Gratitude and societal good: The role of everyday gratitude in productivity, transformational leadership, good citizenship, and the spread of altruism

Project: Research project


It is rapidly becoming clear that the momentary emotional response of gratitude for another person’s kind action toward the self can help find new or remind of current people in one’s life who would make good relationship partners, and provide fuel – coordinating mind, body, and behavior -- to help bind the two individuals more closely together. The current proposal takes this theory to the next level, suggesting that gratitude serves the good of the group, and in fact society. Building on the PI’s leading-edge line of research on gratitude within the interpersonal process, a series of methodologically sophisticated studies conducted in the lab as well as the field were designed to test implications of expressing gratitude (versus other positive sentiments) for each member of the pair, 3rd party witnesses, the immediately surrounding group, and even outcomes at the level of the organization. The first aim of the research project is to test the hypothesized impact of one individual’s expressed gratitude on outcomes for all group members as well as for the organization. The secondary aim of the research project is to test an overlooked pathway through which expressed gratitude might fuel the spread of altruism (not merely re-paying-it-forward): a 3rd party witness to the expression. The third aim of the research project is to identify how gratitude can be used for transformational leadership, through perceptions of the leader and influence on those of lower power. Collectively, this work is designed to quickly identify the ways to amplify the benefits of gratitude as well as the barriers to its use. The project team will deliver a “best practices” document and hold a public event. If successful, we will have identified a key factor for societal good as well as how it works within some of the most important social relationships of everyday life, those with loose ties. As such, the current work has sweeping implications for research as well as implementation to benefit the lives of many.
Effective start/end date2/1/151/31/18


  • John Templeton Foundation


research project
partner relationship
group membership
best practice
everyday life
human being