Virtually all research on gratitude to date has been conducted with so-called WEIRD populations—Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic—which limits our ability to generalize findings from this research to non-WEIRD populations. We believe that crossing the next scientific frontier of gratitude research will require researchers to cross their own cultural and geographic frontiers so that cross-cultural universals and differences can be identified and better understood.
A variety of Big Questions about gratitude can only be answered by taking cultural universals and cultural variability seriously. For the past several years, our own Big Question has been: “How and why does the human mind produce gratitude?” To advance our work on this question (and potentially many others), we propose a two-year planning grant to establish the infrastructure for conducting the first systematic tests of the within- and between-culture variability in the causes and correlates of gratitude, which we would seek to accomplish over one or more subsequent three-year projects. During our planning, we will establish a collaborative network of researchers to investigate the cultural variability of the causes of gratitude. Specifically, we will consult with researchers that have ongoing projects (both within the US and elsewhere) in which we might be able to incorporate our own experiments and measures. Based on these conversations, we will evaluate the cost, need, and efficiency of joining existing projects versus creating our own data collection network from the ground up. Thus, at the end of this project, we will have a clear focus on what our first three-year proposal will comprise, we will have obtained commitment letters from collaborators, and we will prepare and submit a proposal for the first three-year project to JTF.