Temperance (virtue)

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Temperantia, by Luca Giordano

Temperance is defined as moderation or voluntary self-restraint.[1] It is typically described in terms of what an individual voluntarily refrains from doing.[2] This includes restraint from retaliation in the form of non-violence and forgiveness, restraint from arrogance in the form of humility and modesty, restraint from excesses such as splurging now in the form of prudence, and restraint from excessive anger or craving for something in the form of calmness and self-control.[2]

Temperance has been described as a virtue by religious thinkers, philosophers, and more recently, psychologists, particularly in the positive psychology movement. It was one of the cardinal virtues in western thought found in Greek philosophy and Christianity, as well as eastern traditions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Temperance is one of the six virtues in the positive psychology classification, included with wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, and transcendence.[3] It is generally characterized as the control over excess, and expressed through characteristics such as chastity, modesty, humility, prudence, self-regulation, forgiveness and mercy; each of these involves restraining an excess of some impulse, such as sexual desire, vanity, or anger.

Historical, religious, and philosophical perspectives

Representation of temperance (painted wood sculpture, dated 1683, which covers the shrine of the baptismal church Breton Commana in France). Temperance foot tips over a jug of wine, and presents a pitcher of water

Themes of temperance can be seen across cultures and time, as illustrated here.


Temperance is an essential part of the Eightfold Path. The third and fifth of the five precepts (pañca-sila) reflect values of temperance: "misconduct concerning sense pleasures" and drunkenness are to be avoided.[4]


The concept of dama (Sanskrit: दम) in Hinduism is equivalent to temperance. It is sometimes written as damah (Sanskrit: दमः).[5][6] The word dama, and Sanskrit derivative words based on it, connote the concepts of self-control and self-restraint. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, in verse 5.2.3, states that three characteristics of a good, developed person are self-restraint (damah), compassion and love for all sentinent life (daya), and charity (daana).[7] In Hinduism literature dedicated to yoga, self-restraint is expounded with the concept of yamas (Sanskrit: यम).[8] According to ṣaṭsampad, self-restraint (dama) is one of the six cardinal virtues.[9]

The list of virtues that constitute a moral life evolve in vedas and upanishads. Over time, new virtues were conceptualized and added, some replaced, others merged. For example, Manusamhita initially listed ten virtues necessary for a human being to live a dharmic (moral) life: Dhriti (courage), Kshama (forgiveness), Dama (temperance), Asteya (Non-covetousness/Non-stealing), Saucha (purity), Indriyani-graha (control of senses), dhi (reflective prudence), vidya (wisdom), satyam (truthfulness), akrodha (free from anger). In later verses this list was reduced to five virtues by the same scholar, by merging and creating a more broader concept. The shorter list of virtues became: Ahimsa (Non-violence), Dama (temperance), Asteya (Non-covetousness/Non-stealing), Saucha (purity), Satyam (truthfulness).[10][11] This trend of evolving concepts continue in classical Sanskrit literature, Dama with Ahimsa and few other virtues present in the evolving list of virtues necessary for a moral life (dharma).[12][13]

Five types of self-restraints are considered essential for a moral and ethical life in Hindu philosophy: one must refrain from any violence that causes injury to others, refrain from starting or propagating deceit and falsehood, refrain from theft of other's property, refrain from sexually cheating on one's partner, and refrain from avarice.[8][14] The scope of self-restraint includes one's action, the words one speaks or writes, and in one's thoughts. The necessity for temperance is explained as preventing bad karma which sooner or later haunts and returns to the unrestrained.[15][16] The theological need for self-restraint is also explained as reigning in the damaging effect of one's action on others, as hurting another is hurting oneself because all life is one.[14][17]

Greek civilization

Figure of Temperance from Digges memorial by Nicholas Stone, St. Mary's Church, Chilham

The Greek definition of temperance translates to “moderation in action, thought, or feeling; restraint." Temperance is a major Athenian virtue, as advocated by Plato; self-restraint (sôphrosune) is one of his four core virtues of the ideal city, and echoed by Aristotle. According to Aristotle, “temperance is a mean with regard to pleasures”.[18] In “Charmides,” one of Plato’s early dialogues, the one who possessed ‘sophrosune’ is defined in four ways: (1) one who has quietness, (2) one who has modesty, (3) one who does his own business, and (4) one who knows himself. Plato quickly dismisses the three first definitions and argues against (4) that if ‘sophrosune’ would have been only the property of knowing what one knows or not, then it would be useless without knowledge about other matters.


