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"Grateful To" or "Grateful For"? : how different forms of gratitude promote well-being

Hopper, Elizabeth
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. Psychology
Degree Supervisor:
Shelly Gable
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Social psychology and Behavioral psychology
Social relationships
Positive emotion
Online resources and Dissertations, Academic
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2016

Although previous research has found that gratitude benefits well-being, more research is needed in order to determine exactly how and when gratitude has beneficial effects. In this study, I investigated whether different types of gratitude (social or nonsocial) can have different effects on well-being. Social gratitude involves being grateful to a specific person, while nonsocial gratitude involves being grateful for a life circumstance. I hypothesized that both types of gratitude will be beneficial, yet social gratitude will have more benefits than nonsocial gratitude. Both forms of gratitude are hypothesized to broaden cognition and to help prevent hedonic adaptation (by increasing savoring of positive events and promoting novel and positive activities). However, only social gratitude is hypothesized to increase social affiliation or affect social motivations.

Two studies were conducted to test these hypotheses. In Study 1, I tested whether gratitude broadens thought and action, increases savoring, and increases interest in participating in novel positive activities. In Study 2, I tested whether gratitude impacts trust in others, social approach goals, compassionate goals, and interest in social affiliation. In both studies, I measured trait gratitude as a potential moderator, in order to assess whether the effects of gratitude writing were moderated by trait gratitude.

The results of the two studies demonstrated that gratitude writing provides benefits for participants (especially in the social domain); however, I failed to find the hypothesized differences between social and nonsocial gratitude. In Study 1, I failed to find the hypothesized main effects of condition on savoring, exploration, or the total number of activities that participants reported. Additionally, contrary to my hypotheses, I found that social gratitude was related to more local (rather than global) processing. However, I did find an unexpected effect of trait gratitude: for participants low in trait gratitude, gratitude writing led to increased exploration. In Study 2, I found that gratitude writing (regardless of whether participants saw the social or nonsocial writing prompt) led to increased sociability, increased approach goals, and (for nonsocial gratitude) a marginally higher level of compassionate goals. Although these findings were not consistent with my hypotheses about social and nonsocial gratitude, they add to research about the importance of gratitude for social relationships and suggest several directions for future research on the benefits of gratitude.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (162 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Elizabeth Hopper
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