Positive emotions and gratitude are essential contributors to happiness and well-being, but how trait tendencies toward positive emotionality and gratitude differ in predicting event-specific gratitude are poorly understood. Furthermore, no research has examined whether people who exhibit greater trait tendencies toward positive emotions or gratitude experience greater event-specific gratitude in response to positive events, or whether cognitively amplifying positive emotions in response to positive events mediates these relationships to enhance event-specific gratitude experiences. Our 8-week, prospective study of 145 adults examined whether greater trait positive emotionality and greater trait gratitude would distinctly predict greater event-specific gratitude as mediated by two types of positive rumination (self-focused and emotion-focused) in response to positive events. Hierarchical linear modeling indicated that when considered jointly, greater trait positive emotionality predicted greater event-specific gratitude, and greater emotion-focused positive rumination mediated the effects of trait positive emotionality on event-specific gratitude. Findings supported that individuals with greater trait positive emotionality were more likely to positively ruminate about positive emotional experiences and this partially explained their increase in event-specific gratitude. Findings also suggested that trait positive emotionality and trait gratitude are distinct but related constructs that differentially relate to event-specific gratitude. In the pursuit of happiness and well-being, literature on gratitude interventions may benefit from incorporating emotion-focused positive rumination strategies to promote gratitude in response to positive events.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Ahrens, A. H., & Forbes, C. N. (2014). Gratitude. In M. M. Tugade, M. N. Shiota, L. D. Kirby, M. M. Tugade, M. N. Shiota, & L. D. Kirby (Eds.), Handbook of positive emotions (pp. 342–361). New York: Guilford Press.
Algoe, S. B., & Haidt, J. (2009). Witnessing excellence in action: The ‘other-praising’ emotions of elevation, gratitude, and admiration. The Journal of Positive Psychology,4(2), 105–127. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760802650519.
Bastian, B., Kuppens, P., De Roover, K., & Diener, E. (2014). Is valuing positive emotion associated with life satisfaction? Emotion,14(4), 639–645. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036466.
Cropanzano, R., & Dasborough, M. T. (2015). Dynamic models of well-being: Implications of affective events theory for expanding current views on personality and climate. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology,24(6), 844–847. https://doi.org/10.1080/1359432X.2015.1072245.
Diener, E., Sandvik, E., & Pavot, W. (1991). Happiness is the frequency, not the intensity, of positive versus negative affect. In F. Strack, M. Argyle, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Subjective well-being: An interdisciplinary perspective (pp. 119–139). Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Emmons, R. A. (2012). Queen of the virtues? Gratitude as human strength. Reflective Practice: Formation and Supervision in Ministry,32, 49–62.
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,84(2), 377–389. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.527.
Emmons, R. A., & Stern, R. (2013). Gratitude as a psychotherapeutic intervention. Journal of Clinical Psychology,69(8), 846–855. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22020.
Evans, D. E., & Rothbart, M. K. (2007). Developing a model for adult temperament. Journal of Research in Personality,41(4), 868–888. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2006.11.002.
Feldman, G. C., Joormann, J., & Johnson, S. L. (2008). Responses to positive affect: A self-report measure of rumination and dampening. Cognitive Therapy and Research,32(4), 507–525. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-006-9083-0.
Forster, D. E., Pedersen, E. J., Smith, A., McCullough, M. E., & Lieberman, D. (2016). Benefit valuation predicts gratitude. Evolution and Human Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2016.06.003.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist,56(3), 218–226. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.218.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2004a). Gratitude, like other positive emotions, broadens and builds. In R. A. Emmons & M. E. McCullough (Eds.), The psychology of gratitude (pp. 145–166). New York: Oxford University Press.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2004b). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences,359, 1367–1377. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2004.1512.
Fredrickson, B. L., & Branigan, C. A. (2005). Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought–action repertoires. Cognition and Emotion,19, 313–332. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699930441000238.
Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist,60(7), 678–686. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.60.7.678.
Fredrickson, B. L., Mancuso, R. A., Branigan, C., & Tugade, M. M. (2000). The undoing effect of positive emotions. Motivation and Emotion,24(4), 237–258. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1010796329158.
Gilbert, K. E., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Gruber, J. (2013). Positive emotion dysregulation across mood disorders: How amplifying versus dampening predicts emotional reactivity and illness course. Behaviour Research and Therapy,51(11), 736–741. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2013.08.004.
Gloria, C. T., & Steinhardt, M. A. (2014). Relationships among positive emotions, coping, resilience and mental health. Stress and Health: Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress. https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.2589.
Gruszecka, E. (2015). Appreciating gratitude: Is gratitude an amplifier of well-being? Polish Psychological Bulletin,46(2), 186–196. https://doi.org/10.1515/ppb-2015-0025.
