Building Character: Positive Psychology & The Air Force Core Values

Jonathon M. Burnett


The purpose of this study is to operationalize the Air Force Core Values using the tools of positive psychology. Although the Air Force has adopted certain tenets of positive psychology into its resilience training, little research has been done to apply its insights to Air Force ethics. To fill this gap, the study used a qualitative preliminary research design, in which an initial qualitative phase of research guided the data collection and analysis in a quantitative phase. The first objective was to determine the relationship of the Core Values to the VIA Classification of Character Strengths. Phase 1 used lexical semantics to identify strong relationships between four Air Force virtues and VIA character strengths, as well as five weaker relationships. This mapping makes it possible to use the VIA Inventory of Strengths to see how well the Air Force imparts its Core Values to Airmen. The second objective was to demonstrate how the VIA Inventory might be used in an Air Force environment. Phase 2 administered the VIA Inventory to Airmen at the Air Force Institute of Technology and analyzed the results using standard statistical techniques. This identified several variables of interest for future longitudinal studies.