In two experiments on the effects of gratitude conducted by professors Gino and Grant, they asked 57 students to provide feedback on a sloppily written cover letter by a fictitious student, Eric. After sending their feedback through email, the students received a reply back from Eric with a request for help on another cover letter. The twist is that half of the students received a neutral response, “I received your feedback on my cover letter.” The other half received the same response, plus the addition of gratitude, “I received your feedback on my cover letter. Thank you so much! I am really grateful.”
After receiving the reply from Eric, the researchers measured the student’s feelings of self-worth. Of the students that received just an acknowledgement, 25% felt higher levels of self-worth, compared to 55% for the group that received thanks.
In a follow up study, participants received a message from another fictitious student, Steven, asking for feedback on his cover letter.
Would participants who had received thanks from Eric be more likely to help Steven?
As you might expect, the students that were thanked by Eric were more willing to help again when asked. Only 32% of the students that received the neutral reply were willing to help Steven, whereas 66% of the students that received gratitude from Eric were willing to help Steven when asked.
For most of us, expressing gratitude is an everyday occurrence, so we tend to think nothing of it. But psychologically it gratitude plays an important role for both the person giving and the person receiving.
These studies reveal that gratitude is more than just a social nicety, or a way of making the helper feel good; it reassures others their help was actually appreciated and it encourages further prosocial behavior.
Pause and reflect on the following questions:
- How does receiving gratitude make you feel?
- In what ways does receiving gratitude boost your sense of self-worth?
- Describe a missed opportunity you had to express gratitude to someone. What effect did the missed opportunity to express gratitude have on the person that did you a kindness? What effect did the missed opportunity have on your own well-being?
- In what ways does receiving gratitude motivate you?
- How can the ripple effect of gratitude improve your community?