ArticlePDF Available

Abstract

Primal world beliefs–primals–are a category of beliefs about the overall character of the world (e.g., the world is a safe place). Theory suggests that such beliefs drive personality development–or at least reflect personality differences, such as character strengths. We examined the relationships of primals with character strengths among 1122 German-speaking adults. The primary primal good explained the most variance in most character strengths, especially hope, spirituality, zest, gratitude, curiosity, and leadership. Including specific secondary (e.g., safe, enticing, alive) and tertiary primals (e.g., beautiful, needs me, funny) often yielded better predictions, but, with few exceptions, increments were typically smaller than that of the primary primal. We recommend including these primals in positive psychology interventions and describe three couplings of primals and character strengths that may prove especially fruitful for future research and practice.
Primal world beliefs correlate strongly but dierentially with character strengths
Alexander G. Stahlmann and Willibald Ruch
Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
ABSTRACT
Primal world beliefs–primals–are a category of beliefs about the overall character of the world (e.g.,
the world is a safe place). Theory suggests that such beliefs drive personality development–or at
least reect personality dierences, such as character strengths. We examined the relationships of
primals with character strengths among 1122 German-speaking adults. The primary primal good
explained the most variance in most character strengths, especially hope, spirituality, zest, grati-
tude, curiosity, and leadership. Including specic secondary (e.g., safe, enticing, alive) and tertiary
primals (e.g., beautiful, needs me, funny) often yielded better predictions, but, with few exceptions,
increments were typically smaller than that of the primary primal. We recommend including these
primals in positive psychology interventions and describe three couplings of primals and character
strengths that may prove especially fruitful for future research and practice.
ARTICLE HISTORY
Received 18 August 2021
Accepted 15 March 2022
KEYWORDS
Positive psychology; primals;
beliefs; VIA classification;
positive psychology
interventions
Beliefs and assumptions that describe reality–worldviews–
are the subject of a growing body of literature that high-
lights their importance in explaining personality dierences
(e.g., Dweck, 2017; Fleeson & Jayawickreme, 2015; Koltko-
Rivera, 2004). Recently, Clifton and colleagues (2019) com-
piled a catalog and measure that allows for dierentiating
worldviews that pertain to the world’s overall characteris-
tics: primal world beliefs–or primals for short. Their research
provided rst evidence that the character strengths hope,
gratitude, and curiosity correlate strongly with several pri-
mals, such as believing that the world is a good, enticing,
and interesting place. Based on these and similar ndings in
the Big Five, Clifton (2020a) proposed that primals play an
important role in personality development or can at least
contribute to describing and predicting personality dier-
ences. This study seeks to extend Clifton and colleagues’
(2019) research by investigating the relationships of primals
with every character strength of Peterson and Seligman’s
(2004) VIA classication. Understanding which primals
relate to which character strengths will enable us to make
informed decisions on which primals we might consider
when attempting to change character strengths through
positive psychology interventions.
Primals may constitute personality
Recent years have seen renewed interest in worldviews,
which Koltko-Rivera (2004, p. 3) dened as ‘a set of
assumptions about physical and social reality that may
have powerful eects on cognition and behavior.’
Nowhere have such assumptions received more atten-
tion than in cognitive therapy, in which Beck’s (e.g., Beck
& Alford, 2009; Beck, 1967) cognitive or primary triad lists
a negative view of the world as one of the main char-
acteristics of depression. If we accept that viewing the
world in a particular way contributes to sustaining
a mental disorder, we must assume that worldviews
sensibly aect how individuals think, feel, and act.
Indeed, this idea can be found in many contemporary
personality theories, such as in Dweck’s (2017) BEATs
theory (‘beliefs’), Fleeson and Jayawickreme’s (2015)
Whole Trait Theory (‘beliefs’), and Geukes et al. (2018)
integrative state process model (‘world-views’). For
example, Dweck (2017) proposes that personality can
be seen as a characteristic way toward fullling basic
needs given the beliefs, emotions, and action tendencies
that emerged from previous experience. Notably, while
other theories have considered personality the cause of
cognition, aect, and behavior (e.g., Eysenck & Eysenck,
1985; McCrae & Costa, 1999), the theories that include
worldviews instead make personality their product or
reection. If these or similar theories proved to be valid,
we might situate worldviews at the center of our under-
standing of personality development (product) or per-
sonality dierences (reection).
Primals are an important category of worldviews
because they are goal-relevant (essential to individuals’
interests, needs, or values), active (dynamically directing
attention and guiding action), and measurable (by ques-
tionnaire, but also text-based analysis; Clifton et al.,
CONTACT Alexander G. Stahlmann alexanderstahlmann@googlemail.com
THE JOURNAL OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY
https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2022.2070532
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-
nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built
upon in any way.
2019). Clifton and colleagues (2019) identied primals by
analyzing recurring themes in historical and contempor-
ary literature, social media, and focus groups from
around the world. Their search ultimately led to the
selection of 22 of such beliefs (tertiary primals), most of
which collapsed into a handful of higher-order factors
(secondary primals) and one general factor (primary pri-
mal). Examples include believing that the world needs
me and my eorts (tertiary primal), that it is an enticing,
fascinating place (secondary primal), and that it is
a good, delightful place (primary primal). Primals can
be measured by self-report using the Primals Inventory,
which was developed initially in American English but
has since been adapted successfully into German with
more translations on the way (2022; Stahlmann et al.,
2020). While several worldview categories will presum-
ably prove important in predicting personality, primals
are an ideal research subject because we know their
number and structure and can measure them reliably.
Understanding primals enables designing
corresponding strength-based interventions
Initial research found that primals correlate sensibly with
the Big Five, character strengths, well-being, and, most
recently, post-traumatic growth following the COVID-19
pandemic (Clifton et al., 2019; Stahlmann et al., 2020;
Vazquez et al., 2021). The primary primal good proved to
be especially important: believing that the world is
a good place correlated strongly with higher scores on
agreeableness, extraversion, optimism, gratitude, curios-
ity, subjective well-being, and ourishing. Several sec-
ondary and tertiary primals sustained similar, albeit often
smaller correlations with these measures. Exceptions are
the secondary primal alive, which correlated uniquely
with higher religiosity, conservatism, and gender (higher
in females), and the tertiary primals acceptable, chan-
ging, and hierarchical, which are largely unsaturated by
the primary primal. While these results painted
a preliminary picture of primals’ nomological network,
they fell short of disentangling the prominent role of the
primary primal from the unique contributions of second-
ary and tertiary primals to these correlations. Moreover,
they only describe primals’ correlations with three out of
the 24 character strengths of the VIA classication.
Knowing the correlations of primals with all character
strengths is important because it allows us to design
positive psychology interventions that develop specic
character strengths through their associated primals.
Although primals have been shown to be generally as
stable as the Big Five, they should not be considered
immutable (see Clifton, 2020b; Clifton et al., 2019). Quite
the opposite, the success of programs such as Beck’s
(e.g., Beck & Alford, 2009; Beck, 1967) cognitive therapy
and Dweck and colleagues’ (e.g., Dweck, 2017) growth
mindset interventions suggests that primals can be
changed by targeted intervention. Clifton (2020a) gives
an example for one such intervention through what he
calls ‘Homeland Tourism’–developing the belief in
a beautiful world by prompting participants to notice
and remember the beauty surrounding their residence.
