The Implicit Structure of Positive Characteristics

Nick Haslam, Paul Bain, David Neal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Citations (SciVal)


The implicit structure of positive character traits was examined in two studies of 190 and 100 undergraduates. Participants judged the pairwise covariation or semantic similarity of 42 positive characteristics using a sorting or a rating task. Characteristics were drawn from a new classification of strengths and virtues, the Five-Factor Model, and a taxonomy of values. Participants showed consistent patterns of perceived association among the characteristics across the study conditions. Multidimensional scaling yielded three consistent dimensions underlying these judgments ("warmth vs. self-control," "vivacity vs. decency," and "wisdom vs. power"). Cluster analyses yielded six consistent groupings - "self-control," "love," "wisdom," "drive, " "vivacity," and "collaboration " - that corresponded only moderately to the virtue classification. All three taxonomies were systematically related to this implicit structure, but none captured it satisfactorily on its own. Revisions to positive psychology's classification of strengths are proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-541
Number of pages13
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2004


  • Character
  • Implicit personality theory
  • Positive psychology
  • Strengths
  • Virtue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'The Implicit Structure of Positive Characteristics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this