated with Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence, & Love of Learning (Peterson, Park, & Seligman, 2006). Hope, zest, and leadership were substantially related to fewer problems with anxiety and depression (Park & Peterson, 2008a). Hope, kindness, social intelligence, self-regulation, and perspective buffer against the negative effects of stress and trauma (Park & Peterson, 2006c; Park & Peterson, 2009a). Also, strengths most strongly associated with happiness are: Love, Hope, Curiosity, Gratitude, and Zest. *Interestingly*, traumatic events can have positive impact on Strengths, as the more events reported by an individual, the higher are their scores on character strength (except for Gratitude, Hope, and Love; Peterson et al., 2008).

Among those with physical disorder, Life Satisfaction is associated with Bravery, Kindness and Humor. Hope was a significant predictor of medication adherence among asthma patients between 8 and 12 (Berg, Rapoff, Snyder, & Belmont, 2007).

b) Educational & Developmental

  • General Wellbeing: Building on Strengths is the 2nd most cited goal of youth development (Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2003). There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that strength development can have implications in positive youth development. The VIA Youth allows us to identify strengths in young people. In a study by Park (2004), strengths of Hope, Love, Zest, Self Regulation, Social Intelligence and Wisdom were shown to be positively associated with Life Satisfaction. For this reason, youth programmes have worked to try and increase these strengths via intervention schemes.
  • Management of behavioural problems: Alcohol and substance misuse/dependence is becoming an increasing problem amongst adolescence and it has been indicated that certain strengths, especially Prudence, Self Regulation and Perspective can work to prevent these problems. Additionally, they can buffer against stress, trauma, violence and depression (Benson et al., 1998; Seligman, 2002; Peterson & Park, 2004). For example, increasing optimism in young people decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as reducing anti social behaviour (MacLeod? & Moore, 2000). Many schools nowadays encourage community and voluntary work and some even have it a necessary part of the curriculum. This builds strengths of Love, Kindness and Citizenship. Studies have shown that this has a very positive effect on adolescents by reducing teenage pregnancy, delinquency, failure and dropout rates (Allen et al., 1997; Larson, 2000).
  • Improvement of Educational Outcomes: Additionally, informing students about their strengths (and especially key strengths) and encouraging their use in everyday life has lead to significant increase in self-reflection, direction and self-confidence (Park, Peterson & Seligman, 2004), and to higher academic self-efficacy, life satisfaction, GPA and fewer absences. Development of Love, Kindness and Citizenship also improves achievement and attitudes to education (in Peterson, 2009)
  • Parenting is also implicated in this strengths approach. It has been documented that Self Regulation in parents has an even stronger effect on the happiness of their children rather than their own.

  • Strength Gym: Proctor & Eades promote Personal, Social and Health Education with 24 strength approach, in order to build school children's confidence, self-esteem, and motivation on learning. More information here.

c) Organizational and coaching

It is needless to say that certain strengths can be of great value in the workplace, and this approach is being vigorously promoted and applied in organizational settings (which has lead to some equally strong critique). For example, Strengths of Leadership would complement management roles and more broadly, Teamwork/Citizenship would be desirable across a wide range of occupations which involve working with others. With regards to the VIA, Findings by Peterson and Park have highlighted that Love, Kindness and Social Intelligence (the humanity strengths) are more specifically associated with work satisfaction in occupations which involve working with people (e.g. teachers, medical practitioners) Work satisfaction is also associated with strengths of Gratitude, Hope, Zest, Curiosity. (Park, Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Some of the methods of identifying and working on strengths include team building exercises, employing strengths coaches, special workshops/retreats, fairness and incentives. There are several ways in which we can reap the rewards of our strengths within our organization.

Interesting study with surprising findings (click here to see the poster):
Ruch et al (2004) compared Strengths (measured by VIA-IS) of Employees (n=84) and Executives (n=184).
Results: (1) Executives score significantly higher on: Bravery, Leadership & Open-Mindedness, Employees on: Appreciation of Beauty & Kindness. (2) High Executives score higher on Love of Learning vs. Middle/Low Executives. Middle Executives score higher on Perspective than Low Executives. (3) Level of managerial position is positively correlated with: Love of Learning, Open-Mindedness, Curiosity & Bravery; and negatively correlated with: Modesty, Spirituality and Appreciation of Beauty. *Striking Finding* (4) Authors correlated Strength Scores with Work and Life Satisfaction. Many Strengths of Executives tended to positively correlate with both of these measures. However, Strengths of Employees tended to correlate only with Life and not Work Satisfaction! Conclusion: There are some key differences in sets of Character Strengths of Executives (of different levels) and Employers. More importantly, Employees may not use their strengths in a way that improves their Work Satisfaction