Haidt, J. (2003). The moral emotions. In R. J. Davidson, K. R. Scherer, & H. H. Goldsmith (Eds.), Handbook of affective sciences (pp. 852–870). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Harbaugh, C. N., & Vasey, M. W. (2014). When do people benefit from gratitude practice? The Journal of Positive Psychology,9(6), 535–546. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2014.927905.
Harding, K. A., Hudson, M. R., & Mezulis, A. H. (2014). Cognitive mechanisms linking low trait positive affect to depressive symptoms: A prospective diary study. Cognition and Emotion,28(8), 1502–1511. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2014.889661.
Huppert, F. A., & So, T. T. (2013). Flourishing across Europe: Application of a new conceptual framework for defining well-being. Social Indicators Research,110(3), 837–861. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-011-9966-7.
Lambert, N. M., Fincham, F. D., & Stillman, T. F. (2012). Gratitude and depressive symptoms: The role of positive reframing and positive emotion. Cognition and Emotion,26(4), 615–633. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2011.595393.
Louro, A. C., Blasco, T., & Fernández-Castro, J. (2015). Is there a relationship between positive affect and other dimensions of quality of life in colorectal cancer patients? Anales De Psicología,31(2), 404–413.
Martin, L. L., & Tesser, A. (1996). Some ruminative thoughts. In R. Wyer (Ed.), ruminative thoughts (pp. 1–47). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,82(1), 112–127. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.206.
McCullough, M. E., Tsang, J., & Emmons, R. A. (2004). Gratitude in intermediate affective terrain: Links of grateful moods to individual differences and daily emotional experience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,86(2), 295–309. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.115.
Nezlek, J. B. (2007). A multilevel framework for understanding relationships among traits, states, situations and behaviours. European Journal of Personality,21(6), 789–810.
Olinsky, A., Chen, S., & Harlow, L. (2003). The comparative efficacy of imputation methods for missing data in structural equation modeling. European Journal of Operational Research,151(1), 53–79. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0377-2217(02)00578-7.
Ortony, A., Clore, G. L., & Collins, A. (1988). The cognitive structure of emotions (pp. 1–25). New York: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511571299.
Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M. P. (2005). Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction: The full life versus the empty life. Journal of Happiness Studies,6(1), 25–41. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-004-1278-z.
Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behavior research methods, instruments, & computers,36(4), 717–731. https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03206553.
Quoidbach, J., Mikolajczak, M., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Positive interventions: An emotion regulation perspective. Psychological Bulletin,141(3), 655–693. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0038648.
Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park: Sage.
Roberts, R. C. (2004). The blessings of gratitude: A conceptual analysis. In R. A. Emmons & M. E. McCullough (Eds.), The psychology of gratitude (pp. 58–80). New York: Oxford University Press.
Rothbart, M. K. (2007). Temperament, development, and personality. Current Directions in Psychological Science,16(4), 207–212. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8721.2007.00505.x.
Seligman, M. E. (2012). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: Free Press.
Siegel, J. T., Thomson, A. L., & Navarro, M. A. (2014). Experimentally distinguishing elevation from gratitude: Oh, the morality. The Journal of Positive Psychology,9(5), 414–427. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2014.910825.
Thompson, E. R. (2007). Development and validation of an internationally reliable short-form of the positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS). Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology,38(2), 227–242. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022106297301.
Tong, E. W. (2015). Differentiation of 13 positive emotions by appraisals. Cognition and Emotion,29(3), 484–503. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2014.922056.
Trapnell, P. D., & Campbell, J. D. (1999). Private self-consciousness and the five-factor model of personality: Distinguishing rumination from reflection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,76(2), 284–304.
Treynor, W., Gonzalez, R., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2003). Rumination reconsidered: A psychometric analysis. Cognitive Therapy and Research,27(3), 247–259.
Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1994). The PANAS-X: Manual for the positive and negative affect schedule-expanded form. Iowa City: University of Iowa. (Unpublished manuscript).
Wood, A., Froh, J., & Geraghty, A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review,30, 890–905. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.005.
Wood, A. M., Maltby, J., Stewart, N., Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2008). A social-cognitive model of trait and state levels of gratitude. Emotion,8(2), 281–290. https://doi.org/10.1037/1528-3518.104.22.1681.
About this article
Cite this article
Harding, K.A., Murphy, K.M. & Mezulis, A. Ruminating on the Positive: Paths from Trait Positive Emotionality to Event-Specific Gratitude. J Happiness Stud 20, 101–117 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-017-9940-4
- Positive emotion
- Positive rumination