|Type:||screening tool & psychological assessment|
|Authors:||Christopher Peterson & Martin Seligman|
|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: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
- Identify client strengths
- Inform therapeutic interventions
- Bolster self-esteem
- Build resilience
- Strengthen the therapeutic relationship
- Empower the client
Versions & translations
- The VIA-IS is available in most languages
- Non-adults versions are also available: Ages 10–17 (you will need to create an account)
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:
- Very Much Like Me
- Like Me
- Unlike Me
- 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.
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.
In the table below, you can see the 24 Character Strengths with short descriptions.Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS) (Ruch et al., 2010)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 strength||VIA number||Character strength||Alternative term||Description|
|Emotional||VIA 09||Zest||Enthusiasm||Approaching life with excitement and energy|
|Emotional||VIA 22||Hope||Optimism||Expecting the best and working to achieve it|
|Emotional||VIA 06||Bravery||Courage||Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty or pain|
|Emotional||VIA 23||Humour||Playfulness||Liking to laugh and joke, bringing smiles to other people|
|Emotional||VIA 10||Love||—||Capacity to love and be loved, valuing close relations with others|
|Emotional||VIA 12||Social intelligence||—||Being aware of the motives and feelings of self and others, knowing what to do to fit into different social|
|Interpersonal||VIA 11||Kindness||Generosity||Doing favours and good deeds for others, helping others and taking care|
|Interpersonal||VIA 13||Teamwork||—||Working well as a member of a group or team, being loyal to the group|
|Interpersonal||VIA 14||Fairness||—||Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice|
|Interpersonal||VIA 15||Leadership||—||Taking care of a group and its members, organizing activities and seeing that they happen|
|Interpersonal||VIA 16||Forgiveness||—||Forgiving those who have done wrong, giving people a second chance|
|Interpersonal||VIA 17||Modesty||—||Letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves, not regarding oneself as more special than one is|
|Intellectual||VIA 01||Creativity||Originality||Thinking of novel and productive ways to do things, including but not limited to artistic achievements|
|Intellectual||VIA 02||Curiosity||Interest||Taking an interest in all of ongoing experience, findings subjects and topics fascinating, exploring and discovering|
|Intellectual||VIA 03||Open-mindedness||Judgement||Thinking things through and examining them from all sides, not jumping to conclusions; being|
able to change one’s mind in light of evidence
|Intellectual||VIA 04||Love of learning||—||Enjoyment of mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge|
|Restraint||VIA 07||Persistence||Perseverance||Finishing what one starts, persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles|
|Restraint||VIA 18||Prudence||—||Being careful about one’s choices; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted|
|Restraint||VIA 19||Self-regulation||—||Regulating what one feels and does|
|Restraint||VIA 05||Perspective||—||Being able to provide wise counsel to others, having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to|
|Restraint||VIA 08||Authenticity||Honesty||Speaking the truth and presenting oneself in a genuine way|
|Theological||VIA 24||Spirituality||Religiousness||Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of life|
|Theological||VIA 21||Gratitude||—||Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen|
|Theological||VIA 20||Appreciation of beauty||—||Noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life|
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: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: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.Brief Report: Character Strengths in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Without Intellectual Impairment (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.Brief Report: Character Strengths in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Without Intellectual Impairment (Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek, 2016)
Research from 2017 confirmed that the signature strengths profile of the autistic group comprises mainly intellectual strengths.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:Brief Report: Character Strengths in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Without Intellectual Impairment (Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek, 2016)
Research from 2017 also echo these findings.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: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.Brief Report: Character Strengths in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Without Intellectual Impairment (Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek, 2016)
Research from 2013 also showed that: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.
- This is one of my all-time favourite tests, with good reason. Research shows that people who use their strengths are 18 times more likely to flourish in their lives than those who don’t!Brief Report: Character Strengths in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Without Intellectual Impairment (Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek, 2016) Also, I like the VIA-IS for its utility in therapy, and for bringing insights and empowerment to clients.
- Interpersonal and emotional strengths have the highest positive associations with life satisfaction in autistics.Brief Report: Character Strengths in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Without Intellectual Impairment (Kirchner, Ruch & Dziobek, 2016) Kindness and Fairness are high for me, and I have a very happy life.
- 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.
A simple screening test that is used
as a basis for pursuing a formal autism evaluation
Identifies neurodivergence and
potential co-occurring conditions
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.
If you are looking for an autism assessment,
Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht can offer help!
You can find more information here: