Differences in Character Strengths Levels and Associations with Positive Outcomes Across Contexts

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Cheryl P. Stuntz http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7500-109X


Character strengths, signature strengths, domain, competence, relatedness, autonomy, and psychological need satisfaction


Using character strengths is associated with optimal functioning, psychological fulfilment, and wellbeing in general. While Peterson and Seligman (2004) assumed that character strength use may vary across specific contexts and situations, little research has examined whether these assumptions are true. The current study (a) examined whether level of character strengths differs across general as well as specific eating, exercising, and work contexts, (b) determined how contextualized strengths are, and (c) assessed if the relationships between strengths and positive outcomes in eating, exercise, and work contexts were similar. Participants (N = 270) recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk completed questionnaires assessing character strengths in various contexts as well as psychological need satisfaction, job satisfaction, and eating and exercise behaviors. Results showed that strengths did vary by context, with participants commonly using strengths in general (no context suggested) and at work more than while exercising and while eating. Most strengths demonstrated moderate levels of contextualization by domain, with about half of the variance due to between-person and about half due to within-person variability, except for the less-contextualized strength of religiousness. Finally, across eating, exercising, and work contexts, a set of all (or almost all) strengths related to satisfaction of self-determination theory’s psychological needs of competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Although there are differences in how applicable strengths are across specific contexts, using character strengths appears advantageous in each of these contexts.


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