Recent evidence strongly suggests that the emotion of gratitude helps weave the fabric of our social lives. More than merely holding us together, however, its experience and expression are associated with thriving individuals and dyadic social relationships (Algoe, 2012). In the current proposal, we take a major step forward to suggest that gratitude—and particularly, its expression within groups—is important for a thriving society.
The proposed work involves a series of basic research experiments designed to systematically test whether creating a culture of gratitude in a group – through increased expression of gratitude – affects outcomes such as individuals’ health and the group’s productivity, as well as the specific pathways through which this happens (e.g., change in thoughts and behavior of third-party witnesses to the expression). The results not only stand to inform theory on topics such as the group-level functions of emotions and the spread of altruism, but provide empirical tests of a behaviorally simple solution that could be quickly applied in a wide variety of settings. Despite a recent surge of interest in gratitude, these studies would fill a major gap in knowledge on a topic of great interest to Sir John Templeton, and stand to benefit millions.