(7) Character Strength Theory - Limitations and Gaps btw Theory and Evidence:

  • As the 24 character strengths were derived from religious and philosophical texts, and not from empirical evidence or scientific discourse, it could be argued that opinion has shaped research here rather than research shaping opinion.
  • The mechanisms by which Strengths bring about positive outcomes are still unknown and poorly researched (Linley et al, 2010).
  • Differential Impact of Strengths (and not just Top Strengths): Most of the 24 srengths DO NOT have significant association with all postive outcomes and studies yield contradictory results. According to one study, only these 6 are associated with well-being.: Zest, Hope, Love, Love of learning, Judgment, and Perseverance. In contarst, acording to another study, strengths with weakest association with life satisfaction are: Modesty, Creativity, Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence, Judgment/open-mindedness, and Love of learning (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004). Moreover, different studies conclude that different set of Strengths correlate with different life and work aspects (see above). First of all, how come Love of Learning is strongly associated with well-being but not life-satisfaction? Secondly, is Creativity a weakness, if it weakly associated with life satisfaction? Thirdly, which Strengths should one develop? Should we still encourage people to develop and use their Top Strengths, if neither of them is shown to relate to satisfaction or happiness? Or maybe the to-be-developed strengths be chosen not based on VIA Classification, but based on people's priorities and goals (eg. wish to become an Executive or to develop buffer for depression)?
  • Contradictory Nature of Strengths: There seems to be a problem with definition and the criteria for what defines a “strength”, as some concepts are arguably contradictory: eg. Strengths are trait-like, possibly even hereditary and stable over time BUT can easily and drastically change due to life events. Moreover, if our Top Strengths are stable and even hereditary, why then, would we invest so much time and effort studying how to build or work on the Top or new Strengths?
  • Additionally, some empirical studies show that development of some Strengths can lead to ‘degradation’ of other Strengths. Such tradeoffs were observed between Heart Strengths (gratitude and love) and Head Strengths (perseverance and self-regulation) or between Individually-focused Strengths (curiosity and creativity) and Other-focused Strengths (teamwork and fairness) (Peteron & Park, 2006). Therefore, should we still encourage people to develop some Strengths knowing about potential consequences?

Criteria for Strengths and measurements:

  • Not all Strengths fulfil all of the 10 criteria for strengths proposed by Seligman and Peterson (see above), most fulfill only 8 or 9 (VIA Institute Website)
  • One of the 10 criterias states that Strengths are distinct from each other. However, analysis show that some Strengths are highly inter-related (Wood et al, 2010)
  • Numerous factor analysis of the 24 strengths have been conducted, and each of them has found a different number of factors or sub-categories into which these 24 Strengths should be organized. None of them supports the original 6 factor (virtue) division proposed by Seligman & Peterson (2004) (Macdonald et al, 2007; and see VIA Institute Website for more summaries).
  • External Validy of measures - little work has been done so far to test what VIA-IS is really maesuring. It is claimed to mesure possession of particular strengths, but one could argue that it is measuring only how often one thinks or beliefs she is using particular strength. Additionally, no attempts are made to disucss (using qualitative interviews, for example), the extent to which individuals agree with the results of their VIA surveys.
Further Criticism:

For a powerful (and conspiracy-like) critique of Positive Psychology, and especially Strength Theory and its applications (particularly in the workplace), read McDonald? & O'Callaghan (2008, click here). As a taster, they argue that the theory of Strengths "represents a new system of surveillance that risks creating its unintended opposite: disillusionment and alienation in much the same way that the DSM has achieved by marginalizing those whose characters do not conform to society’s norms". Moreover, it is a new regulatory tool for selection, control, and discrimination in the workplace, just as personality measures have been used in the past. Authors further argue that it could influence organizational culture by manipulating employee identity to control and coerce their workforce into more productive modes of functioning. Finally, they believe that Strength-Approaches support neo-liberal move to treat social domain as economic domain, to promote self-governance and thus serves as tool in implementation of current workplace policy and welfare reform in a number of Western nations, especially the USA and UK.


‘…we intend these (24) s
trengths as neither exclusive nor exhaustive" Peterson and Seligman (2004, p.13)

"Hence, the door is very much open for further revisions to this classification" (Linley & Harrington, 2006, p.87)


..............................PART TWO - Alternative Strength-Approaches.................................

