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.
- character strengths
- prototype analysis