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Monday, May 16, 2022

Exploring the Association between Character Strengths and Moral Functioning

Han, H., Dawson, K. J., et al. 
(2022, April 6). PsyArXiv


We explored the relationship between 24 character strengths measured by the Global Assessment of Character Strengths (GACS), which was revised from the original VIA instrument, and moral functioning comprising postconventional moral reasoning, empathic traits and moral identity. Bayesian Model Averaging (BMA) was employed to explore the best models, which were more parsimonious than full regression models estimated through frequentist regression, predicting moral functioning indicators with the 24 candidate character strength predictors. Our exploration was conducted with a dataset collected from 666 college students at a public university in the Southern United States. Results showed that character strengths as measured by GACS partially predicted relevant moral functioning indicators. Performance evaluation results demonstrated that the best models identified by BMA performed significantly better than the full models estimated by frequentist regression in terms of AIC, BIC, and cross-validation accuracy. We discuss theoretical and methodological implications of the findings for future studies addressing character strengths and moral functioning.

From the Discussion

Although the postconventional reasoning was relatively weakly associated with character strengths, several character strengths were still significantly associated with it. We were able to discover its association with several character strengths, particularly those within the domain of intellectual ability.One possible explanation is that intellectual strengths enable people to evaluate moral issues from diverse perspectives and appreciate moral values and principles beyond existing conventions and norms (Kohlberg, 1968). Having such intellectual strengths can thus allow them to engage in sophisticated moral reasoning. For instance, wisdom, judgment, and curiosity demonstrated positive correlation with postconventional reasoning as Han (2019) proposed.  Another possible explanation is that the DIT focuses on hypothetical, abstract moral reasoning, instead of decision making in concrete situations (Rest et al., 1999b). Therefore, the emergence of positive association between intellectual strengths and postconventional moral reasoning in the current study is plausible.

The trend of positive relationships between character strengths and moral functioning indicators was also reported from best model exploration through BMA.  First, postconventional reasoning was best predicted by intellectual strengths, curiosity, and wisdom, plus kindness. Second, EC was positively predicted by love, kindness, and gratitude. Third, PT was positively associated with wisdom and gratitude in the best model. Fourth, moral internalization was positively predicted by kindness and gratitude.