May 15, 2020

VIA Inventory of Strengths

Last updated on September 17, 2021
Embrace Autism | VIA Inventory of Strengths | RatingCardA 425
*The clarity of the test is lower due to its (reverse) scoring, which adds complexity to calculating the scores. Our own implemented auto-scoring feature deals with that, however, but this is not available on the official test.

Embrace Autism | VIA Inventory of Strengths | RatingCardB 425

The VIA Inventory of Strengths (VIA or VIA-IS for short) is a self-administered, scientifically validated questionnaire that provides a rank order of an adult’s 24 character strengths and virtues.

Basic information
Statements:96
Duration:10–15 minutes
Type:screening tool psychological assessment
Authors:Christopher Peterson & Martin Seligman
Publishing year:2004
Seminal book:Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification (2004)

Take the test here:

Note that you need to create an account to participate in the free survey. With your account, you can save your progress and access your Character Strengths profile at a later point. According to the VIA website, your results are private and confidential.


What it tests

The VIA classification is not a taxonomy of strengths (since taxonomies require an underlying deep theory explaining multiple relationships between constructs), but a “classification”—a conceptual scheme that is holistic. The framework offers the following strengths:[1]Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification | VIA Institute on character

  • Cognitive strengths (called the Virtue of Wisdom in the VIA)
  • Emotional strengths (called the Virtue of Courage)
  • Social & community strengths (called the Virtue of Humanity & Virtue of Justice)
  • Protective strengths (called the Virtue of Temperance)
  • Spiritual strengths (called the Virtue of Transcendence)

Who the test is designed for

Although the VIA has been used for research,[3]Research findings | VIA Institute on character it’s particularly suited to clinical work and can be used to:[4]VIA-IS | PsychTools

  • Identify client strengths
  • Inform therapeutic interventions
  • Bolster self-esteem
  • Build resilience
  • Strengthen the therapeutic relationship
  • Empower the client

Versions & translations


Taking the test

The test asks that you choose one option in response to each statement. The challenge for autistics is words like always and never, which, when taken literally, mean if we can think of a single exception, we will not answer in a nuanced way—a requirement of the test.

The VIA-IS consists of 96 statements, giving you 5 choices for each statement:

  1. Very Much Like Me
  2. Like Me
  3. Neutral
  4. Unlike Me
  5. Not at all like me

Note: If you decide to take the test, please ignore absolute words such as always and never; these questions are just asking about your general tendency. Read the definitions of terms such as bravery and zest from the list in scoring rather than dictionary definitions, to avoid confusion.


Scoring

On the VIA, you don’t get any scores, but rather a ranking of your 24 character strengths, from strongest to weakest. In the image below, you can see a listing of the strengths and the categories they belong to. Below the image, we will mention the character strengths explicitly, with short descriptions.

An overview of the VIA character strengths and their classification.
Image credit: VIA Institute on Character

In the table below, you can see the 24 Character Strengths with short descriptions.[5]Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS) (Ruch et al., 2010)[6]Testing Strengths-Based Interventions: A Preliminary Study on the Effectiveness of a Program Targeting Curiosity, Gratitude, Hope, Humor, and Zest for Enhancing Life Satisfaction (Proyer, Ruch & Buschor, 2012)

Values in Action Inventory of Strengths
Type of strengthVIA numberCharacter strengthAlternative termDescription
EmotionalVIA 09ZestEnthusiasmApproaching life with excitement and energy
EmotionalVIA 22HopeOptimismExpecting the best and working to achieve it
EmotionalVIA 06BraveryCourageNot shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty or pain
EmotionalVIA 23HumourPlayfulnessLiking to laugh and joke, bringing smiles to other people
EmotionalVIA 10LoveCapacity to love and be loved, valuing close relations with others
EmotionalVIA 12Social intelligenceBeing aware of the motives and feelings of self and others, knowing what to do to fit into different social
situations
InterpersonalVIA 11KindnessGenerosityDoing favours and good deeds for others, helping others and taking care
InterpersonalVIA 13TeamworkWorking well as a member of a group or team, being loyal to the group
InterpersonalVIA 14FairnessTreating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice
InterpersonalVIA 15LeadershipTaking care of a group and its members, organizing activities and seeing that they happen
InterpersonalVIA 16ForgivenessForgiving those who have done wrong, giving people a second chance
InterpersonalVIA 17ModestyLetting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves, not regarding oneself as more special than one is
IntellectualVIA 01CreativityOriginalityThinking of novel and productive ways to do things, including but not limited to artistic achievements
IntellectualVIA 02CuriosityInterestTaking an interest in all of ongoing experience, findings subjects and topics fascinating, exploring and discovering
IntellectualVIA 03Open-mindednessJudgementThinking things through and examining them from all sides, not jumping to conclusions; being
able to change one’s mind in light of evidence
IntellectualVIA 04Love of learningEnjoyment of mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge
RestraintVIA 07PersistencePerseveranceFinishing what one starts, persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles
RestraintVIA 18PrudenceBeing careful about one’s choices; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted
RestraintVIA 19Self-regulationRegulating what one feels and does
RestraintVIA 05PerspectiveBeing able to provide wise counsel to others, having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to
other people
RestraintVIA 08AuthenticityHonestySpeaking the truth and presenting oneself in a genuine way
TheologicalVIA 24SpiritualityReligiousnessHaving coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of life
TheologicalVIA 21GratitudeBeing aware of and thankful for the good things that happen
TheologicalVIA 20Appreciation of beautyNoticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life

Validity

How reliable, accurate, valid, and up to date is the test?

