You’ve Got to Be Kidding: A Science of Gratitude?
I’ve provided multiple perspectives on gratitude and the practice of giving thanks for this month of THANKSGIVING. In just two days, we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Hopefully, you and your family and/or friends will pull out all the stops in expressing gratitude for:
Plentiful (and delicious) food
Ability to gather and share
Schooling and education
And much more
And What About Research on Gratitude?
No. I'm not kidding! There is a science behind gratitude.
So for today, I decided to delve deeper and learn more about gratitude. What is it really? Most of the time I figure gratitude is one of those emotions that “you know it when you feel it.” But what is it really? And is it all that it is made out to be?
This took me down an interesting path I’d like to share with you as I think you’ll find there is more substance and more power in the concept of gratitude than you may have thought.
Here’s a brief summary:
Gratitude is part of our evolutionary history. Its activity can be found in specific brain areas. It seems to be in our DNA.
Animals (fish, birds, etc.) seem to have what scientists call “reciprocal altruism” activities. This is helping others in their species even at personal cost. Why? Probably because they recognize — at some level — the other animal may repay the favor at a later date.
Researchers believe the desire to repay generosity is an expression of gratitude.
“Some scientists suggest that gratitude may have evolved as a mechanism to drive this reciprocal altruism, thereby turning strangers into friends and allies who are more likely to help one another.”
“Support for the idea that gratitude may have arisen as an evolutionary adaptation comes in part from research on primates. Studies have found that chimpanzees are more likely to share food with a chimpanzee that had groomed them earlier in the day and are more likely to help another chimpanzee with a task if that chimpanzee had helped them in the past.”
When I was a graduate student, one of my classmates did an experiment concerning grateful behaviors. She baked fortune cookies and folded them around specific messages she had typed on small pieces of paper. When she analyzed the results, she found Individuals who received positive fortune cookie messages were more likely to help when called on later in the day than those receiving negative fortune cookie messages.
Tomorrow, I'll Return...
Because I want to give you an opportunity to take a gratitude quiz today, I'm saving information about the benefits -- emotional, physical, and psychological -- of having gratitude in your life until tomorrow. See you then.
Below is a 20 item quiz to help you determine how grateful you are. I am reproducing this quiz with permission from the Greater Good Science Center. If you want to get your score along with information on the benefits of gratitude, respond to each question. Your submitted responses may be used as anonymous data to expand the understanding of gratitude. No personal information is stored.
The gratitude quiz is administered through The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society.