The Emerging Science of Virtue

Blaine J. Fowers, Jason S. Carroll, Nathan D. Leonhardt, Bradford Cokelet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Numerous scholars have claimed that positive ethical traits such as virtues are important in human psychology and behavior. Psychologists have begun to test these claims. The scores of studies on virtue do not yet constitute a mature science of virtue because of unresolved theoretical and methods challenges. In this article, we addressed those challenges by clarifying how virtue research relates to prosocial behavior, positive psychology, and personality psychology and does not run afoul of the fact–value distinction. The STRIVE-4 (Scalar Traits that are Role sensitive, include Situation × Trait Interactions, and are related to important Values that help to constitute E udaimonia) model of virtue is proposed to help resolve the theoretical and methods problems and encourage a mature science of virtue. The model depicts virtues as empirically verifiable, acquired scalar traits that are role sensitive, involve Situation × Trait interactions, and relate to important values that partly constitute eudaimonia (human flourishing). The model also holds that virtue traits have four major components: knowledge, behavior, emotion/motivation, and disposition. Heuristically, the STRIVE-4 model suggests 26 hypotheses, which are discussed in light of extant research to indicate which aspects of the model have been assessed and which have not. Research on virtues has included survey, intensive longitudinal, informant-based, experimental, and neuroscientific methods. This discussion illustrates how the STRIVE-4 framework can unify extant research and fruitfully guide future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-147
Number of pages30
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Trait × Situation interaction
  • flourishing
  • trait
  • virtue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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