Are character virtues causally distinct, or can fostering one simultaneously enhance others? We believe it is likely the latter. More specifically, we believe that cultivating and experiencing the virtue of gratitude might support the development and expression of other virtues, especially those involving temporal tradeoffs. We have recently demonstrated that gratitude enhances a value for the future. That is, we have shown that gratitude attenuates the normal human bias to discount the value of future rewards. As a result, it can be expected to help facilitate behaviors that, though requiring some initial cost or effort in the near-term, are likely to lead to greater benefits in the future. With respect to virtues, our initial work has confirmed that gratitude causes more generous and reliable behavior -- both virtues that necessitate a willingness to accept short-term costs to build longer-term social and economic capital. We believe that gratitude might similarly enhance honesty, forgiveness, diligence, and thrift. Accordingly, we propose four experiments designed to investigate both the causal power of gratitude with respect to other virtues, as well as its co-occurrence with them in people's daily lives. If our hypotheses are confirmed, they will open up not only a new understanding of the relations among some of the virtues, but also new avenues by which to cultivate them. Gratitude might not only be one of the virtues identified as central to human flourishing by Sir John Templeton, but also a tool with which to acquire other virtues rather automatically.
Templeton.org is in English. Only a few pages are translated into other languages.