Intentions and actions that benefit both the individual and others

How do you define character?

We define character as everything we do to help other people as well as ourselves.

As an organizing principle, we separate character strengths into three dimensions. Strengths of heart, such as gratitude, enable harmonious relationships with other people. Strengths of will, such as grit and self-control, enable achievement. Strengths of mind, such as curiosity, enable independent thinking.

Character Lab also recognizes and supports a diversity of frameworks including SEL, whole child, and 21st-century skills.

Strengths of heart

  • Interpersonal
  • Help us relate to other people in positive ways
  • Examples: gratitude, kindness

Strengths of mind

Strengths of will

Why character?

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

Overwhelming scientific evidence now shows that character strengths like self-control, curiosity, and gratitude are critically important to social and emotional well-being, physical health, and achievement. Although character strengths are malleable, surprisingly little is known about how to cultivate them intentionally.

How can we cultivate character?

At Character Lab, we believe that helping children develop character is an age-old challenge that will yield to a new solution: world-class scientists creating actionable resources for educators, parents, coaches, counselors, and anyone else interested in helping kids thrive. For more, read our Playbooks and Tips of the Week.

Download our Character Strength Posters

Character Strength Posters

Printable 11×17 posters for your classroom or office

Download now

Research articles about character

A tripartite taxonomy of character: Evidence for intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intellectual competencies in children
Contemporary Educational Psychology, 48, 16–27.
Park, D., Tsukayama, E., Goodwin, G. P., Patrick, S., & Duckworth, A. L. (2017).

Integrating psychological and cultural perspectives on virtue: The hierarchical structure of character strengths
The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(5), 407–424. McGrath, R. E. (2015).

The myth of achievement tests: The GED and the role of character in American life Heckman, J., Humphries, J. E., & Kautz, T. (Eds.). (2013). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.