How we define Character

At Character Lab, we define character as intentions and actions that benefit other people as well as ourselves.

Character Strengths 

We separate character strengths into three dimensions—heart, mind and will. 

Strengths of heart, such as gratitude, enable harmonious relationships with other people. Strengths of mind, such as curiosity,  enable independent thinking. Strengths of will, such as grit, enable achievement.


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


  • Intellectual
  • Help us wonder, reason, and create
  • Examples: curiosity, creativity


  • Intrapersonal
  • Help us achieve our goals
  • Examples: grit, self-control

Why character?

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

Overwhelming scientific evidence now shows that character strengths like self-control, creativity, and honesty 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.

Although we use the term “character,” Character Lab recognizes and supports a diversity of frameworks, including SEL, whole child, and 21st-century skills.

How can we cultivate character?

We believe that helping children develop character is a timeless challenge that requires a modern solution: world-class researchers working with educators and young people to create actionable resources based on science. All our resources are free for use by parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, and anyone else interested in helping kids thrive. 

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). University of Chicago Press.