As the belief in a beautiful world is embedded in that in
a good world and believing in a good world is correlated
with the character strength gratitude, this intervention
should develop gratitude through building up
a complementary belief system. It follows that we will
be able to design and eventually test similar interven-
tions for other important character strengths once we
know the primals they are associated with. In particular,
we need to identify those primals that drive such rela-
tionships and dierentiate them from those that contri-
bute only little or nothing to explaining character
strengths.
Aims of this study
In this study, we determine the most important relation-
ships of primals with character strengths using correla-
tion and regression analysis. This allows researchers to
learn which primals are most relevant for the character
strengths they would like to investigate or target by
intervention. We begin with analyzing zero-order corre-
lations and proceed to analyze the primary, secondary,
and tertiary primals’ unique contributions by using
sequential (hierarchical) linear regression: for every char-
acter strength, we will build a zero-order model using
the primary primal, then build a rst-order model regres-
sing the secondary primals on the zero-order model’s
residuals, and nally build a second-order model regres-
sing the tertiary primals on the rst-order model’s resi-
duals. As a result, we will report which primals proved to
be the most predictive across the dierent character
strengths and present a list that connects every charac-
ter strength with a specic number of those primals.
Finally, we will discuss three couplings of primals and
character strengths which–based on theory and our
results–we would consider to be the most promising
for future research and practice.
Method
Participants and procedure
We analyzed data from N = 1122 German-speaking parti-
cipants (65.69% female, 33.06% male, 1.25% unspecied/
other; M
age
= 40.20 years, SD
age
= 12.17 years, range = 18–
75 years). Most were Germans (68.63%), Swiss (19.79%),
and Austrians (8.73%). Almost three-thirds had been
2A. G. STAHLMANN AND W. RUCH
enrolled in tertiary/higher education programs (60.25%),
and the remainder had received upper secondary
(29.32%), lower secondary (9.00%), or less education
(1.43%). About three quarters were employed (75.22%)
and about half of the remainder comprised students
(14.97%).
We retrieved the data from the German online survey
platform charakterstaerken.org, which oers individuals
to contribute their data in exchange for customized
feedback about their personality and well-being.
Participants provided informed consent before registra-
tion and had to be at least 18 years old and uent in
German. They were able to self-select the surveys which
they would like to complete. All participants provided
full data on primals and character strengths. Stahlmann
et al. (2020) previously analyzed parts of this sample
(n = 437) with dierent objectives and methods.
Measures
The German Primals Inventory (PI-66-G; Stahlmann et al.,
2020) comprises 66 items to assess 29 primals at three
levels of granularity: 22 tertiary primals (e.g., harmless,
interconnected, understandable), six secondary primals
(safe, enticing, alive, empowering, communal, uid), and
one primary primal (good). Tertiary primals are measured
by three items per scale, while secondary and primary
primals are computed by recombining specic tertiary
primals (e.g., communal is computed by taking the mean
of the tertiary primals cooperative, hierarchical [nega-
tively keyed], interconnected, and progressing). The
inventory uses a six-point scale (0 = strongly disagree to
5 = strongly agree) and yields good internal consistency
(Cronbach’s alpha in this study ranged from .67 [just] to
.91 [interconnected] with Med = .81).
The German VIA Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS; Ruch
et al., 2010) comprises 240 items to assess the 24 char-
acter strengths of the VIA classication (e.g., courage,
perseverance, forgiveness). Character strengths are mea-
sured by ten items per scale. The inventory uses a ve-
point scale (1 = very much unlike me to 5 = very much like
me) and yields good internal consistency (Cronbach’s
alpha in this study ranged from .74 [self-regulation] to
.90 [spirituality] with Med = .78).
Analysis
We conducted our analyses within the R statistical com-
puting environment (R Core Team, 2021). We computed
the correlations’ p-values using Revelle’s (2021) psych
package. We built, selected, and cross-validated the
sequential regression models using Kuhn’s (2021) caret
package. We estimated all linear model statistics using
200 tenfold-cross-validation samples. In models that
included secondary and tertiary primals, we used recur-
sive feature elimination to automatically exclude primals
that did not substantially contribute to the predictions.
As such, primals that were excluded by the algorithm do
not appear in the tables. We adjusted p-values across all
correlation and regression tests reported in this paper
(m = 2262) using Holm’s correction. We additionally
computed partial correlations of primals with character
strengths controlled for age, gender, and education. The
partial correlations are available online at OSF (https://
doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/F573G).
Results
Zero-order correlations of primals with character
strengths and the sequential linear models regressing
primals on character strengths (and on zero- and rst-
order residuals for secondary and tertiary primals) are in
Tables 1–4. We visualized our sequential models’ results
in Figure 1.
Correlations
The primary primal good correlated positively with every
character strength, except judgment, humility, and pru-
dence. The numerically strongest relationships were
with hope (r = .57), spirituality (r = .55), zest (r = .54),
gratitude (r = .47), and curiosity and leadership (r = .44).
The secondary primals safe, enticing, alive, empower-
ing, and communal mirrored this pattern, although the
eect sizes were generally smaller. Notable exceptions
were the correlations of safe with forgiveness (r = .35)
and humor (r = .38); enticing with curiosity (r = .46), love
of learning (r = .32), love (r = .44), kindness (r = .35),
teamwork (r = .34), fairness (r = .29), forgiveness (r = .35),
appreciation of beauty (r = .28), and gratitude (r = .48);
and alive with honesty (r = .18) and spirituality (r = .68).
The secondary primal uid only yielded correlations with
four strengths, all involving small eect sizes.
The tertiary primals that are largely saturated by the
primary primal and the secondary primals safe, enticing,
and alive (all except acceptable, changing, and hierarch-
ical) again mirrored the pattern described above,
although the eect sizes were even smaller. Notable
exceptions were the correlations of just with honesty
(r = .22); funny with humor (r = .57); and worth
exploring with love of learning (r = .39). The tertiary
primal acceptable yielded no correlations with char-
acter strengths while changing correlated positively
with creativity (r = .15), curiosity (r = .13), love of
learning (r = .13), appreciation of beauty (r = .16),
THE JOURNAL OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 3
Figure 1. Visualization of the sequential models regressing primals on character strengths. Note: The boxes only include significant
predictors. The arrows depict the models’ adjusted R2: for example, including good when predicting love explained 18% of variance in
love and additionally including enticing explained 20% of variance. Suppressors are printed in parentheses and shaded if they did not
contribute notably to enhancing any other primal’s effect (i.e., in perseverance, honesty, forgiveness, and hope).
4A. G. STAHLMANN AND W. RUCH
and gratitude (r = .17). Hierarchical correlated posi-
tively with perseverance (r = .19) and self-regulation
(r = .14) and negatively with fairness (r = −.13) and
forgiveness (r = −.14).