In the Judeo-Christian tradition, temperance is prolific. The Old Testament emphasizes temperance as a core virtue, as evidenced in both Solomon's Book of Proverbs and in the Ten Commandments, with its admonitions against adultery and covetousness. The New Testament does so as well, with forgiveness being central to theology and self-control being one of the Fruits of the Spirit.[18] With regard to Christian theology, the word temperance is used by the King James Version in Galatians 5:23 for the Greek word ἐγκρατεία (enkrateia), which means self-control or discipline (Strong's Concordance, 1466). Thomas Aquinas promoted Plato's original virtues in addition to several others.

Within the Christian church Temperance is a virtue akin to self-control. It is applied to all areas of life. It can especially be viewed in practice among sects like the Amish, Old Order Mennonites, and Conservative Mennonites. In the Christian religion, temperance is a virtue that moderates attraction and desire for pleasure and “provides balance in the use of created goods”. St. Thomas calls it a “disposition of the mind which binds the passions,”.[18] Temperance is believed to combat the sin of gluttony. Temperance is commonly broken down into four main strengths: forgiveness, humility, prudence, and self-regulation. This page will delve further into each of these four strengths.

Contemporary organizations

Values of temperance are still advocated by more modern sources such as the Boy Scouts, William Bennett, and Ben Franklin [19] Philosophy has contributed a number of lessons to the study of traits, particularly in its study of injunctions and its listing and organizing of virtues.

Road to the psychological study of virtue

There have been many roadblocks in the psychological study of virtue. In the past, psychology was more accepting to the study of character and virtues, but the topic lost favor for some time due to a number of concerns. First, the concern was that objective research would be compromised by personal beliefs. As a result, the idea of character and morality were largely ignored, especially in the realm of personality trait psychology, where references to character and morally tinged terms were completely avoided, even banned, by Gordon Allport, a major personality psychologist at the time. Guilt by association may have played a role in the controversy surrounding intelligence tests, and psychoanalytic theory's hold on the discipline for some time also deterred from the study of positive traits, which were chalked up to unconscious impulses. Finally, perhaps most importantly, the so-called "medical model" approach that has been (and continues to be) so pervasive in the study and practice of psychology over the last several decades encourages a focus on human deficits and disorders rather than strengths and virtues. However, Peterson and Seligman (2004) argue that "an exclusive focus on what is wrong with people can lead us to overlook what is right and precludes the possibility that one of the best ways to undo someone's weakness is by encouraging his or her strengths." (55-56)

Despite difficulties, a number of leading psychologists, historical and contemporary, have contributed to the rise of the study of strength traits. Thorndike, an early, influential behavioral psychologist, "proposed that a person's morality (character) could be measured in quantitative terms,"[20] just like intelligence. Erikson's stage theory involved persons confronting various challenges that occurred throughout the lifespan, and with each stage, various "psychosocial" virtues were to develop. Especially relative to temperance was the acquisition of self-control in the early childhood stage. Maslow's hierarchy of needs includes the self-actualization near the top; in his characteristics of self-actualized individuals he included a number of virtues, including humility and respect for others.[21] The "Big Five" in personality psychology includes the trait of conscientiousness, which is related to the strength of self-regulation.

Psychological perspectives

Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. Before a discussion of psychological approaches to the topic of temperance begins, one must consider the fact that "temperance" is more of an overarching concept that houses a number of more specific traits and patterns that can be specifically operationalized. That is, most studies deal not with the overarching virtue of temperance but with its specific subclasses. For the purposes of this entry, the separate but related subclasses discussed will include: (1) forgiveness and mercy, (2) modesty and humility, (3) prudence, and (4) self-regulation.