(1) Introduction to Other Strength-Approaches:

Linley & Harrington (2006) emphasised, that there is a demarcation between the academic and applied approaches to Strengths:
(1) Academic: classifications of strengths was derived from reviews of existing literatures and the application of inclusion and exclusion criteria (e.g. the 6 criteria above). Advantages: systematic, ordered, integrative theory. Limitations: too restrictive.
(2) Applied: diverse classifications of strengths based on interviews with different groups (professionals, students etc). Advantages: clear applied value within a particular field. Limitations: lack of an integrative conceptual framework.

(2) Examples of Different Approaches of Strengths:

Example of a more Practical Approach:

Hodges & Clifton (in press) think of strengths as discovered and then developed, inner talents. This line of thinking postulates that the talents can be identified mostly through praxis: spontaneous reactions, yearnings, rapid learning, satisfaction, and most importantly - observation of oneself and incresed self-awareness (Buckingham & Clifton, 2001). They consider surveys such as Gallup's StrengthFinder? (see below) just as tool assisting in initial phases of self-discovery. Similarly, Carolyn Foster (2008, YT talk at the beginig) suggests to "find the strength yourself: look at what you do spontaneously, look at what you learn easily, look at what put you in at state of relaxation, comfort with things just kicking for you and also look at what you to do long more off. Those point towards your talent which you can develop into strengths."

Example of a more Inclusive Approach:
Wood’s et al (2010) argued that Seligman & Peterson’s definitions are too restrictive, impose too much interpretation onto people and are limited in their sole focus on psychological strengths. Instead, they proposed a more broader definition of strengths, as ‘‘characteristics that allow a person to perform well or at their personal best” (Wood et al, 2010, p.1.). Similarly, Clifton & Anderson (2002, p.8) defined strength as “the ability to provide consistent, near-perfect performance in a given activity”. Wood et al (2010) further argued, that a) individuals should interpret meaning of strengths on their own and b) the definition should include not only psychological, but also personal and physical strengths. This view has been recognized by Peterson & Park (2006, 1151), who stated: "Depending on the particular organization, strengths not in our classification deserve attention as well: for example, achievement and competition in sports and business, compassion and tolerance in religious groups, and duty and service in organizations infused by Confucian values".

In this part we will therefore introduce other Strength-approaches, which have been inspired by work of Seligman & Peterson, and thus all share a common belief that people posses Srengths that should be indentified, developed and used. However, different approaches developed nevertheless very different definitions, measurements and strength concepts, depending on the field they work in, and populations they affect. Below table provides an outline of some of the different Strength systems (adopted from B.C Community Consultation Paper, 2010):

Field of workStrengths Identified in Past ResearchSource
  • Positive relations with peers, other community members,
    household members, and people at school
Hanson & Kin (2007)
  • Positive school environment, Academic success,
    Home-school interconnectedness
Feinberg et al. 2007, Kelly & Caputo, 2005
  • Leadership, Humility, Gratitude, Forgiveness
    (Traditional virtues)
Proctor, Linley, & Maltby, 2009
  • Optimism, Hope, Self-esteem
Carjaval. 1998


  • Communication skills of parents
Thomas, Holzer, & Wall, 2004
Applicable to all domains
  • Creativity, Curiosity, Critical Thinking (Wisdom & Knowledge)
  • Bravery, Perseverance, Honesty, Zest (Courage)
  • Capacity to love and be loved, Kindness (Humanity)
  • Teamwork, Fairness, Leadership (Justice)
  • Forgiveness, Humility, Self-regulation (Temperance)
  • Gratitude, Appreciation of beauty, Hope, Spirituality (Transcendence)
Seligman & Peterson (2004)
  • 40 Developmental Assets of Adolescents (12-18)
The Search Institute

(3) Examples of Applications of other Strength-Approaches:

