The Field of Positive Psychology and the VIA Survey
Positive psychology has many definitions but they all tend to boil down to the “science of well-being.” Formally, positive psychology is a branch of the enormous field of psychology that investigates what is going right with people. Put simply, positive psychology is the scientific study of human strengths and virtues (Sheldon & King, 2001). In his APA Presidential address, Martin Seligman called for the field of psychology to complement its rigorous research in psychopathology and what’s wrong with people to balance itself with a study of at least three areas: positive subjective experiences, positive traits (character strengths), and positive institutions.
Recently, Seligman (2011) articulated five core areas of well-being that each are pursued for their own sake and defined and measured independently of one another. He summarized them with the acronym PERMA:
• P = Positive emotions
• E = Engagement
• R = Relationships (positive)
• M = Meaning
• A = Achievement/Accomplishment
He went on to theorize that the 24 character strengths are the pathways to each. He noted:
In well-being theory, these twenty-four strengths underpin all five elements, not just engagement: deploying your highest strengths leads to more positive emotion, to more meaning, to more accomplishment, and to better relationships (p. 24).
The free VIA Survey measures these 24 character strengths in individuals. Click here to view the full list of character strengths (The VIA Classification). By completing the 240 question strengths assessment (VIA Survey), individuals can learn their unique character strengths- what is best about them. The VIA Institute also offers a variety of resources to help individuals begin using their character strengths to live more fulfilling lives.
Click here to complete the VIA Survey and discover your unique character strengths.
Seligman, M. E. P. (1999). The president’s address. American Psychologist, 54, 559–562.
Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish. New York: Free Press.
Sheldon, K., & King, L. (2001). Why positive psychology is necessary. American Psychologist, 56(3),