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Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.[22][23] Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).[22] As a psychological concept and virtue, the benefits of forgiveness have been explored in religious thought, the social sciences and medicine. Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives[24] including forgiving themselves, in terms of the person forgiven or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. In most contexts, forgiveness is moving on from a wrong done or from a wrong doer, and the self-restraint from letting others or one's past cause an excess of emotions and anger.[22][3]


Currently, measures for forgiveness are mostly self-report (e.g., Mauger et al., 1992; Mullet, Houdbine, Laumonier, & Girard, 1998) but also include hypothetical scenarios (e.g., Berry et al., 2001; Rye et al., 2001) and peer report (Berry et al., 2001).

Empirical findings: correlates

To summarize, compared with less forgiving individuals, it has been found that more-forgiving people tend to:

  • Be slightly lower on negative affects such as anger, anxiety, depression, and hostility [25][26]
  • Perform better on physically challenging tasks [27]
  • Act in a more socially desirable manner[28][29]
  • Give benefits such as money to someone who had been previously been rude to them [30]
  • Score higher on the "Big Five"'s agreeableness and lower on neuroticism - this is a very strong correlation[25][30][31]
  • Be older - developmental studies suggest that at our youngest, we are least forgiving, and this trait increases with age [32]

Empirical findings: enabling factors

Experiencing empathy toward the transgressor is an enabling factor for forgiving,[31] whereas rumination on the offense is a disabling factor.[33] In addition, people are less likely to forgive when they believe the transgressor's actions to be intentional, and when there are more dire consequences (Boon & Sulsky, 1997; Girard & Mullet, 1997; Takaku, Weiner, & Ohbuchi, 2001). Along the same vein, apologies appear to go a long way in promoting forgiveness (Darby & Schlenker, 1982; McCullough et al., 1997, 1998).

Empirical findings: cultural and gender differences

There appear to be no significant differences between men and women's tendency to forgive (Berry et al., 2001). Culturally speaking, there appears to be a difference in the factors motivating individuals toward forgiveness: persons from collective cultures forgive out of "concern about maintaining positive relationships with others and about maintaining social norms regarding how a victim should respond, whereas people from individualist cultures are more motivated by the desire to maintain a favorable self-identity or to fulfill abstract moral principles (e.g., justice; Takaku et al., 2001)."[19]

Applications and interventions

Various methods have been designed to increase forgiveness for individual psychotherapy (Enright & Coyle, 1998; Kaminer et al., 2000; Malcom & Greenberg, 2000; McCullough & Worthington, 1994); marital therapy (Gordon, Baucom, & Snyder, 2000); and psychoeducational groups (Worthington et al., 2000; Worthington, Sandage, & Berry, 2000)

An intervention method developed by Ernright has been shown to encourage forgiveness and also increases positive states while decreasing negative ones (Enright & Coyle, 1998). A number of psychoeducational group studies have shown to be effective when promoting empathy (McCullough et al., 1997) and encouraging forgiveness (Worthington, Sandage, et al., 2000). Finally, the effectiveness of interventions depends on their length of time - at least six hours should be committed (Worthington, Sandage, et al., 2000).


The strength of modesty and humility is characterized by "letting one's accomplishments speak for themselves [and] not regarding oneself as more special than one is." A review by Tangney (2000, 2002) "identified a number of humility's key features:

  • an accurate (not underestimated) sense of one's abilities and achievements
  • the ability to acknowledge one's mistakes, imperfections, gaps in knowledge, and limitations (often with reference to a "higher power")
  • openness to new ideas, contradictory information, and advice
  • keeping one's abilities and accomplishments in perspective
  • relatively low focus on the self or an ability to "forget the self"
  • appreciation of the value of all things, as well as the many different ways that people and things can contribute to our world" [19]

It should be noted that some cultural differences seem to exist for this strength; whereas humility is celebrated in Buddhism's emphasis on the balanced life, in the United States, humility is infrequently praised. The US's cultural values of individualism and pride, as well as the more modern emphasis on self-esteem, may account for this fact.