The VIA-IS is consistent with what people consider to be their strengths. Research shows its results are in agreement with other Strengths personality tests.

Test-retest consistency is good. Finally, it demonstrates its validity across numerous cultures.


Character strengths in autism

Research from 2016 indicates that the most frequently endorsed signature strengths in the autism group were (the following) intellectual strengths:[7]Brief Report: Character Strengths in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Without Intellectual Impairment (Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek, 2016)

Whereas in the control group (neurotypicals), the most frequently endorsed signature strengths were emotional and interpersonal strengths:[8]Brief Report: Character Strengths in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Without Intellectual Impairment (Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek, 2016)

In the table below, you can see a ranking of how autistic people and neurotypicals scored on the VIA character strengths.[9]Brief Report: Character Strengths in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Without Intellectual Impairment (Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek, 2016)

A ranking of the character strengths in autistic individuals and neurotypical controls.
Table credit: Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek (2016)

And for those interested, in the table below you can see the correlations of the character strengths with autism and neurotypicality, with the statistically significant correlations set in bold.[10]Brief Report: Character Strengths in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Without Intellectual Impairment (Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek, 2016)

Character strengths in autistic individuals and neurotypical controls.
Table credit: Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek (2016)

Research from 2017 confirmed that the signature strengths profile of the autistic group comprises mainly intellectual strengths.[11]Towards a resource-oriented approach in autism research: Strengths related to personality and special interests in high-functioning individuals on the autism-spectrum (Kirchner, 2017)


Satisfaction with life

The researchers also looked into which strengths are associated with Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS). For autistic people, the highest positive associations were:[12]Brief Report: Character Strengths in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Without Intellectual Impairment (Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek, 2016)

Research from 2017 also echo these findings.[13]Towards a resource-oriented approach in autism research: Strengths related to personality and special interests in high-functioning individuals on the autism-spectrum (Kirchner, 2017) Whereas the highest positive associations with SWL in the neurotypical group were:[14]Brief Report: Character Strengths in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Without Intellectual Impairment (Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek, 2016)

In the table below, you can see the correlations between the character strengths and the SWLS, with the values in bold indicating statistical significance.[15]Brief Report: Character Strengths in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Without Intellectual Impairment (Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek, 2016)

Correlations between the VIA character strengths and satisfaction with life.
Table credit: Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek (2016)

Research from 2013 also showed that:[16]Humor as character strength and its relation to life satisfaction and happiness in Autism Spectrum Disorders (Samson & Antonelli, 2013)

  • In neurotypicals, humor is related to life of pleasure, life of engagement, life of meaning, and life satisfaction.
  • In autistics, humor is only related to life of pleasure.

This seems to suggest that for autistic people, humor does not seem to contribute to life satisfaction to the same degree as in neurotypicals.


Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht pointing to the title ‘Discussion’.

Discussion

Natalie:
Kendall:
  • Simply omitting the words always and never would make my answers much easier to negotiate. Their use in statement wording consistently excludes a very much like me, very much unlike me response, and often force a neutral answer. While the resulting scale is skewed in some respects, I feel it’s accurate overall. Since the results are generally what I consider my strengths, their usefulness would appear to concern others rather than me personally.

Recommended next steps

After the VIA, consider taking one of the tests below.

Autism Spectrum Quotient

A simple screening test that is used
as a basis for pursuing a formal autism evaluation

Aspie Quiz

Identifies neurodivergence and
potential co-occurring conditions

Systemizing Quotient

Measures camouflaging, and can account
for lower scores on other autism tests

Online autism tests can play an essential role in the process of self-discovery, and may inform your decision to pursue a formal diagnosis. For a formal assessment, please see a knowledgeable medical professional trained in assessing autism.


Embrace Autism | VIA Inventory of Strengths | icon Diagnosis

If you are looking for an autism assessment,
Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht can offer help!
You can find more information here:

Autism assessments
This article
was written by:
dr-natalie-engelbrecht
I’m a dually licensed registered psychotherapist and naturopathic doctor, and a Canadian leader in trauma, PTSD, and integrative medicine strictly informed by scientific research.And not only do I happen to be autistic, but my autism plays a significant role in who I am as a doctor and how I interact with and care for my patients and clients.

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