Below are examples of other Strenght-Approaches that have originated within different settings and for different purposes:

a) Clinical & Health

Strength-based approaches have gained a lot of attention over the years and hold tremendous potential for building resilience in patients. Usually, a motivational interview is conducted with the patient, followed by strength-based approaches specifically modeled to fit with the patient. This approach has shown promise for successfully modifying end behaviors and helping patients develop strengths and assets to promote healthy development. Especially in treating adolescents, it has been found that focusing on helping them discover and improve on their strengths is a very helpful way to help them cope with emerging difficulties (Chung, Burke & Goodman, 2010). It is also assumed that humans have the ability to change and grow with their situation (Early & GlenMaye?, 2000), and using an approach focusing on strengths in a clinical setting should help a client deal with their issues

b) Educational & Developmental

  • System of 3 Strength Groups for youth gang prevention: (British Columbia (B.C) Community Consultation Paper, 2010). By examining “Social Strength”, “Personal Strength” and “Strengths of belief”, a plan for preventing and helping the youth to get back on track may be developed. Youths may be encouraged to participate in volunteer work, joining sport, interest or religious groups build up “social strength”. “Strengths of belief” is important in the good will of others, which protect against involvement in violence. The Search Institute Model (website) is a model, which consists of 40 “Developmental Assets”, that facilitate positive youth development, thus is helpful for strength-based interventions. In addition, higher scores on the Search Institute Measures are significantly correlated with various positive outcomes for youth, and thus reducing levels of violence.
  • Theory of 8 Character Strengths - an impressive framework for improvement of Excellence and Ethics in Schools, by Davidson et al. (2005). They came up with the following set of 8 Character Strengths: (1) critical thinker (2) diligent and capable performer (3) socially and emotionally skilled person (4) ethical thinker (5) respectful and responsible moral agent (6) self-disciplined person (7) democratic citizen (8) spiritual person engaged in crafting a life of noble purpose. In contrast to Seligman & Peterson's (2004), they believe that all of these strengths should be developed simultaneously within school environment. Method used to discover Strengths: they studied 24 different, award-winning schools trying to identify key characteristics of students. Their findings, as well as multitude of pomising practices to foster these strengths were described in a 227-page report (it is long, but have a look to see how complex and developed this framework is).

c) Occupational and Coaching?

  • Luthans (2002) describes four key strengths that contribute greatly to your personal wellbeing in what is called Psychological Capital (Psy Cap). These strengths (hope, optimism, self-efficacy and resilience) contribute greatly to what is called the human capital (what you know), the social capital (who you know) and the actual and future self. The concept of Psy Cap is relatively new, but preliminary evidence for the validity of an intervention within this paradigm has been set (Luthans et al., 2006). It has been shown that, after teaching employees of a company how to improve their Psy Cap, productivity in the company rises, thereby increasing profits.
  • Super (1980) suggested that awareness of personal values on interests and abilities can help people discover their strength. Matching the interests and abilities with characteristic job are more likely to increase job satisfaction and productivity (Holland, 1997). Hence, people can use their unique strengths to enhance well-being life (Roberitscheck and Woodson, 2002).

  • The Gallup Organization implemented the web based “Strengthsfinder” (website) to help individuals discover their particular talents or strengths across a wide range of occupations (teachers, managers, salespeople etc). Unlike the VIA, this study identifies 34 talents which are areas for greatest potential of strength building. There are 3 steps in strength based development: identification of strengths, integration into self reflection and behavioural change (Clifton & Harter 2003). Follow-up surveys have reported consistent changes in behaviour. The application of the strengths based approach is linked to employee engagement which positively influences profit, turnover, safety and customer satisfaction (Harter, Schmidt & Hayes, 2002). On a Gallup follow-up study investigated participant behaviours following strength based development, 59% of participants strongly agreed that identifying their strengths had led them to better decision making. In addition, 60% agreed they had become more productive in their work and 63% agreed that learning about their strengths had made them more confident. Among warehouse workers, strength based intervention led to a 6% increase in per person productivity (Connelly, 2002).

    • In Gallup's book, "Go put your strengths to work", it is suggested that people should identify their own strength separate from the inventory. And how to use those to manage around their weakness. Put your strength to overcome the weakness. - Carolyn Foster (2008)

d) Social work

Strength-approach within social work has as a goal “to discover and embellish, explore and exploit clients' strengths and resources in the service of assisting them to achieve their goals, realize their dreams, and shed the irons of their own inhibitions and misgivings, and society's domination" (Saleebey, 2010, p.1). However, a different set of strengths has been identified within this approach, with the key being: (1) what people learned about themselves and about the worlds, (2) cultural and personal stories and love, (3) pride of other people, (4) open expression of feelings, (5) capacity to be independent and gain self-control, (6) to think abstractly. For more examples click here.

e) Sports and Physical Performance

Wood (2010) has further argued, that strength-approach should also be applicable to physical and sporting talents, as well as creativity and intelligence. Robles (2008) used elite athletes to consider the role of a strengths approach in sport, and suggests that strengths are used and focused on at this level to achieve the high standards required.