Humility is a difficult trait to operationalize and measure by itself, other than through self-report, which would be rather unreliable. Thus, it seems that the best way to operationalize humility is by equating it inversely with the trait of narcissism, self-enhancement, and/or defensiveness, which are essentially the opposite of humility.[34] Much work must be done to better the measures, as many studies on humility are plagued by low reliability.

Empirical findings: correlational

Because measures on humility are currently so weak, the best option for studying empirical findings is to look at the findings for narcissism – so in reading the findings below, the opposite should be true for the humble. Thus, relative to those who score lower, people who score highly on narcissism tend to:

  • be more competitive[35]
  • be higher on dominance[36]
  • show more hostility[37]
  • be more angry[38]
  • show more aggression[39][40]
  • feel more "entitled"
  • both seek and give forgiveness less frequently[41][42]
  • Initially seem charming,[43] but eventually be disliked by others[44]
  • Brag, and be disliked for it[45][46]
  • Cause interpersonal conflict through actions like cheating on partners [47] and taking credit from close others on interdependent tasks[48]
  • Fail to express gratitude[49]
  • Have unstable self-esteem[50]

In addition, in one study, violent criminals scored significantly higher on "personal entitlement" inventories than college students (Bushman & Baumeister, 2002). Thus, one can make the conclusion that humility serves as a protective factor against social conflict, since humble people tend to lack many qualities leading to conflict (hostility, bragging, lack of forgiveness, etc.). Finally, "willingness to self-criticize, if moderated, may ultimately help people move toward self-improvement goals (Heine et al., 2001). Personal deficits will be addressed only if we are willing to see that they exist." [19]

Empirical findings: developmental

Parenting is believed to be a crucial factor in the development of humility. Specifically, factors promoting secure attachment are believed to promote humility (cf. Bowlby, 1973; chapter 13). Specifically, Peterson and Seligman (2004) propose that "humility would be unlikely to stem from parenting or educational styles that involve the following: (a) an extreme emphasis on performance, appearance, popularity, or other external sources of self-evaluation, particularly if combined with perfectionist performance standards; (b) inaccurate, excessive praise or criticism (c) frequent comparison of the child against siblings or peers, especially if this comparison is accompanied by competitive messages (d) communicating to the child that he or she is superior or inferior to other people. Such practices would predispose a child to turn to external sources of validation for a sense of security, and they would also encourage the child to make competitive, invidious comparisons." [19]

Empirical findings: enabling and inhibiting factors

Enabling factors for humility include the "appearance of attachment, the development of a sense of self, the emergence of independence in infancy, openness to new experiences, experience with decision making, and life review and integration in old age" (Santrock, 1996, pp. 332–333). In addition, parenting and education that promote identity development are more likely to lead to humble individuals, but the direct influences leading to humility are yet undiscovered.

Empirical findings: gender and cultural factors

In general, it appears that women are somewhat more modest (Berg, Stephan, & Dodson, 1981; Heatherington et al., 1998), have slightly lower self-esteem (Kling, Hyde, Showers, & Buswell, 1999), and have lower levels of narcissism (L. Carroll, 1989) than men. Culturally speaking, collectivist cultures tend to value humility more than individualistic ones, as evidenced by a study on Japan vs. the United States (Heine et al., 1999, 2001; Markus & Kitayama, 1991).

Applications and interventions

"If self-enhancement is understood as a motivated and partially controllable strategy (Krueger, 1998b)., and not as a cognitive illusion, humility seems to be within reach for most."[19] However, as yet there are no direct interventions to promote humility. Research suggests that 12-step self-help groups (Kurtz & Ketcham, 1992), character development programs, and religious interventions might foster humility (Watts, 1960). Peterson and Seligman (2004) suggest a number of strategies for improving humility, including:

  • Providing individuals with accurate feedback about themselves
  • Techniques fostering awe
  • Doing chores (perhaps community service?)
  • Seeking forgiveness
  • Keeping a gratitude journal
  • developing a close relationship with someone (W. K. Campbell et al., 2000)

With such interventions, "the goal would be to enable the individual to feel safe enough to nondefensively acknowledge both strengths and limitations."[19] The warning should be made, however, that such interventions run the risk of causing self-esteem to plummet if not conducted carefully.