Sequential linear regressions
Overall, the regression analyses substantiated that the
primary primal good explains the largest share of
variance in most character strengths. Including sec-
ondary or tertiary primals often yielded more predic-
tion power, but with only few exceptions, the
increment was considerably smaller than that pro-
vided by the primary primal. A number of secondary
and tertiary primals that sustained positive zero-order
correlations yielded negative slopes in the regression
models. This suggests that such primals are suppres-
sors: their positive zero-order correlations presumably
stemmed from the shared variation with dierent,
more predictive primals, and they were only included
in the regression models because they suppressed
irrelevant variance, thus enhancing the eects of
some of the other predictors (Lancaster, 1999;
Tzelgov & Henik, 1991). For example, alive, communal,
and uid sustained only weakly positive or no zero-
order correlations with most character strengths.
However, including them in the linear models often
made alive and communal negative predictors and
enabled uid to emerge as positive predictor, such
as in judgment, love of learning, and kindness. Strictly
speaking, primals that only become important when
considering suppressors cannot contribute uniquely
to any prediction. In the following paragraphs, we
hence will not describe such primals’ and the sup-
pressors’ contributions to the models. In Figure 1, we
put the suppressors in parentheses and shaded those
which did not contribute notably to enhancing any
other primal’s eect (i.e., on perseverance, honesty,
forgiveness, and hope).
As informed by the correlations, the primary primal
good emerged as positive predictor of every character
strength, except judgment, humility, and prudence. R
2
ranged from .00 (judgment, humility, prudence) to .32
(hope) with Med = .09.
Beyond the primary primal, the secondary primals
safe, enticing, and alive emerged as positive predictors
of several character strengths, uid emerged as positive
predictor mostly when alive and communal functioned
Table 1. Zero-order correlations and sequential linear models regressing primals on character strengths (part 1/4).
Creativity Curiosity judgment Love of learning Perspective Bravery
R
2adj
Primary primal .05 .19 .00 .10 .08 .06
Good .23* .23* .44* .44* .03 .03 .31* .31* .28* .28* .24* .24*
R
2
adj
Secondary primals .10 .25 .04 .16 .10 .09
Safe .21* .17* .38* .06 .11 .28* .07 .24* .13 .24* .16*
Enticing .15* −.12 .46* .27* .04 .03 .32* .16 .20* .19*
Alive .20* .29* −.24* −.02 −.16* .21* −.21* .24* .17*
Empowering .16* .07 .13* .12* .09 .13* .14* .16* .06
Communal .13* .29* .02 .06 .24* .06 .12 −.12 .08 −.16*
Fluid .11 .20* −.02 .20* .11 .19* .08 .28* .03 .13* .02 .09
R
2adj
Tertiary primals .11 .32 .04 .22 .12 .11
Abundant .16* .34* .05 .26* .16* .15*
Acceptable −.07 −.01 −.09 −.02 −.04 −.09
Beautiful .14* .36* .01 .25* .19* .16* −.09
Changing .15* .13* .10 .13* .07 .08
Cooperative .05 .21* −.02 .14* .08 .05
Funny .19* .24* .03 .20* .17* .21* .07
Harmless .11 .24* .03 .15* .15* .13* −.08
Hierarchical .03 −.05 .00 −.08 .09 .05
Improvable .20* .22* .11 .20* .21* .18*
Intentional .12 .15* −.17* −.06 .09 −.15 .16* −.10 .11 −.08
Interactive .17* .19* .00 .16* .18* .10 −.07
Interconnected .18* .21* .04 .20* .17* .09
Interesting .07 .41* .16* .04 .23* .10 .10
Just .10 .17* −.07 −.09 .10 .16* .14*
Meaningful .07 −.13 .27* −.21* .00 .17* −.14 .14* −.08 .14*
Needs me .23* .14* .33* .30* .00 .08 .24* .29* .26* .20* .21* .15
Pleasurable .07 .30* −.04 .15* .11 .13*
Progressing .11 .26* .05 .19* .10 .10
Regenerative .14* .29* .05 .19* −.10 .20* .17*
Stable .00 .13* −.04 .05 .09 .04
Understandable .19* .23* .07 .20* .20* .24* .11
Worth exploring .20* .39* .14* .39* .16* .18* .17*
Note. For every character strength, the first decimal per primal refers to the zero-order correlations and the second decimal per row refers to the zero-, first-
and second-order models, respectively. Adjusted R
2
and standardized slopes are based on recursive feature elimination in 200 tenfold-cross-validation
samples. Primals that were excluded by recursive feature elimination do not appear in the tables. P-values were adjusted across all correlation and regression
tests (m = 2262) using Holm’s correction. Significant slopes are marked with asterisks (*).
THE JOURNAL OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 5
as suppressors, and empowering did not emerge as pre-
dictor. Including secondary primals allowed for addition-
ally predicting judgment and led to small increases in
adjusted R
2
(Med = .04). Notable exceptions were the
following secondary primals, which yielded the numeri-
cally strongest increases: alive in spirituality
(ΔR
2adj
= .18); safe in humor (ΔR
2adj
= .09); enticing and
uid in appreciation of beauty (ΔR
2adj
= .07); uid in love
of learning (ΔR
2adj
= .06); and enticing and safe in curios-
ity (ΔR
2adj
= .06). Fluid uniquely predicted judgment
(ΔR
2adj
= .04).
Beyond the primary and secondary primals, the ter-
tiary primals beautiful, cooperative, funny, intentional,
interesting, needs me, pleasurable, and worth exploring
emerged as mostly positive predictors of a few character
strengths and the rest did not emerge as predictors.
Including tertiary primals allowed for additionally pre-
dicting humility and prudence and led to marginal
increases in adjusted R
2
(Med = .02). Notable exceptions
were the following tertiary primals, which yielded the
numerically strongest increases: funny and pleasurable in
humor (ΔR
2adj
= .17); beautiful in appreciation of beauty
(ΔR
2adj
= .09); beautiful, intentional, and needs me in
spirituality (ΔR
2adj
= .07); beautiful in gratitude
(ΔR
2adj
= .07); and interesting, needs me, and worth
exploring in curiosity and love of learning (ΔR
2adj
= .06).
Abundant, funny, and needs me were uniquely negative
predictors of humility (ΔR
2adj
= .05) and prudence
(ΔR
2adj
= .02).
Discussion
This study shows that a selection of primals relates
strongly to a number of character strengths. The primary
primal good often explained the largest share of var-
iance, especially in hope, spirituality, zest, gratitude,
curiosity, and leadership. Considering specic secondary
and tertiary primals increased prediction power, but
these increments were typically small compared to
those contributed by the primary primal. Notable excep-
tions were the secondary primals safe, enticing, alive, and
uid in explaining curiosity, love of learning, apprecia-
tion of beauty, humor, and spirituality. Among tertiary
primals, beautiful, funny, intentional, interesting, needs
me, pleasurable, and worth exploring proved especially
important in predicting curiosity, love of learning, appre-
ciation of beauty, gratitude, humor, and spirituality. On
Table 2. Zero-order correlations and sequential linear models regressing primals on character strengths (part 2/4).
