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Gratitude Interventions: Meta-analytic Support for Numerous Personal Benefits, with Caveats

  • Leah R. DickensEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

Gratitude is all the rage at present. Both researchers and popular media have latched on to gratitude as an easy way to make significant life improvements, ranging from increasing well-being to strengthening relationships. Can the simple practice of gratitude really produce noteworthy effects? Many authors cite one particular paper in support (c.f. Emmons & McCullough in J Pers Soc Psychol 84(2):377–389, 2003), which has major limitations and open questions, due to at times conflicting findings across three studies and numerous comparison groups. Further, the lack of research in multicultural contexts limits insights and leaves room for wide speculation. In response to this overreliance on one imperfect publication, the purpose of this chapter is to review the current state of the literature on gratitude interventions to determine their effects in diverse contexts. Specifically, a meta-analytic design was employed to determine the collective conclusions about the benefits of such gratitude practices, and the factors that influence the size of the effects. The meta-analysis included 38 articles spanning from 2003 to 2016 and examined 16 positive outcomes of gratitude interventions (e.g., positive affect, physical health, optimism). Data analysis showed small but significant findings for several of the outcome variables. Importantly, effects were generally larger when studies compared a gratitude intervention condition with a negative condition (such as listing daily hassles) and were most often negligible when gratitude was compared with another positive psychology intervention (such as performing random acts of kindness). This latter finding suggests that perhaps gratitude is no more effective at promoting well-being than other positive interventions. Finally, the results showed a significant lack of studies on gratitude practices within multi-cultural contexts. The chapter will conclude with suggestions of ways for the sub-discipline of gratitude to improve.

Keywords

Meta-analysis Gratitude interventions Applied research Well-being 

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kenyon CollegeGambierUSA

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