Prudence is characterized by "being careful about one's choices, not taking undue risks, and not saying or doing things that might later be regretted." VIA Prudence's roots date back to Aristotle's writings on practical wisdom, in which he hails it as a crucial, linking virtue. Currently, prudence is usually used in reference to financial or political situations, but to psychologists prudence's meaning extends much further. According to Peterson and Seligman (2004), "Individuals with this strength have the following attributes:

  • They take a foresighted stance toward their personal future, thinking and caring about it, planning for it, and holding long-term goals and aspirations.
  • They are skilled at resisting self-defeating impulses and at persisting in beneficial activities that lack immediate appeal.
  • They show a style of thinking about everyday life choices that is reflective, deliberate, and practical.
  • They harmonize the multiple goals and interests that motivate them, forming these into a stable, coherent, and unconflicted form of life."


No tools have been developed to measure the prudence trait. However, prudence may be related to the conscientiousness construct of personality inventories such as the ones presented by Costa & MacCrae.

  • NEO-PI-R Conscientiousness Subscale (Costa & McCrae, 1992)
  • NEO-FFI Conscientiousness Subscale (Costa & McCrae, 1992)
  • Trait Descriptions Conscientiousness Subscale (L. R. Goldberg, 1992)
  • Big Five Inventory (BFI) Conscientiousness Subscale (John & Srivastava, 1999)
  • Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI) Conscientiousness Subscale (R. Hogan & Hogan, 1992)

Therefore, findings on conscientiousness may also apply to prudence. The same goes for moderation.

Prudence may also be positively related to risk aversion—the tendency to avoid uncertain situations where negative payoff may ensue, and opposed to impulsivity,[51] e.g., as expressed through delayed gratification measures.

Empirical findings: correlational

Findings suggest that prudent people (or those with more conscientiousness, or who have more congruence among their strivings) tend to:

  • be higher than average on agreeableness, extroversion, and intellect
  • be less neurotic than average
  • have higher positive affect, with more optimism[52]
  • have lower negative affect, such as hopelessness[52]
  • have lower levels of psychopathology and delinquency (and is a better predictor over all other Big Five Factors)[53]
  • be less likely to have antisocial personality disorder, and more likely to have compulsive personality disorder, than average [54][55]
  • live longer [56]
  • have better health and well-being[57]
  • in jobs, have more productivity, success in training, duration of tenure, and salary[58]
  • predict performance of military leaders, which "implies a useful paradigm for assessing political leadership" [19][59]
  • be older[60]

Empirical findings: developmental

As was mentioned previously, prudence tends to increase with age.[60] Although there are few studies dealing with prudence under that particular title, much research has been done on impulse control and delay of gratification (see self-regulation section), both of which are correlated with prudence. One study even suggested that prudence may be linked with altruism in adulthood.[61]

Empirical findings: gender and cultural differences

No research exists on prudence specifically and gender, but conscientiousness shows no difference across genders[62] There is also little research on cultural differences for prudence, although it has been suggested that prudence would not be as advantageous in collectivist cultures.[63]

Applications and interventions

No interventions are currently known to improve levels of prudence, but it has been suggested that programs for financial self-discipline, safer sex, and certain forms of cognitive and/or behavioral psychotherapy may prove useful.[19]


Self-regulation or self-control, (terms that we are used interchangeably) is defined as the capacity to override natural and automatic tendencies, desires, or behaviors; to pursue long-term goals, even at the expense of short-term attractions; and to follow socially prescribed norms and rules.[64] It is characterized as "regulating what one feels and does, being disciplined, and controlling one's appetites and emotions." Self-regulation "refers to how a person exerts control over his or her own responses so as to pursue goals and live up to standards."[19] Its roots lie in its early use by Bandura, who theorized that individuals administer internal rewards and punishments for their behavior when exerting control over themselves.[65] Perhaps most influential are the delayed gratification studies by Mischel et al., which will be discussed later.