Perseverance Honesty Zest Love Kindness Social intelligence
R
2adj
Primary primal .05 .03 .29 .18 .11 .13
Good .23* .23* .16* .16* .54* .54* .42* .42* .33* .33* .36* .36*
R
2
adj
Secondary primals .11 .08 .34 .20 .15 .14
Safe .20* .15 .13* .12 .48* .12 .36* −.05 .30* .08 .25* −.07
Enticing .19* .03 .13* .51* .18* .44* .23* .35* .20* .32* .09
Alive .20* .06 .18* .09 .39* −.07 .29* −.12 .24* −.11 .33*
Empowering .19* .08 .16* .07 .20* .14* .15* .09
Communal .00 −.28* −.02 −.22* .25* −.25* .27* −.08 .16* −.15* .22*
Fluid .03 .06 .10 .11 −.11 .07 −.13* −.01 .13* −.01 .08
R
2adj
Tertiary primals .12 .08 .35 .23 .19 .15
Abundant .08 .04 .39* .32* −.06 .23* −.09 .22*
Acceptable −.10 −.11 −.05 −.05 −.08 −.07 .01
Beautiful .20* .14* .44* .36* .35* .29*
Changing .04 .09 .04 .05 .08 .08
Cooperative −.01 −.03 .21* .26* .18* .15* .19*
Funny .04 −.10 .08 .29* .27* .11 .30* .15* .23* .12*
Harmless .16* .12* .32* .21* .15* −.07 .10 −.10
Hierarchical .19* .11 .07 .00 .03 .00
Improvable .22* .16* .30* .20* −.06 .20* .17*
Intentional .15* .15* .26* −.16* .17* −.11 .16* .25*
Interactive .14* .13* .23* .12* −.07 .14* .20*
Interconnected .06 .08 .19* .19* .09 .14* .26*
Interesting .12* .04 .32* .29* .22* .24*
Just .20* .22* .06 .35* .24* .24* .21*
Meaningful .17* .14* .36* .32* .24* .27*
Needs me .21* .13* .41* .18* .28* .12 .18* .30*
Pleasurable .12* .04 .42* .39* .11 .24* .21*
Progressing .10 −.02 .29* .21* .10 .08
Regenerative .15* .08 .41* .29* .22* .22*
Stable .01 −.03 .16* .13* −.09 .00 −.12 .10
Understandable .19* .13* .29* .17* .20* .16*
Worth exploring .15* .15* .32* .22* −.09 .26* .17*
Note. For every character strength, the first decimal per primal refers to the zero-order correlations and the second decimal per row refers to the zero-, first-
and second-order models, respectively. Adjusted R
2
and standardized slopes are based on recursive feature elimination in 200 tenfold-cross-validation
samples. Primals that were excluded by recursive feature elimination do not appear in the tables. P-values were adjusted across all correlation and regression
tests (m = 2262) using Holm’s correction. Significant slopes are marked with asterisks (*).
6A. G. STAHLMANN AND W. RUCH
the other hand, abundant, funny, and needs me nega-
tively predicted humility and prudence. In the remaining
character strengths, including secondary primals typi-
cally yielded an increment of less than 50% of the
explained variance contributed by the primary primal,
and including tertiary primals yielded an increment of
less than 25%.
The American English and German Primals
Inventories comprise 99 and 66 items, respectively, and
thus they may be too long to be included in certain
scientic or practical contexts. But our results suggest
that measuring the full catalog of primals is unnecessary
when predicting character strengths–measuring the pri-
mary, secondary, and some selected tertiary primals
should suce. In particular, a good prediction should
already be possible by measuring only the primary pri-
mal good, the secondary primals safe, enticing, alive, and
uid, and the tertiary primals beautiful, funny, intentional,
interesting, needs me, pleasurable, and worth exploring. If
measuring strengths-related primals is the only objec-
tive, we hence recommend using Clifton and Yaden’s
(2021) brief measure of primary and secondary primals–
the PI-18–and including additional items for measuring
some of the tertiary primals above as seen t. For
example, if researchers were interested in measuring
humor-related primals, we would recommend adminis-
tering the PI-18 together with 3–5 items for funny and
pleasurable.
Implications for positive psychology interventions
Our study validates Clifton’s (2020a) proposal that primals
contribute to describing and predicting important person-
ality dierences, such as character strengths. If our results
can be replicated and generalized, the next step would be
testing whether primals also play an important role in
personality development, as foretold by many contempor-
ary theories (e.g., Dweck, 2017; Fleeson & Jayawickreme,
2015; Geukes et al., 2018). Clifton (2020a) explains that this
requires experimental research, which may either investi-
gate primals as mediators or as targets of dedicated inter-
ventions. First, future research may choose to investigate
whether established interventions–such as Three Good
Things, Counting Blessings, and Gratitude Visit–change
personality and well-being through changing primals. This
could involve administering such interventions and simply
measuring the relevant primals identied in this study
Table 3. Zero-order correlations and sequential linear models regressing primals on character strengths (part 3/4).
Teamwork Fairness Leadership Forgiveness Humility Prudence
R
2adj
Primary primal .11 .06 .19 .12 .00 .00
Good .33* .33* .25* .25* .44* .44* .34* .34* −.02 −.02 .02 .02
R
2
adj
Secondary primals .13 .11 .21 .15 .01 .02
Safe .30* .05 .24* .35* .35* .06 .01 .01
Enticing .34* .15 .29* .18* .39* .35* .11 .03 .12 .00
Alive .23* −.10 .13* −.25* .36* .16* −.25* −.03 −.09 .05
Empowering .15* .04 .16* .09 .18* .07 .09 .00 .14* .12*
Communal .17* −.12 .22* .10 .28* .30* .09 −.01 −.01
Fluid −.05 .07 .01 .17* −.02 .09 −.12* .08 .06 .10 .08 .07
R
2adj
Tertiary primals .15 .15 .21 .17 .05 .03
Abundant .21* −.12 .18* −.14 .26* .27* −.06 −.20* −.01
Acceptable −.06 −.09 −.03 −.06 .01 −.01 −.10
Beautiful .30* .26* .06 .32* .30* .08 .11 .06 .09
Changing .02 −.06 .06 −.08 .09 .04 .04 .04
Cooperative .16* .18* .07 .23* .27* .00 −.02
Funny .24* .07 .20* .08 .25* .20* −.02 −.08 −.14*
Harmless .20* .15* .21* .28* .04 .07 .01
Hierarchical .04 −.13* −.07 .00 −.14* .01 .06
Improvable .20* .18* −.05 .25* .17* −.01 .12*
Intentional .14* −.07 .03 −.13 .23* −.05 .05 −.11 −.02 .01
Interactive .13* .09 .10 .24* .06 −.04 .07
Interconnected .15* .08 .15* .27* .16* .01 .04
Interesting .21* .21* .24* .24* .03 −.02
Just .25* .10 .13* .10 .26* .20* .11 .03 .10 .02
Meaningful .25* .18* .05 .31* .19* .04 .11 .03
Needs me .16* −.05 .06 −.04 .32* .12* −.11 −.18* .04
Pleasurable .28* .10 .16* −.04 .28* .29* −.03 −.05
Progressing .14* .09 −.12 .18* .20* −.14 −.03 .01
Regenerative .23* .17* .28* .31* .09 .00 .01
Stable .05 −.11 .01 −.04 .12 .16* −.09 −.07
Understandable .18* .15* .05 .24* .19* −.03 .03
Worth exploring .22* .29* .06 .29* .23* .04 .01
Note. For every character strength, the first decimal per primal refers to the zero-order correlations and the second decimal per row refers to the zero-, first-
and second-order models, respectively. Adjusted R
2
and standardized slopes are based on recursive feature elimination in 200 tenfold-cross-validation
samples. Primals that were excluded by recursive feature elimination do not appear in the tables. P-values were adjusted across all correlation and regression
tests (m = 2262) using Holm’s correction. Significant slopes are marked with asterisks (*).
