Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Change These 3 Beliefs to Strengthen Your Character

The strength of your character may have roots in your beliefs about the world.

Key points

  • Having a positive ‘primal’ worldview—viewing the world as safe, enticing, and purposeful—has a strong link with character strengths.
  • Researchers found a strong connection between positive primals and the character strengths such as hope, gratitude, and curiosity.
  • Learning from people in other cultures and studying historical accounts are a few ways to expand the scope of one’s positive world views.
Kimson Doan / Unsplash
Source: Kimson Doan / Unsplash

A new study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology shows that having a positive ‘primal’ worldview, i.e., viewing the world as a safe, enticing, and purposeful place, has a strong link with character strengths like hope, gratitude, and curiosity.

“Recent theories have hypothesized that primal world beliefs are catalysts of personality differences and development — and that ‘primals’ can help us understand why humans differ in their attitudes, emotional dispositions, and typical behaviors,” explains psychologist Alexander Stahlmann of the University of Zurich.

Stahlmann contends that primal world beliefs are organized in a hierarchy based on their level of abstraction. The most abstract or general primal is the belief in a good (vs. bad) world. Secondary primals that feed into the primary category include believing that the world is a:

  1. a safe (vs. dangerous) place,
  2. an enticing (vs. dull) place, and
  3. an alive (vs. mechanistic) place.

There are also more than 20 tertiary primals, such as believing in a world that is regenerative (vs. degenerative), stable (vs. fragile), just (vs. unjust), and so on.

For instance, an individual who views the world as a good place (primary primal) might do so because they also view it as an enticing place (secondary primal) as a result of believing that the world values them and their efforts (tertiary primal).

Stahlmann’s study examined the co-occurrence of primary, secondary, and tertiary primals with various character strengths in a sample of 1,100 German-speaking adults.

The researchers found a strong connection between positive primals and the following character strengths:

According to the researchers, these results have the potential to make believing in a good world a prerequisite for developing character strengths. In other words, becoming more hopeful, enthusiastic, and appreciative might hinge on seeing the world as a beautiful, interesting, and safe place.

For anyone who wants to change their worldview in a positive way, Stahlmann shares the following suggestion:

“Everybody can see some degree of beauty in the world, but some may believe that this beauty is confined to treasured places or memories,” he says. “Developing positive primals means gradually extending confined beliefs to the whole world. This development may be achieved through anything that helps people realize that beauty is all around them and always has been there, no matter the historical period or what the future may hold.”

Stahlmann recommends reading travel blogs, learning from people in other cultures, and studying historical accounts as a few ways to expand the scope of one’s positive world views.

“Primals research is just starting to gain momentum, but it bears the potential to help us better understand, and maybe steer, personality development,” says Stahlmann. “Knowing these relationships is important because it will allow us to design positive psychological interventions that may develop character strengths by developing their corresponding primals.”

References

Stahlmann, Alexander (Interview). The way you view the world might just be your superpower. Therapytips.org, June 14, 2022.

advertisement