Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) Capstone Projects

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



This paper was written as a Capstone project in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program at Penn under Capstone advisement by Dr. Christopher Peterson.


ABSTRACT: Psychology, education, and popular media have recently focused much attention on the identification and utilization of character strengths. This project explores the ubiquity of the 24 character strengths identified in Peterson & Seligman’s 2004 Values in Action (VIA) classification, within a primarily oral tradition. Content and narrative analyses were used to study transcribed legends from the South Pacific country of Vanuatu. Coders recorded the presence or absence of the 24 VIA traits and identified other potential strengths not named in the VIA classification. All of the 24 VIA strengths were found to be mentioned in the legends (n = 57, average length = 1,315 words); some prevalence rankings differed from those reported in previous studies of literate traditions. Seven additional non-VIA strengths were identified as potential culturally-specific strengths. Awareness of and respect for culturally-bound character strengths becomes increasingly important as globalization broadens the impact of western, literate cultures on developing nations.


KEY WORDS: character strengths, cultural influence, oral tradition, content analysis, Vanuatu, prevalence ranking, universal



Date Posted: 02 December 2014