THE JOURNAL OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 7
before and afterward. For example, if becoming more
grateful was mediated by seeing the world as a more
good, enticing, uid, and beautiful place, we could infer
that these primals indeed drive this development.
Second, future research may choose to develop new
interventions that directly target the primals found most
important in predicting specic character strengths. This
could involve developing interventions that either
attempt changing primals to change behaviors (‘top-
down’) or training specic behaviors to change primals
by extension (‘bottom-up’; see Dweck, 2017). Indeed,
there already exists a small literature that proves top-
down interventions’ success in changing personality,
such as by teaching what Dweck (2017) calls ‘growth
mindsets’ about personality and intelligence (e.g., Miu &
Yeager, 2015; Yeager et al., 2013). Similarly, Clifton
(2020a) proposed that primals can be changed through
deliberate experiences or targeted education. Again, if
partaking in some combination of these interventions
would elicit changes in character strengths, we could
infer that this primal–or at least its superordinate sec-
ondary and primary primals–drive this development.
Some testable hypotheses for future intervention
studies
What couplings of primals and character strengths oer the
most promise for such interventions, based on theory and
our new ndings? We provided detailed descriptions of our
results so that researchers can make those determinations
themselves, but we can also point at three cases that we
deem especially important for future research.
First, we found that believing in a good world
explained 32% of variance in hope, and thus strengthen-
ing this belief might strengthen hope by extension (see
also, Clifton, 2020a). Hope is important because it typi-
cally contributes the most to explaining well-being and
ourishing (e.g., Harzer, 2016; Park et al., 2004).
According to Peterson and Seligman (2004), hope entails
a cognitive, emotional, and motivational stance toward
the future: believing that desired outcomes will occur,
feeling condent and cheerful toward them, and acting
in ways expected to make them more likely (see also,
Alarcon et al., 2013; Krat et al., 2021). Hope’s cognitive
stance blends two key qualities of believing in a good
world: that the world can oer such desired outcomes
Table 4. Zero-order correlations and sequential linear models regressing primals on character strengths (part 4/4).
Self-regulation Appreciation Gratitude Hope Humor Spirituality
R
2adj
Primary primal .06 .06 .22 .32 .09 .30
Good .24* .24* .25* .25* .47* .47* .57* .57* .30* .30* .55* .55*
R
2
adj
Secondary primals .08 .13 .27 .37 .18 .48
Safe .23* .15* .17* .34* −.09 .51* .12 .38* .37* .28* −.14*
Enticing .20* .28* .20* .48* .24* .52* .10 .27* .34* −.28*
Alive .19* .25* −.10 .42* .41* −.05 .13* −.13* .68* .47*
Empowering .15* .11 .15* .23* .06 .12 .06 −.06
Communal .06 −.20* .19* .28* −.10 .28* −.23* .09 −.26* .35*
Fluid −.02 .16* .29* .02 .15* −.16* −.09 .08 .02
R
2adj
Tertiary primals .10 .23 .34 .41 .36 .55
Abundant .13* .20* −.03 .35* .39* −.04 .23* −.05 .22* .07
Acceptable −.05 −.05 −.05 −.04 −.06 −.05 −.03 −.02 .09
Beautiful .19* .37* .35* .47* .20* .44* −.05 .29* −.03 .35* .15*
Changing .02 .16* −.08 .17* .03 .01 −.04 .10
Cooperative .04 .11 .15 .23* .07 .24* −.10 .12 .06 .26*
Funny .06 −.10 .22* .09 .28* .08 .28* .57* .41* .15*
Harmless .20* .02 −.10 .15* −.10 .33* −.09 .18* −.19* .16*
Hierarchical .14* −.07 −.02 −.02 .09 .10 −.02 .01
Improvable .20* .14* −.03 .22* −.07 .35* .17* −.05 .21*
Intentional .14* .19* .01 .33* .28* −.12 .06 −.06 .67* .20*
Interactive .09 .17* .04 .24* −.07 .22* −.09 .08 −.02 .46* −.17*
Interconnected .10 .05 .27* −.01 .29* .21* .09 .04 .04 .44* −.10
Interesting .15* .07 .21* .03 .37* .10 .30* .12 −.03 .20* .04
Just .19* .13* −.08 .32* .38* .04 .19* .07 .42* −.14*
Meaningful .15* .19* −.13 .35* −.17* .36* −.07 .10 −.07 .41* −.11
Needs me .19* .18* .05 .38* .10 .42* .17* .14* .07 .67* .18*
Pleasurable .14* .07 −.10 .30* .49* .19* .26* .16* .19* −.05
Progressing .14* .00 −.10 .14* .33* .06 .15* −.06 .15* .05
Regenerative .19* .11 −.04 .28* .46* .05 .24* −.07 .25* −.07
Stable .08 −.09 −.05 .01 −.12* .21* −.05 .08 −.03 .11 −.08
Understandable .19* .03 −.06 .15* .33* .19* −.08 .15*
Worth exploring .10 .22* −.07 .25* −.14* .27* −.05 .21* .01 .07 −.07
Note. For every character strength, the first decimal per primal refers to the zero-order correlations and the second decimal per row refers to the zero-, first-
and second-order models, respectively. Adjusted R
2
and standardized slopes are based on recursive feature elimination in 200 tenfold-cross-validation
samples. Primals that were excluded by recursive feature elimination do not appear in the tables. P-values were adjusted across all correlation and regression
tests (m = 2262) using Holm’s correction. Significant slopes are marked with asterisks (*). Appreciation = Appreciation of beauty and excellence.
8A. G. STAHLMANN AND W. RUCH
(e.g., that it is beautiful, pleasurable, abundant) and that it
will oer them also in the future. It may be this expected
universality across time and space that accounts for
good explaining more variance in hope than in any
other character strength. If this were true, hopeful peo-
ple should be distinguishable by the generality of their
beliefs: those who believe that (most) every time and
place are good should be more hopeful than those who
have doubts about the future or other nations. Put
simply, the more ‘primal’ their positive beliefs, the
more hopeful people should be. Accordingly, strength-
ening hope may not be so much about telling people
that the world can oer some goodness–most will agree
that they can nd beauty or pleasure in specic times or
places–but about convincing them in the ubiquity of
goodness, wherever they are. As such, a promising path-
way toward strengthening hope may involve working
with individuals’ implicit beliefs about goodness that are
conned to treasured places and memories–and then
gradually evolving them toward becoming primals.