.................................PART THREE - Critical assessment of Strength-Approaches......................

(1) Lack of self-criticism within the field

As outlined above, there is a multitude of different Strength approaches. The authors and scholars of theory/framework "A" tend to mention work done within framework "B", treating it almost always as a supportive evidence, for focus on strengths is indeed valid, and thus their own research, conclusions and suggestions for theory applications are appropriate. This is especially the case with non-academic strength approaches (eg. Davidson et al, 2005). Problem: the scholars rarely discuss the implications of the existence of so many rival or parallel systems and do not attempt to address key differences in definitions or methodology used. Moreover, there is no attempt to synthesis the finding into one, coherent theory or system, instead, each author seem to aim for developing a 'new' framework without making thorough research on what others have already accomplished before.

(2) Alternative explanations for success of Strenght-approach:

Some authors have proposed that much of the benefitcial effect of Strength Approach could be explained by:

a) Placebo effect - mere concentration on positive aspects of individuals' lives and not their strengths per se, results in positive outcomes - if people themselves and their environment are concentrating on strengths (positive things) only, and ignore weaknesses - no wonder people are happier and perform better!

b) Hawthorne's effect - mere participation in a study, specifically - being given more attention and time by the experimenters or interviewers explains better performance and well-being (Eden, 1986)

c) Pygmalion effect - self-fulliling prophecy - expectancies or belief about intervention outcomes, and not the intervention itself can bring about the change. That is, belief that concentration on one's strengths will lead to happier life and better perfomance may result in people acting in a way to confirm these beliefs. Such Pygmalion effect has been observed when subordinates perform better when expected to do so by their superiors - findings from both education and management (in Hodges & Clifton, in Press).

d) "Writing Cures" - Strength approaches rely on introspection and often involve writing or contemplating one's activities. Visit this years Wiki on Writing Cures to learn more.

e) Demand characteristics - meaures used to assess Strengths (e.g. VIA-IS) are thoroughly transparent, and therefore individuals taking them may fake their responses in order to, for example, make them more socially desirable (VIA Institute).

(3) Limitations of Strength-only focus:

a) Limitations of Strength-only focus:

Strength based approaches can encourage the notion of fixed traits and this may paradoxically undermine optimal performance (i.e. promoting stereotypes) and people may be more reluctant to try new things and develop new abilities. This leads to avoiding working on weaknesses. If a child struggles with maths, it makes no sense to disregard this and focus on what the child is good at. Not only would a child perform poorer in the educational setting, but this could have a knock on effect in later life. There are several other disadvantages of ignoring weaknesses in educational settings:
  • Focusing on only positive or good things (i.e. strengths) in young people can have opposite effect to the intended, because: a) it prevents fuller understanding of emotional issues in youth, and b) could lead to some developmental problems due to “excessively high levels of positive emotions” and even mania (Daleiden et al, 1966; Vasey, and Williams, 1996; Eisenberg et al., 1996).
  • Additionally, research within States of Mind model has shown that psychological well-being is not determined by presence of positive and absence of negative emotions, cognitions, experiences etc, but by a balance between them.
  • let us not overlook the troubled among us (Peterson, 2006 p. 46). Emergence and increasing popularity of Positvie Psychology (and coaching psychology) with it’s focus on strengths has lead to some criticism: researchers fear that overemphasis on positive aspects of life will distract clinicians from working with populations that are suffering from psychological disorders.

Therefore, to be most beneficial, strength-based assessments and approaches should examine both positive and negative emotions, cognitions and characteristics, and thus be combined with more traditional deficit-based approach (eg. How I Feel scale, Walden, Harris, & Catron, 2003) .

b) Advantages of addressing weaknesses:

Studies show that there is no significant difference in terms of satisfaction and happiness between people who concentrate, develop and use their two strengths, or one strength and one relataive weakness. For example, in a recent study Rust et al (2009) asked 76 participants to complete VIA-IS and then divided them randomly into two groups: (A) The two-Strength group was asked to choose two strengths from their Top 5 Ch.Strengths (VIA-IS) and focus on them for the next 12 weeks (each week they had to write about how they used these Ch.Strengths and how they plan on using them next week). The second group (B) 1-strength and 1 weakness group had to the same, but they concentrated on 1 Top Strengths and 1 of their worst Strengths. There was no significant difference between the two groups in study outcomes (e.g. Life Satisfaction scale). Larsen & Griffin (1985) go even futher, as they argue that “philosophically there may be some wisdom to addressing both strengths and weaknesses even though empirically there appears to be no advantage, as least in terms of life satisfaction.

