Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Gratitude and Happiness: Development of a Measure of Gratitude, and Relationships with Subjective Well-Being

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Gratitude and Happiness: Development of a Measure of Gratitude, and Relationships with Subjective Well-Being

Article excerpt

The purpose of these studies was to develop a valid measure of trait gratitude, and to evaluate the relationship of gratitude to subjective well-being (SWB). Four studies were conducted evaluating the reliability and validity of the Gratitude Resentment and Appreciation Test (GRAT), a measure of dispositional gratitude. This measure was shown to have good internal consistency and temporal stability. The GRAT was shown to relate positively to various measures of SWB. In two experiments, it was shown that grateful thinking improved mood, and results also supported the predictive validity of the GRAT. These studies support the theory that gratitude is an affective trait important to SWB.

Keywords: gratitude, subjective well-being, happiness, appreciation.

It has been well documented that psychology has been more interested in studying human vice than virtue (e.g., Myers & Diener, 1995). Gratitude appears to be one of the neglected virtues in psychology. Although linguistic equivalents for gratitude reside in virtually every language and major religions have emphasized the importance of grateful expression (Emmons & Grumpier, 2000), very little attention has been paid to gratitude in the social sciences.

However, there are several reasons why gratitude may be important to investigate. Research indicates that gratitude is important to people (Gallup, 1998), and "grateful" appears to be a highly valued trait. In a recent study of over 800 descriptive trait words, "grateful" was rated in the top four percent in terms of likeability (Dumas, Johnson, & Lynch, 2002). Conversely, "ungrateful" was rated as one of the most negative traits (in the bottom 1.7%). Also, gratitude may be a strength important to the good life. Although this is one of the primary questions of this article, there are some conceptual analyses and empirical indications that suggest ways in which gratitude might be important to emotional well-being (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002; Watkins, in press).

Emotion may be studied as an immediate feeling state, as a more enduring climate of mood, or as affective trait (Rosenberg, 1998). The term affective trait refers to how likely a given individual is to experience a particular emotion. Thus, the affective trait of gratitude may be thought of as a predisposition to experience gratitude. A grateful person may not experience grateful feelings at any given moment, but he/she will be more likely to experience gratitude in particular situations. Thus, grateful individuals have a lower threshold for gratitude. This analysis implies that a science of gratitude should embark on studies of both the state and trait of gratitude. In this article we describe the development of a measure of trait gratitude, as well as relationships between the grateful disposition and grateful feelings. Grateful affect may be defined as a feeling of thankful appreciation for favors received (p. 327, Guralnik, 1971), and trait gratitude would be the predisposition to experience this state.

A successful measure of dispositional gratitude should be developed from a clear theory of what grateful individuals are like. In creating our gratitude measure, we felt that grateful persons would have four characteristics. First, we reasoned that grateful individuals would not feel deprived in life. Stated positively, grateful individuals should have a sense of abundance. Second, we reasoned that grateful individuals would be appreciative of the contribution of others to their well-being. Theories of gratitude have emphasized the importance of attributing the source of benefits to others (e.g., Weiner, 1985), and generally speaking experimental research has supported this hypothesis (for a review see McCullough, Kilpatrick, Emmons, & Larson, 2001). Third, we felt that grateful persons would be characterized by the tendency to appreciate simple pleasures. Simple pleasures refers to those pleasures in life that are readily available to most people. …

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