Most research focuses on behavioral measures of self-regulation, such as amount of food or alcohol consumed in a setting. A number of other scales exist, but tend to be too narrowly focused (on food, for example) or lacking in validity. Peterson and Seligman (2004) recommend both the Self-Control Scale (Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004) and the Low Self-Control Scale (Grasmick et al., 1993) for their "psychometric properties, face validity, and a demonstrated capacity to produce significant results"[19]

Empirical findings: correlational

According to a review by Baumeister et al. (1994), "self-regulation failure is central to nearly all the personal and social problems that currently plague citizens of the modern, developed world. These problems include drug addiction and abuse, alcoholism, smoking, crime and violence, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, underachievement in schools, gambling, personal debt and credit card abuse, lack of financial savings, anger and hostility, failure to exercise regularly, and overeating."

Some of the most influential research that has been done related to self-regulation is Mischel and his colleague's studies on children and delay of gratification. In these studies, children have the option of receiving an immediate, smaller reward, or a delayed, larger reward. Those who choose to wait for the larger reward, despite the temptation of the immediate reward, are characterized by "delaying gratification." In longitudinal follow-ups, the children who delayed gratification (and thus showed self-regulation) were more successful both academically and socially a decade later (Mischel, Shoda, and Peake, 1998). So those who exhibit high self-control tend to:

  • have a higher GPA (Wolfe and Johnson, 1995)
  • "report fewer pathological symptoms, including Somatization, obsessive-compulsive patterns, depression, anxiety, hostile anger, phobic anxiety, paranoid ideation, and psychoticism, as well as higher self-acceptance and higher self esteem"[19]
  • be more cooperative, get along better with others, and have more satisfying relationships and family life (E. J. Finkel & Campbell, 2000; Vohs, Ciarocco, & Baumeister, 2003)
  • be more financially responsible (Romal & Kaplan, 1995)
  • be less likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs, and to commit crime

Lastly, popular students, as identified by teacher ratings, are more likely to score highly on civic strengths such as leadership and fairness. These students are also likely to score highly on the temperance strengths of self-regulation, prudence, and forgiveness.[3]

Empirical findings: developmental factors

Little is known about the development of self-control. Even in early childhood studies, such as the delay of gratification, it is unclear whether the child or the parenting is most responsible - so it is a nature vs nurture debate. However, learning the abilities to self-soothe and self-regulate are widely held to be developmental goals of the infant/caregiver attachment relationship. Mature, intentional make-believe play is the foundation of self-regulation development in preschool. It has been shown that this make believe play leads to better regulation by others, of others, and self- regulation. Secure attachment would lead to modulation of physiological arousal, increased ability to self soothe, thus, possibly an increase in temperance or self-regulation.[66]

Empirical findings: enabling and inhibiting factors

Self-regulation appears to function like muscle, growing initially fatigued but stronger over time with frequent exercise.[67] Thus, self-control functions as a limited resource that can only be maintained for so long. In addition, if energy resources are low, self-regulation is inhibited. Self-monitoring (attending to one's own behavior) appears to be a crucial factor in self-regulation (Carver & Scheier, 1981)

Gender and cultural factors

While it has historically appeared that there are no real differences between males and females in their self-control abilities, a 1999 study “Gender Differences in Emotional Expressivity and Self- Regulation During Infancy,” shows that male infants have greater difficulty maintaining regulation than female infants.[68] Overall though, the specific application of self-control may differ with age. However, the specific application of self-control may differ, with males displaying more sexual aggression and women being more likely to binge eat. Little is known about general differences in self-control across cultures, but more specific applications such as alcoholism (Peele, 1989) teen pregnancy (Barber, 2000) may see differences across cultures or even religions (Weber, 1904).

