A prototype analysis of virtue

Liz Gulliford, Blaire Morgan, Karen Jordan

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


The question of how ordinary people understand the concept of virtue is under-scrutinized. The current study highlights incongruities between strengths of the VIA-IS and features ‘laypeople’ instinctively associate with virtue. In Study 1 we examined freely-listed features associated with virtue in 189 participants (20–81 years). In Study 2 (N = 205, 18–84 years) we found features of ‘virtue’ which overlapped with ‘good character’ and ‘moral persons’, in addition to features uniquely associated with ‘virtue’. Studies 3a and 3b (N = 105, 18–73 years) partially corroborated the prototypical structure of virtue, however, demonstrated some inconsistencies in perceptions of virtue-features. Given lay understandings of virtue can be at odds with academic frameworks, this stresses the importance of definitions and guidance when measuring virtue concepts. The current studies signal future research avenues; cross-cultural and qualitative examinations of lay conceptions of virtue, and the possibility of developing new measures and frameworks informed by lay conceptions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)536-550
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Positive Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date18 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2021


  • VIA-IS
  • Virtue
  • character strengths
  • moral
  • prototype analysis
  • General Psychology


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