What Are the 24 Character Strengths?

Everyone has varying degrees of these positive traits

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

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Good character is something people often look for in others, whether they are employees, students, friends, or potential dating partners. Character strengths are the positive qualities that suggest good character.

Put another way, character strengths are those traits that show people's assets rather than their faults and issues. According to positive psychology, good character is exemplified by 24 widely valued character strengths. These are organized under six broad virtues.

History of the 24 Character Strengths

These 24 character strengths were first identified by Martin Seligman, PhD, and Neal Mayerson, PhD. Seligman and Mayerson eventually created the Values In Action (VIA) Institute on Character, which identifies the positive character strengths that all people have (in varying degrees).

Later, a team of 50 social scientists identified six virtues, which are now used to classify the 24 different character strengths.

A character strength inventory can identify both strengths and ways to use these strengths in a person's life. Building on their positive character strengths can help people improve their life and emotional well-being, as well as address the challenges and difficulties they are facing.

It's also important to note that the 24 character strengths that these tools identify have been studied across cultures. Research shows that these strengths are linked to important components of individual and social well-being, even though different strengths predict different outcomes.

For instance, growing evidence indicates that the character strengths of hope, kindness, social intelligence, self-regulation, and perspective all guard against the negative effects of stress and trauma. Meanwhile, successful recovery from physical illnesses is associated with increases in bravery, kindness, and humor.

Classification of Character Strengths

The 24 character strengths are divided into six classes of virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. Here is a closer look at the six virtues and the positive character strengths that are grouped with each of them.

Wisdom

Those who score high in the area of wisdom tend to have cognitive strengths that lead them to acquire knowledge and use it in creative and useful ways. The core wisdom character strengths are:

  • Creativity: Thinking of new ways to do things
  • Curiosity: Taking an interest in a wide variety of topics
  • Open-mindedness: Examining things from all sides; thinking things through
  • Love of learning: Mastering new topics, skills, and bodies of research
  • Perspective: Being able to provide wise counsel to others; looking at the world in a way that makes sense

Courage

People who score high in courage have emotional character strengths that allow them to accomplish goals despite any opposition they face—whether internal or external. The character strengths associated with courage are:

  • Honesty: Speaking the truth; being authentic and genuine
  • Bravery: Embracing challenges, difficulties, or pain; not shrinking from threat
  • Persistence: Finishing things once they are started
  • Zest: Approaching all things in life with energy and excitement

Humanity

Those who score high in humanity have a range of interpersonal character strengths that involve caring for and befriending others. These core character strengths are:

  • Kindness: Doing favors and good deeds
  • Love: Valuing close relations with others
  • Social intelligence: Being aware of other people's motives and feelings

Justice

People who are strong in justice tend to possess civic strengths that underscore the importance of a healthy community. The character strengths in the justice group are:

  • Fairness: Treating all people the same
  • Leadership: Organizing group activities and making sure they happen
  • Teamwork: Working well with others as a group or a team

Temperance

Those who score high in temperance tend to have strengths that protect against the excesses in life. These strengths are:

  • Forgiveness: Forgiving others who have wronged them
  • Modesty: Letting one's successes and accomplishments stand on their own
  • Prudence: Avoiding doing things they might regret; making good choices
  • Self-regulation: Being disciplined; controlling one's appetites and emotions

Transcendence

People who are strong in transcendence tend to forge connections with God, the universe, or religions that provide meaning, purpose, and understanding. The core positive strengths associated with transcendence are:

  • Appreciation of beauty: Noticing and appreciating beauty and excellence in everything
  • Gratitude: Being thankful for the good things; taking time to express thanks
  • Hope: Expecting the best; working to make it happen; believing good things are possible
  • Humor: Making other people smile or laugh; enjoying jokes
  • Religiousness: Having a solid belief about a higher purpose and meaning of life

Positive Character Traits List

The 24 positive character strengths are split into six virtue classes:

  • Wisdom: Creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective
  • Courage: Honesty, bravery, persistence, zest
  • Humanity: Kindness, love, social intelligence
  • Justice: Fairness, leadership, teamwork
  • Temperance: Forgiveness, modesty, prudence, self-regulation
  • Transcendence: Appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humor, religiousness

Assessing Character Strengths

A person's character strengths are determined using the VIA Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS), which is suitable for ages 18 and older, or the VIA Inventory of Strengths—Youth Version (VIA-Youth), which is designed for kids ages 10 to 17. Both character strength tests are available at the VIA's Institute on Character website.

The goal behind the classification of strengths is to focus on what is right about people rather than pathologize what is wrong with them. It's important to point out that people typically have varying degrees of each positive character strength. In other words, they will be high in some strengths, average in some, and low in others.

Researchers caution against assuming that there are single indicators of good character. Instead, a person's character should be viewed across a continuum.

The creators of the VIA character strength assessment tool stress that the traits not included as signature strengths are not necessarily weaknesses, but rather lesser strengths in comparison to the others. Likewise, the top five strengths should not be interpreted in a rigid way because there are usually no meaningful differences in their magnitudes.

Using Character Strengths

One of the main reasons for assessing positive character strengths is to use that information to better understand, identify, and build on a person's strengths. For example, identifying and harnessing character strengths can help young people experience academic success, develop tolerance, delay gratification, and value diversity.

Knowing a person's character strengths provides a lens through which psychologists, educators, and even parents can see not only what makes a person unique, but also understand how to help that person build on those strengths to improve situations or outcomes.

For example, one widely researched strategy involves encouraging people to use their signature strengths in a new way each week. One study found that having adults do this every day led to increases in happiness and decreases in depression for six months.

This study then became the basis for several more studies that used the same methods for older adults, employees, and people with traumatic brain injuries. Another approach involves focusing on a person's lowest-rated character strengths in an attempt to enhance those areas of their lives.

Research has also demonstrated that living through a traumatic event can impact character strengths. In the six months following the 9/11 attacks, the positive character strengths of religiousness, hope, and love were elevated among U.S. respondents but not among European respondents.

A Word From Verywell

Overall, determining and using your character strengths has the potential to improve health and well-being, enhance job performance, and improve academic success. It's also a more positive way of viewing and improving oneself than focusing on shortcomings and faults.

If you're focused on what is good about you and working to use that in your everyday life, it's bound to result in positive changes.

Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon is a published author and a bullying prevention expert.