Second, we found that believing in an enticing, inter-
esting world that is worth exploring explained 32% of
variance in curiosity and 22% of variance in love of
learning. Accordingly, strengthening these beliefs
might strengthen them by extension (see, also Clifton,
2020a). Curiosity and love of learning are important
especially for children, adolescents, and young adults
because they correlate strongly with positive emotions,
satisfaction, and achievement in school (e.g., Lounsbury
et al., 2009; Weber et al., 2016). While individual motifs
can dier, both character strengths involve an intrinsic
interest in the world that fuels exploration, study, and
inquiry (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Indeed, we can
easily identify primals-related items in the VIA-IS, such
as in curiosity’s ‘I think my life is extremely interesting’. In
other words, primals have already been acknowledged
as conceptual parts of curiosity and love of learning, but
only now can we distinguish them as unique objects of
study. Hence, if we were successful in convincing people
that the world is an enticing, interesting place that is
worth exploring, more curiosity and love of learning
should follow suit.
Third, we found that believing in a safe, pleasurable,
and especially funny world explained 36% of variance in
humor, and thus strengthening specically the latter
belief might strengthen humor by extension. Contrary
to what intuition may suggest, humor is not only about
cracking jokes and appreciating comic strips: many peo-
ple eventually arrive at the conclusion that the world
and humanity are ultimately awed, but while fatalists
surrender to dread or cynicism, humorists can sustain
a benevolent, amused perspective that transforms fear
into laughter and sarcasm into witty satire (see, also
Müller & Ruch, 2011; Ruch & Heintz, 2016). One of the
most successful interventions to fostering humor is
McGhee’s (2010), 7 Humor Habits Program, which
attempts to make people gradually assume a more play-
ful attitude throughout their daily lives. This approach
bears striking similarities to what Dweck (2017) identi-
ed as a bottom-up approach to intervention: practicing
specic behaviors (e.g., laughing more often and heart-
edly; taking yourself lightly, laughing at yourself) to
change beliefs by extension. Hence, our new under-
standing of primals allows us to reframe McGhee’s
(2010) program as an intervention to foster believing in
a funny world. If this were true, partaking in the program
should account for changes in this primal that ultimately
explain changes in humor–funny would be a mediator of
the program’s success and thus constitute a cause of
humor.
Limitations
This study’s results and inferences are subject to
a number of limitations that primarily pertain to our
sample, our analytical strategy, and the assumed malle-
ability of primals. First, our results are based on the self-
reports of a German-speaking convenience sample that
self-selected to complete the PI-66-G and the VIA-IS, and
hence they have limited generalizability. Only a third of
participants identied as men and only about a quarter
were Swiss and Austrian citizens. Our results should
reect commonalities in the correlations across gender
and nationality, but it is unclear whether they also could
be replicated in culturally more homogeneous samples.
Clifton et al. (2019) and Peterson and Park et al.’s (2004)
catalogs were designed to reect universals, and thus we
can assume that the conceptual connection of primals
and characters strengths is universal, as well. However,
the literature also notes some cultural variations–for
example, Stahlmann et al. (2020) reported that–while
the PI-66-G’s higher-order structure largely corre-
sponded to that reported by Clifton et al. (2019)–there
were slight dierences in the number and contents of
the secondary primals. Accordingly, we hope that future
research will reanalyze and replicate the relationships of
primals and character strengths in other, culturally more
homogeneous samples.
Second, our analytical strategy built on sequentially
partialling out variance in character strengths, and it is
unclear to what extend secondary and tertiary primals
still predicted systematic residuals–instead of unsyste-
matic errors due to unreliability. Overall, the similarities
in the patterns of sequential and zero-order models
suggest that the residuals contained enough systematic
variance to be included as criteria in the rst-
THE JOURNAL OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 9
and second-order analyses. However, we cannot deter-
mine how much of the dierences between sequential
and zero-order models can be attributed to the partial-
ling out of higher-order primals and how much to an
inevitable loss of power. As such, we may have missed
small but noteworthy eects of specic primals–espe-
cially of tertiary primals, which were the last to be
included in the models. We may obtain more power by
attempting to measure such primals without simulta-
neously measuring their higher-order counterparts–for
example, by attempting to measure the unique variance
in needs me without measuring its covariance with other
primals that make up alive and good. However, we are
unsure whether this would be possible at all, and as
such, we conclude that our analytical strategy currently
oers the best perspective on primals’ unique contribu-
tions to explaining character strengths–notwithstanding
its shortcomings in power.
Third, there is, to date, only sparse evidence that
supports the idea that primals can be changed (Clifton,
2020b). Primals may be rather stable lenses through
which individuals interpret the world and thus hardly
malleable by new experiences. For example, one may
expect that high income relates to seeing the world as
a more abundant place, but this has not been substan-
tiated by empirical data (Clifton, 2020b). On the other
hand, we can already look back on literature that docu-
ments changes in beliefs that we may now label as
primals, such as the ndings discussed by Beck (e.g.,
Beck & Alford, 2009; Beck, 1967) and Dweck (2017). As
such, and until proven otherwise, we echo Clifton’s
(2020b, p. 8) optimism in saying that ‘even if experiences
that inuence primals cannot be found, perhaps they
can be designed.’
Conclusion
This study has shown that believing in a good world
explains a large portion of variance in a number of
character strengths, especially in hope, spirituality,
zest, gratitude, curiosity, and leadership. Beyond this
general eect, a selection of secondary and tertiary
primals emerged as important predictors for specic
character strengths, such as enticing for curiosity and
funny for humor. We have reason to assume that, in
some of these couplings, primals can aect whether
or not the character strengths develop. As such, we
recommend including them in positive psychology
interventions and testing whether changing these
primals elicits changes in character strengths by
extension.
Acknowledgments
We are grateful to Dr. Jeremy Clifton, Dr. Fabian Gander,
Dr. Martin Seligman, and Melanie Stahlmann for proering
helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.
Disclosure statement
In accordance with Taylor & Francis policy and our ethical
obligation as researchers, we are reporting that Willibald
Ruch is a Senior Scientist for the VIA Institute on Character,
which holds the copyright to the VIA Inventory of Strengths.
The remaining author declares that the research was con-
ducted without any commercial or nancial relationships that
could be construed as a potential conict of interest.
ORCID
Willibald Ruch http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5368-3616
Data availability statement
Please contact the rst author if you are interested in working
with the data reported in this manuscript. The data described
in this article are openly available in the open science
Framework at https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/F573G
Open scholarship
This article has earned the Center for Open Science badges
for Open Data and Open Materials through Open Practices
Disclosure. The data and materials are openly accessible at
https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/F573G
References
Alarcon, G. M., Bowling, N. A., & Khazon, S. (2013). Great expec-
tations: a meta-analytic examination of optimism and hope.
Personality and individual dierences, 54(7), 821–827. https://
doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2012.12.004
Beck, A. T. (1967). Depression. causes and treatment (1st ed.).
University of Pennsylvania Press.
Beck, A. T., & Alford, B. A. (2009). Depression. causes and treat-
ment (2nd ed.). University of Pennsylvania Press.
Clifton, J. D. W. (2020a). Happy in a crummy world: implications
of primal world beliefs for increasing wellbeing through
positive psychology interventions. The Journal of Positive
Psychology, 15(5), 691–695. https://doi.org/10.1080/
17439760.2020.1789703
Clifton, J. D. W. (2020b). Testing if primal world beliefs reect
experiences—or at least some experiences identied ad
hoc. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 1145. https://doi.org/10.
