NOV 22

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22: NOV 22


  • Emmons C23, “Gratitutde, SWB, and the Brain” (17)

Robert Emmons, Gratitude, Subjective Well-Being, and the Brain

  • importance of exchange of gifts, symbolic and material. Note at 471, anthropological explanation. (Consider complexity of gift giving.)
  • Broad range of gratitude: from specific feeling about a particular event or circumstance to a general attitude toward life. From satisfying "civic courtesy" to Life as a gift.
  • Definitions: "positive recognition of benefits received". "undeserved merit" Note that it is dependent upon the recognition of the benefit. From Fitzgerald (470): appreciation, goodwill, disposition that follows from appreciation and goodwill.
  • Gratitude can be a "virtue" if understood as a cultivated disposition to recognize undeserved merit.
  • Gratitude response is stronger if the beneficiary intends the benefit.
  • Gratitude as Affective Trait
  • grateful people experience more positive emotion. 473 Direction of causation? If you're happy, you may be enjoying many benefits that allow for savoring and gratitude.
  • other correlates. Hl. health, optimism, exercising, empathic, prosocial,forgiving helpful, supportive, less materialistic.
  • Evolutionary Perspective
  • "as a cognitive—emotional supplement serving to sustain reciprocal obligations. -Simmel (471) "Thus, during exchange of benefits, gratitude prompts one person (a beneficiary) to be bound to another (a benefactor) during "exchange of benefits, thereby reminding beneficiaries of their reciprocity obligations." (Obligations are also bonds.)
  • "Trivers viewed gratitude as an evolutionary adaptation that regulates people's responses to altruistic acts. Gratitude for altruistic acts is a reward for adherence to the universal norm of reciprocity and is a mediating mechanism that links the receipt of a favor to the giving of a return favor." Gratitude enacts/promotes reciprocal altruism. "places us" in social hierarchy defined by benefactor/beneficiary.
  • Emmons: gratitude functions include: moral barometer, moral motive, moral reinforcer.
  • Correlates of gratitude: greater LS, hope, less depression, anxiety, envy, prosociality, empathy, forgivingness, less focused on material goods, more spiritual and religious. Later (481) - promotes positive memory bias!
  • Gratitude as Affective Trait
  • More grateful people experience: more instances of G, more intense G, G over wider range of experience. (Primed for G every day!)
  • Core Emmons and McCullough gratitude research.
  • Developed the GQ-6 self-rating instrument. Found some correlates for G, including negative correlation with envy and materialism. Positive with prosociality. In personality model, G correlates with Extroversion. G-people higher LS, more religious,
  • Acknowledge another instrument: GRAT
  • Interventions to Promote Gratitude
  • Intervention studies: Gratitude Journals with pre/post testing. gratitutde, hassles, and events conditions, 1. 1xwk 10 weeks, 2. daily for 2wks, 3. in adults with neuromuscular disease. results: higher LS, optimism, lower health complaints, more excercise. results held up 6 months later.
  • Some evidence in kids. Some discussion of level of maturity need for Theory of Mind (necessary for taking perspective). Quasi-experiment in grades 6&7, “hassles group”.
  • Why is Gratitude Good. Mechanisms.
  • 1. strengthen social relationships
  • 2. counters NA and depression (increases positive memory bias -- a form of positive illusion by foregrounding a selected reality!)
  • 3. promotes resiliency (study of responses to disaster). (Recall Bryant discussion of savoring and coping. Gratitude is a form of savoring.)
  • Gratitude and the Brain
  • Cognitive-affective neuroscience construct (What's happening to your brain when you experience gratitude?)
  • Summary of other research, top of 483: read
  • General hypothesis: We have structures for both perceiving gratitude in others and expressing it.
  • Specific hypothesis: Limbic prefontal networks involved: "; (1) the fusiform face-processing areas near the temporal—occipital junctions, (2) the amygdala and Limbic emotional processing systems that support emotional states, and (3) interactions between these two subcortical centers with the prefrontal regions that control executive and evaluative processes." 483. Like other prosocial emotions.
Specific hypothesis tested with studies of gratitude and mood induction in Parkinson's Disease patients, who have damage to prefrontal networks. Hyposthesis: PD patients less likely to experience mood benefits of G-induction (by memory recall).
  • Gratitude and SWB
  • Strong claim for long term effects of gratitude as a trait: p. 476 -- participants show SWB boost 6 months later.
  • Psychological attitudes at odds with gratitude:
  • "A number of personal burdens and external obstacles block grateful thoughts. A number of attitudes are incompatible with a grateful outlook on life, including perceptions of victimhood, an in ability to admit one's shortcomings, a sense of entitlement, and an inability to admit that one is not self-sufficient. In a culture that celebrates self-aggrandizement and perceptions of deservingness, gratitude can be crowded out." 485 (Note again, a potential connection to the discussion of egoism from buddhism.)

Option 3: Gratitude and Journal.

  • This exercise involves keeping a gratitude journal for a period of three weeks. You don't necessarily turn that in (it's likely to include some personal things), but you do turn in three journal entries (one for each week) based on the guidelines for this exercise from the leading researchers on this, Emmons & McCullough.
  • Your daily gratitude journal is both an occasion for expressing gratitude and reporting moments during the day when you engaged in a gratitude behavior (something more extended or involved than "thanks!"). Gratitude behaviors include all of the verbal behaviors by which you can show appreciation to others or in the presence of others for benefits enjoyed. This ranges from telling people explicitly what you appreciate about what they did for you. (examples: call centers, someone correcting you or informing you, someone doing more for you than they had to.) G behaviors can include requesting a benefit (Could you help me with this?...) that you already intend to be really grateful. "I'd be ever so grateful if...."

SCP: Short Critical Paper (1000-1500 words)

  • For this short paper, you have a choice of one of the three prompts below. Because time is short, I will review these papers. You are welcome to share rough drafts with others ahead of the due date.
  • SCP1: Critically assess Buddhism and/or Yoga as a Happiness & Wisdom philosophy.
  • SCP2: Create a savoring experience opportunity, practice Bryant's savoring advice for this experience, and write a critically reflection on the efficacy of his savoring enhancing advice. The experience could be a personal consumption pleasure experience, or a social event. In either case, try to assess the difference, if any, that savoring practices make to your experience.
  • SCP3: On two separate occasions, take 15 minutes to express, in private journal writing, gratitude for various things in your life. You may either identify list of things, but select a few items to develop in greater detail. This writing remains with you and you do not need to turn it in with your paper. Then, write up a brief reflection on the effect of this writing exercise on your mood and affect in the hours immediately after you journal writing. Did the writing have an immediate impact? If so, try to describe it. Did the experience prime you to notice other things to be grateful for?
  • Upload your paper to the Short Critical Paper drop box. Name your file SCP1, SCP2, or SCP3. This paper is due December 1st.