Additionally, people want to know about their strengths: According to a global Gallup Poll, people from different countries believe that they will improve more if they concentrate on their weaknesses, rather than strenghts. This belief is strongest among Chinese and Japanese samples (76%), moderate among French (71%), British and Canadian samples (62%) and weakest in the USA ( 59%) (in Hodges & Clifton, In press). Similarly, other individuals tested using VIA, such as students, tend to insist on knowing their weaknesses as well.

(4) Other issues:

a) Cultural & gender differences

Some Strengths may be considered as culturally dependent. There is a strong cultural influence over what Strengths are valued in a given individual, as well as in specific settings, and how to develop or exhibit them. Indeed, even the 24 strengths are only ubiquitous - valued in almost every culture in the world, but not universal. For example, some of the strengths, which may be endorsed by the contemporary Americans, were not on the list, such as good looks, wealth, competitiveness and self-esteem (2004). Biswas-Diener (2006) conducted a large study with members of different communities: the Inughuit - an isolated group in Greenland, the Maasai - tribal pastoralists living in Western Kenya and American University Students. They asked participants series of questions about VIA classifications in their society, for example, they wanted to know how important particular Virtue is, whether they would like their children to develop them, how their communities would encourage or support Virtue development and who in their communities possessed specific Virtues. They have found that these three populations shared many of the beliefs about Virtues, but nevertheless showed some cultural differences, especially in relation between Ch.Strengths to age and gender (see results of this paper).

Similarly, Peterson & Park (2006, p.1151) recognized, that "In an era of multinational corporations, recognition that different cultural groups bring different strengths of character to work is imperative." For example, American workers value individual achievements and independence, while Japanese workers value interdepence, and regard work as social duty. These differences are crucial and question whether same set of strengths should be promoted in all cultures and countries.

b) Methodological problems:

Experimental reserach on strength suffers from many methodological limitations:

a) Over-reliance on self-reports - they are useful for understanding the thought processes and complex cognitions, but may not be objective.

b) Little or no use of behavioural measurements to test if particular strengths are really being used, and therefore we cannot be sure if our manipulation is really affecting our finidngs, or wether something else is at play (Wood et al, 2010).

c) Poor control of confounds: little control over experimental bias, demand characteristics, Hawthorne (mere-participation) effect.

d) Over-reliance on corellational studies - Difficult to determine causality or whether use of strengths outside of experimental conditions will lead to similar effects (better performance, increased happiness) (Wood, 2010)

e) limited number of longitudinal studies: To date, most of the published research on strengths within positive psychology is mostly cross sectional. This is a major limitation in that we cannot determine the overall long term effect of applying strength based approaches in different settings. We need to address exactly which outcomes, if any, follow the different types of interventions. The only way to do this is by conducting longitudinal studies. It is not surprising that little longitudinal research in this field has been carried out as it is a relatively new concept, comparative to other branches of psychology. The results of several cross-sectional studies using the strengths approach certainly warrants further research.

f) Poor outcome measures - the measurement used to distinguish whether or not the Strengths approach has worked are also subjective and personal reports - there is no agreed definition of what would be considered an improvement in someone who has used a Strengths approach in a given field.

An example of an experimental paradigm that could address some of the above issues:

Randomly assign participants (Ps) to 3 conditions: (1) Real VIA-IS Test- Participants learn their strength according to VIA and work on them; (2) Random VIA Test Ps complete the VIA test, but the result are random and therefore Ps work on a random set of strengths; (3) Other Strength test – Ps complete another valid strength test and work on the strengths identified. Measures: baseline and two post-test (immediate and after 4 months) assessment of Life Satisfaction and Well-being, Happiness and Depression. Such an experiment would allow to identify whether any particular Strength Approach is better than the others, while condition #2 would also allow to eliminate a possibility that effects seen are due to any of the confounds listed above.

5) Examples of Wild Uncritical Claims:

As outlined and described throughout this Wiki, some of theoretical assumptions and definition have poor or no empirical support. To mention some of the more important claims: First of all, numerous factor analysis revealed that the 24 Character Strengths are not organized into 6 Virtues, as proposed by Seligman & Peterson (2004). Secondly, Strengths are not independent, but are related (Wood, 2010). Additionaly, statements claiming that the 6 Virtues have survival value, or that the Top Strengths are indeed the best of us as individuals are not being supported by evidence, but are based on intuition and presumption.