3389/fpsyg.2020.01145
10 A. G. STAHLMANN AND W. RUCH
Clifton, J. D. W. (2022). Measuring primal world beliefs. In
W. Ruch, A. Bakker, L. Tay, & F. Gander, (Eds.), Handbook of
positive psychology assessment. European Association of
Psychological Assessment.
Clifton, J. D. W., Baker, J. D., Park, C. L., Yaden, D. B.,
Clifton, A. B. W., Terni, P., Seligman, M. E. P., Zeng, G.,
Giorgi, S., Schwartz, H. A., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2019).
Primal world beliefs. Psychological Assessment, 31(1), 82–99.
https://doi.org/10.1037/pas0000639
Clifton, J. D. W., & Yaden, D. B. (2021). Brief measures of the four
highest-order primal world beliefs. Psychological Assessment,
33(12), 1267–1273. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pas0001055
Dweck, C. S. (2017). From needs to goals and representations:
foundations for a unied theory of motivation, personality,
and development. Psychological Review, 124(6), 689–719.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/rev0000082
Eysenck, H. J., & Eysenck, M. W. (1985). Personality and indivi-
dual dierences: A natural science approach. Plenum.
Fleeson, W., & Jayawickreme, E. (2015). Whole trait theory.
Journal of Research in Personality, 56, 82–92. https://doi.
org/10.1016/j.jrp.2014.10.009
Geukes, K., van Zalk, M., & Back, M. D. (2018). Understanding
personality development: an integrative state process
model. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 42
(1), 43–51. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025416677847
Harzer, C. (2016). The eudaimonics of human strengths: the rela-
tions between character strengths and well-being. In J. Vittersø
(Ed.), Handbook of eudaimonic well-being (pp. 307–322).
Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-42445-3_20
Koltko-Rivera, M. E. (2004). The psychology of worldviews.
Review of General Psychology, 8(1), 3–58. https://doi.org/10.
1037/1089-2680.8.1.3
Krat, A. M., Guse, T., & Maree, D. (2021). Distinguishing per-
ceived hope and dispositional optimism: theoretical founda-
tions and empirical ndings beyond future expectancies and
cognition. Journal of Well-Being Assessment, 4, 217–243.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s41543-020-00030-4
Kuhn, M. (2021). caret: Classication and regression training (R
package version 6.0-88). https://cran.r-project.org/package=
caret
Lancaster, B. P. (1999). Dening and interpreting suppressor
eects: advantages and limitations. In B. Thompson (Ed.),
Advances in social science methodology (Vol. 5, pp. 139–148).
JAI Press.
Lounsbury, J. W., Fisher, L. A., Levy, J. J., & Welsh, D. P. (2009). An
investigation of character strengths in relation to the aca-
demic success of college students. Individual Dierences
Research, 7(1), 52–69.
McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1999). The ve-factor theory of
personality. In O. P. John (Ed.), Handbook of personality
theory and research (pp. 139–153). Guilford Press.
McGhee, P. E. (2010). Humor as survival training for a stressed-
out world: The 7 humor habits program. AuthorHouse.
Miu, A. S., & Yeager, D. S. (2015). Preventing symptoms of
depression by teaching adolescents that people can
change: eects of a brief incremental theory of
personality intervention at 9-month follow-up. Clinical
Psychological Science, 3(5), 726–743. https://doi.org/10.
1177/2167702614548317
Müller, L., & Ruch, W. (2011). Humor and strengths of character.
The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(5), 368–376. https://doi.
org/10.1080/17439760.2011.592508
Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Strengths of
character and well-being. Journal of Social and Clinical
Psychology, 23(5), 603–619. https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.23.
5.603.50748
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and
virtues: A handbook and classication. Oxford University
Press; American Psychological Association.
R Core Team. (2021). R: A language and environment for
statistical computing (version 4.0.5). https://www.
R-project.org/
Revelle, W. (2021). psych: procedures for psychological, psycho-
metric, and personality research (R package version 2.1.3).
https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=psych
Ruch, W., & Heintz, S. (2016). The virtue gap in humor: exploring
benevolent and corrective humor. Translational Issues in
Psychological Science, 2(1), 35–45. https://doi.org/10.1037/
tps0000063
Ruch, W., Proyer, R. T., Harzer, C., Park, N., Peterson, C., &
Seligman, M. E. P. (2010). Values in action inventory of
strengths (VIA-IS): adaptation and validation of the German
version and the development of a peer-rating form. Journal
of Individual Dierences, 31(3), 138–149. https://doi.org/10.
1027/1614-0001/a000022
Stahlmann, A. G., Hofmann, J., Ruch, W., Heintz, S., &
Clifton, J. D. W. (2020). The higher-order structure of primal
world beliefs in German-speaking countries: adaptation and
initial validation of the German primals inventory (PI-66-G).
Personality and Individual Dierences, 163, 110054. https://
doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.110054
Tzelgov, J., & Henik, A. (1991). Suppression situations in psy-
chological research: Denitions, implications, and
applications. Psychological Bulletin, 109(3), 524–536. https://
doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.109.3.524
Vazquez, C., Valiente, C., García, F. E., Contreras, A., Peinado, V.,
Trucharte, A., & Bentall, R. P. (2021). Post-traumatic growth
and stress-related responses during the COVID-19 pandemic
in a national representative sample: the role of positive core
beliefs about the world and others. Journal of Happiness
Studies, 22(7), 2915–2935. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-
020-00352-3
Weber, M., Wagner, L., & Ruch, W. (2016). Positive feelings at
school: on the relationships between students’ character
strengths, school-related aect, and school functioning.
Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(1), 341–355. https://doi.
org/10.1007/s10902-014-9597-1
Yeager, D. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2013). An
implicit theories of personality intervention reduces ado-
lescent aggression in response to victimization and
exclusion. Child Development, 84(3), 970–988. https://doi.
org/10.1111/cdev.12003.
THE JOURNAL OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 11
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
Primal world beliefs ("primals") are beliefs about the basic character of the world (e.g., "the world is an abundant place"). The first effort to empirically map primals identified over two dozen such beliefs. The four highest-order beliefs--the overall belief that the world is Good (vs. bad), followed by Good's three dimensions of Safe (vs. dangerous), Enticing (vs. dull), and Alive (vs. mechanistic)-were novel and strongly correlated to many theoretically relevant outcomes such as depression. However, measuring these four beliefs currently requires administering the 99-item Primals Inventory (PI-99) and computing lengthy subscales (71, 29, 28, and 14 items). This article validates briefer measures. Study 1 (N = 459) and Study 2 (N = 5,171) examines the dimensionality, internal reliability, and test-retest reliability of scores on an 18-item measure of Good, Safe, Enticing, and Alive (PI-18). Study 3 (N = 3,947) does the same for a briefer 6-item measure of overall Good world belief (PI-6). Study 4 (N = 5,794) compares both versions to the PI-99 (the gold standard) and 14 of its correlates, including depression and life satisfaction. We conclude by recommending the PI-6 and PI-18 for most research and clinical uses and note that correspondence of three parallel forms implies not only scale accuracy but also robustness of the latent phenomena. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
Article
Full-text available
At first glance, hope and optimism appear to be two almost identical concepts. The predominant cognitive theories maintain that both are based on positive future expectan-cies regarding goal attainment. However, other approaches recommend distinguishing between hope and future expectancies and sustain that the differences between hope and optimism are of a more substantial nature. The present study investigates the distinction between a new short instrument to measure hope as perceived by the general public, and dispositional optimism as measured by the revised Life Orientation Test (LOT-R) in a South African sample. After comparing both instruments using confirmatory factor analysis and exploratory structural equation modelling in Mplus, a number of encouraging results emanated from the data. First, the Perceived Hope Scale (PHS) is a unitary and coherent measure of perceived hope. Second, perceived hope, as measured by the PHS, and optimism and pessimism as measured by the LOT-R, are psychometrically distinguished latent dimensions, optimally specified by their indicator variables. Furthermore, perceived hope represents a fundamental construct in the prediction of health outcomes and well-being and is an important antecedent to optimism and dispositional hope. Perceived hope is thus an important additional facet to consider in investigating well-being.