Applications and interventions

Little research has been done on specific interventions, and it is unclear whether self-regulation can truly be taught. However, it has been suggested that using conditional statements (i.e. "if someone offers you drugs, just say no") may be helpful for parents attempting to instill self-control in their children. Additionally, "a brief longitudinal study by Muraven et al. (1999) found that people who worked on their self-regulatory capacities by daily exercises such as improving their posture ended up performing better than other people on laboratory tests of self-control."[19] Daily self-control exercises increase a general core capacity for self-control (our self-regulation “muscle”). These exercises include, but are not limited to:

  • Monitoring food intake
  • Physical exercise programs
  • Financial monitoring exercises [3]

Controversies and future directions

According to many critics, a major problem in defining temperance is the difficulty of establishing the nature of virtues. This is a significant problem because different people, cultures and societies have immeasurably different opinions as to what constitutes a virtue.[3] Different cultures find value in different traits, and so to some cultures what may be a virtue can actually be undesirable in others. An example of this is the value Western society places on individualism, compared to the emphasis on close communal ties stressed in many Eastern cultures. Another related controversy is that many argue virtue ethics are self-centered, when virtue ethics should be about other people, and how our actions affect others. “Proponents counter that virtues in themselves are concerned with how we respond to the needs of others, and that the good of the agent and the good of others are not two separate aims, but both result from the exercise of virtue,”.[3]

For forgiveness, more reliable measures are needed, and longitudinal studies are needed in order to support the claim about forgiveness varying as a function of age, and also to study temporal variation in forgiveness. More studies on the social aspects of forgiveness should be done to ascertain how forgiveness affects social groups in families or communities. In addition, little is known about the actual process of forgiveness - what goes on cognitively and emotionally when someone forgives? Finally, perhaps most "hot topic" with regards to forgiveness is the notion that forgiveness may be associated with health benefits (preventative and curative) and well-being. Thus far, there have been only a few studies with weak designs on this topic, so stronger studies need to explore this idea. One promising study by Witvliet, Ludwig, and Vander Laan's (2001) showed that "forgiveness can influence short-term markers for sympathetic nervous system arousal."[19]

For humility, much more research must be done. Diverging opinions on what exactly humility is have prevented studies from being reliable, and a consensus needs to be reached on its definition, as contrasted with modesty. In addition, the question of what positive traits humility exhibits (apart from the absence of negative ones). The question of how humility looks across the lifespan should be asked. And finally, the question of whether humility can be developed in an individual, and how (through interventions etc.) should be addressed.

For prudence, general research is very much needed, as there is basically none on prudence specifically as a construct (only related ones such as conscientiousness).

For self-regulation, it is still unclear whether it can be taught, although research suggests it can be.[69] A central question to be asked is what kind of interventions, if any, can be done, especially on the part of parenting techniques. The VIA survey suggests exercises for boosting self-regulation: (1) when you get upset, make a conscious effort to control your emotion and focus on positive attributes. (2) Set goals to improve your everyday living, (3) Pay close attentions to your biological clock. Do your most important tasks when you are most alert (3) It is unclear whether any genetic, environmental, or other factors have any influence on the development of self-regulation, but these areas would be very worthwhile to explore, considering the many benefits of this strength. In general temperance appears to be the lowest-scoring area out of all the virtues on the VIA survey,[3] suggesting that it is a weakness across individuals. According to the survey, if self-regulation is your top strength, then one will self-consciously regulate what one feels and what one does. This type of person would also be in control of their appetites and emotions.[70] Given the many benefits of temperance and its potential to enable the psychological good life, further exploration should prove to be a worthwhile endeavor.

See also


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  4. Harvey, P. (1990). An introduction to Buddhism: Teaching, history and practices. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
  5. Sanskrit translations for Self-Control English-Sanskrit Dictionary, Germany
  6. Sanskrit Words; See dama and damah
  7. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Translator: S Madhavananda, page 816, For discussion: pages 814-821; Quote - "तदेतत्त्रयँ शिक्षेद् दमं दानं दयामिति", translation: Learn three cardinal virtues - temperance, charity and compassion for all life."
  8. 8.0 8.1 James Lochtefeld, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Rosen Publishing New York, ISBN 0-8239-2287-1, see article on Yama, page 777
  9. Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary, France, this reference is in french; see explanation under the term dama: contrôle de ses passions
  10. Gupta, B. (2006). BHAGAVAD GĪTĀ AS DUTY AND VIRTUE ETHICS. Journal of Religious Ethics, 34(3), 373-395.
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