Crucially, there is no evidence that development of one's Top Strengths would have significantly better result than developing any otherStrength. Quite the contrary, Rust et al (2009) showed that focusing on the 'weaknesses' (i.e. Strengths with lowest score on VIA-IS) could have equally benefitial impact. Furthermore, while some Strengths are corelated with positive outcomes and states (in health, clinical and work settings), there are no experimental studies that developing them would lead to them, especially in the long run.

6) Synthesis of Findings:

When thinking about strengths, we should make a distinction between academic theories of strengths and their applications (Seligman & Peterson, 2004), and different strength-approaches used in diverse settings. Findings form both of these fields, however, make it clear that focus or even emphasis of strengths (and other positive characteristics, skills, qualities etc) is valid and benefitial for individuals: it increases well-being, life and job satisfaction, improves health outcomes, productivity, etc. Nevertheless, more research is needed to determine whether any particuar system is better than the others. Moreover, research shows that strength-approach may be most benefitial if complemented by addressing weaknesses as well. At all times, however, we have to be carefull when interpreting the findings, as they suffer from key limitations.


Seligman et al (2005). Positive Psych Progress - Empirical Validation of Interventions
This article summarizes recent findings in the field of positive psychology that are relevant to strength interventions. A study is described that compares a strength intervention with other exercises from the Positive Psychology framework in reducing symptoms of depression. Patients in all treatment conditions had significant improvements from base-line at a one-month follow up, but the immediate effects of other Positive Psychology treatment conditions proved more powerful.

Wood et al (2010). Using personal and psychological strengths leads to increases in well-being over time: A longitudinal study and the development of the strengths use questionnaire. Personality and Individual Differences. 50(1), 15-19
One of the few published longitudinal studies exploring the USE of strengths, not only possessing them. Also, provedes a great overview of different theories and definitions of strengths, as well as criticism.

Steen, T.A., Kachorek, L.V., & Peterson, Ch.. (2003). Character Strengths Among Youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 32(1) 5-16.

This study was carried out on 459 high school students in the USA. It was conducted using focus groups discussions about character strengths included in the VIA. It includes a discussion of the implications of the strengths approach. It is very insightful and highlights the importance of peer groups as a force of encouraging and sustaining character strengths.

Hodges, T.D. & Clifton. D.O. Strengths-Based Development In Practice. In: Linley, P.A., & Joseph, S. (In press). International handbook of positive psychology in practice: From research to application. New Jersey: Wiley and Sons. Available at:

A good overview of successful interventions and experiments on Strength-approaches (not 24 Strengths).

1) Media for Strength

5) References - Papers really worth looking at marked with " * "

Allport, G.W., 1937. Personality: A psychological interpretation. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

*Biswas-Diener, R. (2006). From the Equator to the North Pole: A Study of Character Strengths. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 3, 293-310.

*Bhatt, G., Tweed, R., & Dooley, S. (2010). Strength-based Approaches to Youth Gang Prevention in B.C. Community Consultation Paper. Victim Services and Crime Prevention, Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General (pp. 1-31). National Crime Prevention Centre, Public Safety Canada.

Chung, R.J., Burke, P.J., Goodman, E., (2010). Firm foundations: strength-based approaches to adolescent chronic disease. Current opinion in pediatrics, 22, 4, 389-397.

Clifton, D.O., & Anderson, E. (2002). StrengthsQuest?: Discover and develop your strengths in academics, career, and beyond. Washington DC: The Gallup Organization

Clifton, D.O., & Harter, J.K. (2003). Investing in Strengths. Available online at:

Connelly, J. (2002) All Together Now. The Gallup Management Journal, 2(1), 13-18

Daleiden, E. L., Vasey, M. W., & Williams, L. L. (1996). Assessing children’s state of mind: A multitrait, multimethod study. Psychological Assessment, 8, 125-134.