Article
Full-text available
Primal world beliefs are a recently-identified set of basic perceptions about the general character of reality (e.g. the world is boring) thought to have many psychological implications. This article explores implications relevant to wellbeing and positive intervention research. After summarizing the supposed general function of primal world beliefs, I specify ten hypotheses concerning gratitude, curiosity, optimism, trust, self-efficacy, positive emotions, engagement, meaning, life satisfaction, and overall wellbeing. Each variable may involve behavioral patterns that present as trait-like personality characteristics while actually being context-specific reactions to underlying (and malleable) perceptions. Experimental research could test these hypotheses by (a) examining whether primal world beliefs partially mediate the wellbeing impact of established interventions such as Three Good Things and (b) creating novel interventions specifically targeting primal world beliefs. To foster the latter, I discuss elements that novel interventions might incorporate, illustrating with an example called the Leaf Exercise.
Article
Full-text available
The aim of this study was to test a cognitive model of post-traumatic symptoms (PTS) and post-traumatic growth (PTG) during the confinement caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. It was hypothesised that the severity of PTS might be associated with ideas of suspiciousness and intolerance to uncertainty whereas PTG might be associated to beliefs of living in a good world and a positive outlook of the future. To evaluate the model, a national representative sample of adults between the ages of 18 and 75 (N=2122) was surveyed between 7-13 April, 2020, in the middle of a strict 7-week national confinement. Structural equation modelling yielded a very similar model to the one initially specified. The results highlight the role of both negative and positive core beliefs about the nature of the world and human nature, which are pertinent to the current biological threat, in the appearance of PTS and PTG, respectively.
Article
Full-text available
Do negative primal world beliefs reflect experiences such as trauma, crime, or low socio-economic status? Clifton and colleagues recently suggested that primals—defined as beliefs about the general character of the world as a whole, such as the belief that the world is safe (vs. dangerous) and abundant (vs. barren)—may shape many of the most-studied variables in psychology. Yet researchers do not yet know why individuals adopt their primals nor the role of experience in shaping primals. Many theories can be called retrospective theories; these theories suggest that past experiences lead to the adoption of primals that reflect those experiences. For example, trauma increases the belief that the world is dangerous and growing up poor increases the belief that the world is barren. Alternatively, interpretive theories hold that primals function primarily as lenses on experiences while being themselves largely unaffected by them. This article identifies twelve empirical tests where each theory makes different predictions and hypothesizes that retrospective theories are typically less accurate than interpretive theories. I end noting that, even if retrospective theories are typically inaccurate, that does not imply experiences do not shape primals. I end by offering a conceptual architecture—the Cube Framework—for exploring the full range of human experience and suggest that, though psychologists have historically focused on negative, externally imposed experiences of short-duration (e.g., trauma), positive, internally driven, and longer-term experiences are also worth considering.
Article
Full-text available
Primal world beliefs–or primals–are a category of beliefs about the overall character of the world that inform individual differences in cognition, affect, and behavior. In a recent comprehensive effort, Clifton et al. (2019) cataloged 26 pervasive primals and developed the Primals Inventory (PI-99) to measure them. In this study (N = 592), we describe the adaptation and initial validation of the German Primals Inventory (PI-66-G), an instrument to measure primals in German-speaking countries. The PI-66-G's first-order structure was supported by exploratory factor analyses and the resulting scales demonstrated good reliability (median α = 0.81). Based on the PI-66-G, we extend Clifton et al.' (2019) work by modeling the primals' hierarchical structure: Higher-order factor analyses reproduced their three-level model including one primary primal (Good), the three original secondary primals (Safe, Enticing, Alive), and three additional secondary primals (Empowering, Communal, Fluid). In line with the previous findings, the PI-66-G's primals were differentially (but mainly positively) correlated with the Big Five and life satisfaction. The results suggest that primals can generally be organized in a hierarchical model, but that the current model cannot properly describe every primal. Based on our findings, we discuss three hypotheses that should be evaluated in future research.
Article
Full-text available
Beck’s insight—that beliefs about one’s self, future, and environment shape behavior—transformed depression treatment. Yet environment beliefs remain relatively understudied. We introduce a set of environment beliefs— primal world beliefs or primals —that concern the world’s overall character (e.g., the world is interesting, the world is dangerous ). To create a measure, we systematically identified candidate primals (e.g., analyzing tweets, historical texts, etc.); conducted exploratory factor analysis ( N = 930) and two confirmatory factor analyses ( N = 524; N = 529); examined sequence effects ( N = 219) and concurrent validity ( N = 122); and conducted test-retests over 2 weeks ( n = 122), 9 months ( n = 134), and 19 months (n = 398). The resulting 99-item Primals Inventory (PI-99) measures 26 primals with three overarching beliefs— Safe, Enticing , and Alive (mean α = .93)—that typically explain ∼55% of the common variance. These beliefs were normally distributed; stable (2 weeks, 9 months, and 19 month test-retest results averaged .88, .75, and .77, respectively); strongly correlated with many personality and wellbeing variables (e.g., Safe and optimism, r = .61; Enticing and depression, r = −.52; Alive and meaning, r = .54); and explained more variance in life satisfaction, transcendent experience, trust, and gratitude than the BIG 5 (3%, 3%, 6%, and 12% more variance, respectively). In sum, the PI-99 showed strong psychometric characteristics, primals plausibly shape many personality and wellbeing variables, and a broad research effort examining these relationships is warranted.
Article
Drawing on both classic and current approaches, I propose a theory that integrates motivation, personality, and development within one framework, using a common set of principles and mechanisms. The theory begins by specifying basic needs and by suggesting how, as people pursue need-fulfilling goals, they build mental representations of their experiences (beliefs, representations of emotions, and representations of action tendencies). I then show how these needs, goals, and representations can serve as the basis of both motivation and personality, and can help to integrate disparate views of personality. The article builds on this framework to provide a new perspective on development, particularly on the forces that propel development and the roles of nature and nurture. I argue throughout that the focus on representations provides an important entry point for change and growth. (PsycINFO Database Record