Proyer Ruch

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Completed research project

Title / Titel Can character strengths be trained?
PDF Abstract (PDF, 14 KB)
Summary / Zusammenfassung The project focuses on two main research questions: (1) Can character strengths be trained selectively? (2) Are there causal effects regarding the influence of certain character strengths on life-satisfaction; i.e. does an increase in character strengths leads to an increase in life-satisfaction for some strengths but not for others? Research from the field of Positive Psychology suggests that the strengths of hope, zest, gratitude, love, and curiosity are related to life satisfaction (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004ab). Results were replicated in the German language area though persistence and humor were correlated with life-satisfaction as well (Peterson, Ruch, Beermann, Park & Seligman, 2006). As all of these prior studies were of a correlational nature (thereby not allowing for causal interpretations), an experimental design is needed to examine the proposed causal relations. Two experimental groups will complete several training programs for different character strengths and will be compared to a control group. Participants will be repeatedly fill in several instruments, such as the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS, Peterson & Seligman, 2001), the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS, Diener et al., 1985), and the Orientations to Happiness-Scale (OTH, Peterson, Park & Seligman, 2005); all in German adaptations created at the Division for Personality and Assessment at Zurich University. Data on self- and peer-ratings will be collected as well. Despite the postulate that character strengths can be developed in literature only few studies exist that proved that selected strength can be trained. The current project is the first empirical verification of this postulate including a selection of important strengths. Moreover, further desired outcomes are the exploration of the efficiency of selective training programs for a predefined set of strengths and the verification of the causal relation between character strengths and life-satisfaction.

A follow-up project (funded by the SNSF) deals with further positive interventions; see
Publications / Publikationen Buschor, C.*, Proyer, R. T.*, & Ruch, W.* (2013). Self- and peer-rated character strengths: How do they relate to satisfaction with life and orientations to happiness? The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8, 116-127. doi:10.1080/17439760.2012.758305 (*authors contributed equally and are listed alphabetically)

Peterson, C., Ruch, W., Beermann, U., Park, N. & Seligman, M. E. P. (2007). Strengths of character, orientation to happiness, and life satisfaction. Journal of Positive Psychology, 149-156.

Proyer, R. T., Gander, W., Wyss, T., & Ruch, W. (2011). The relation of character strengths to past, present, and future life satisfaction among German-speaking women. Applied Psychology: Health and Well Being, 3 ,370-384. doi:10.1111/j.1758-0854.2011.01060.x

Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Buschor, C. (2013). Testing strengths-based interventions: A preliminary study on the effectiveness of a program targeting curiosity, gratitude, hope, humor, and zest for enhancing life satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 275-292. doi:10.1007/s10902-012-9331-9

Selected talks and presentations

Buschor, C., Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2007). The power of gratitude: Do positive interventions enable life-satisfaction? 10th Congress of the Swiss Society of Psychology (SSP), September 13th and 14th, 2007, Zurich, Switzerland. (Poster presentation held at the Poster-Symposium: Current developments and research directions in positive psychology)

Ruch, W. & Huber, A. (2004, October). Assessing character strengths: Psychometric properties of the German version of the VIA-IS. Poster Session presented at the 2004 International Positive Psychology Summit, Washington, DC.

Weitere Informationen

Keywords / Suchbegriffe character strengths, positive psychology, intervention studies, life satisfaction, orientations to happiness
Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
Dr. Rene Proyer (Project Leader)
Prof. Dr. Willibald Ruch (Project Leader)
lic. phil Claudia Buschor  
Other links to external web pages
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
Forschungskredit der Universität Zürich
In collaboration with /
In Zusammenarbeit mit
Prof. Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania
Department of Psychology
3815 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6196
United States
Duration of Project / Projektdauer Dec 2006 to Sep 2010