Early & GlenMaye? (2000). Valuing Families: Socia Work Practice with Families from a Strengths Perspective. Social Work, vol 45. 118-130

Eden (1986) "OD and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Boosting Productivity by Raising Expectations" Available at:

Eisenberg, N., Fabes, R. A., Guthrie, I. K., Murphy, B., Maszk, P., Holgren, R., & Suh, K. (1996). The relations of regulation and emotionality to problem behavior in elementary school children. Development and Psychopathology, 8, 141-162

Govindji & linley (2007) Strengths use, self-concordance and well-being: Implications for Strengths Coaching and Coaching Psychologists, 143 / 31

Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., & Hayes, T. L. (2002). Business-unit level relationship between employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and business outcomes: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 268-279

*Hodges, T.D. & Clifton. D.O. Strengths-Based Development In Practice. In: Linley, P.A., & Joseph, S. (In press). International handbook of positive psychology in practice: From research to application. New Jersey: Wiley and Sons. Available at:

Jimerson, Sh., Sharkey, J., Nyborg, V. & Furlong, M. (2004). Strength-Based Assessment and School Psychology: A Summary and Synthesis. The California School Psychologist, 9, 9-19

*Larsen & Griffin (1985) Focusing on either two strengths only, or on one strength and one weakness, has same effect and may be even better?

*Linley, P.A. & Harrington, S (2006). Playing to your Strengths. The Psychologist, 9, 86-89

Linley, P.A. & Joseph, S. (2004). Positive Changes Following Trauma and Adversity. A review. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 17, 14-21

Linley, P.A., & Joseph, S. (In press). International handbook of positive psychology in practice: From research to application. New Jersey: Wiley and Sons. Available online at:

Linley, A. P., Nielsen, K. M., Wood, A. M., Gillett, R., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Using Signature Strengths in Pursuit of Goals: Effects on Goal Progress, Need Satisfaction, and Well-being, and Implications for Coaching Psychologists. Available online on:

Macdonald, C., Bore, M. & Munro, D. (2007). Values in action scale and the Big 5: An empirical indication of structure. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 787–799

*McDonald?, M. & O'Callaghan, J. (2008). Positive Psychology: A Foucauldian Critique. The Humanistic Psychologist ,36 (2), 127 – 142

MacLeod? A.K. & Moore, R. (2000) Positive Thinking Revisited. Positive Cognitions, Wellbeing and Mental Health. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy,7, 1-10

Mutrie, N., & Faulkner, G. (2004). Physical activity: Positive psychology in motion. In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.), Positive psychology in practice (pp. 146–164). New York: Wiley.

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

Peterson, T.D. (2009). Stemming the Tide of Law Student Depression: What Law Schools Need to Learn from the Science of Positive Psychology, Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law & Ethics, 9(2), Available online at:

*Peterson, Ch. & Park, N. (2006). Character strengths in organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27, 1149–1154

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2003). Character strengths before and after September 11. Psychological Science, 14, 381-384.

Rankin, P. (2006) Exploring and Describing the Strength/Empowerment Perspective in Social Work. Lectures delivered for the course on Therapeutic Interventions at the Inter University Center, Dubrovnik, Croatia. 18 - 24 June 2006

Robitscheck, C., & Woodson, S. (2000, August). The inherent connection of vocational psychology and positive psychology. In N.A. Fouad(Chair), Building the next stage of career development: New theoretical innovations. Symposium presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.

Robles, A.M. (2008). The perceptions of team-based play, team cohesion, relational capacity, and group dynamics: Voices of Elite Athletes. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, CA.

*Ruch, W. Furrer, G. & Huwyler, D. (2002). Character Strengths of Executives and Employees. Poster: International Positive Psychology Summit

Russel, D.A. (in perss) An Investigation of the Character Strengths of Professional Counselors in Canada. Accepted for publication in Edification: The journal of the Society for Christian Psychology

*Rust, T., Diessner, R., & Reade, L. (2009).Character Strengths Only or Strengths and Relative Weaknesses? A Preliminary Study. The Journal of Psychology, 143(5), 465–476

Seligman, M.E.P. (2004). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise Your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

*Seligman, M.E.P., Steen, T.A., Park, N. & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology Progress, empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 5, 410-421.

Steen, T.A., Kachorek, L.V., & Peterson, Ch.. (2003). Character Strengths Among Youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 32(1) 5-16.

Steger,M.F., Kashdan,T.B., Oishi,S. (2008). Being good by doing good: Daily eudaimonic activity and well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(1) 22-42

Super, D.E. (1980). A life-span, life-space approach to career development. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 13, 282-298

Walden, T. A., Harris, V., & Catron, T. (2003). How I feel: A self-report of emotional arousal and regulation for children. Psychological Assessment,15 (3), 399-412.

*Wood, A.M., Linley, P.A., Maltby, J., Kashdan, T.B. & Hurling, R. (2010).Using personal and psychological strengths leads to increases in well-being over time: a longitudinal study and the development of the strengths use questionnaire. Personality and individual differences, 50, 1, 15-19.