Skip to main content

The concept of gratitude in philosophy and psychology: an update

Abstract

This paper surveys interdisciplinary research on gratitude that has been conducted since the review paper translated into German in this issue ‘Recent work on the concept of gratitude in philosophy and psychology’, was published in the Journal of Value Inquiry in 2013. We share progress on our subsequent research, and report on key developments in the field. We revisit familiar themes regarding conditions placed on gratitude, the structure and moral value of gratitude, and the pedagogical implications of research on gratitude, addressing the issue of how the virtue of gratitude should be promoted and taught. As befits a collection dedicated to exploring gratitude’s potential ‘shadow’, we consider again the valence of gratitude and whether it is as quintessentially positive as many have assumed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Algoe, S. B. 2012. Find, remind, and bind: The functions of gratitude in everyday relationships. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 6 (6), 455–469.

    Google Scholar 

  • Algoe, S. B., & Way, B. M. 2014. Evidence for a role of the oxytocin system, indexed by genetic variation in CD38, in the social bonding effects of expressed gratitude. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 9 (12), 1855–1861.

    Google Scholar 

  • Algoe, S. B., Dwyer, P. C., Younge, A., & Oveis, C. 2020. A new perspective on the social functions of emotions: Gratitude and the witnessing effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 119 (1), 40–74.

    Google Scholar 

  • Algoe, S. B., Gable, S. L., & Maisel, N. C. 2010. It’s the little things: Everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships. Personal relationships 17 (2), 217–233.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carr, D., Morgan, B. & Gulliford, L. 2015. Learning and teaching virtuous gratitude. Oxford Review of Education 41 (6), 766-781.

    Google Scholar 

  • Greenberg, M. S. 1980. A theory of indebtedness. In K. J. Gergen, M. S. Greenberg, & R. H. Willis (Eds.), Social exchange: Advances in theory and research, pp. 3–26. New York: Plenum Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gulliford, L. 2018. Can I tell you about gratitude? London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gulliford, L. & Morgan, B. 2016. An empirical exploration of the normative dimensions of gratitude. In Carr, D. (Ed.), Gratitude: An interdisciplinary approach. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gulliford, L. & Morgan, B. 2018. The meaning and valence of gratitude in positive psychology. In Brown, N. J. L., Lomas, T. & Eiroá-Orosa, F. J., (Eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Critical Positive Psychology. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gulliford, L., Morgan, B., Hemming, E., & Abbott, J. (2019). Gratitude, self-monitoring and social intelligence: A prosocial relationship? Current Psychology 38 (4), 1021–1032.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gulliford, L., Morgan, B. & Kristjánsson, K. (2013). Recent work on the concept of gratitude in philosophy and psychology. Journal of Value Inquiry 47 (3), 285–377.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jackson, L. 2016. Why should I be grateful? The morality of gratitude in contexts marked by injustice. Journal of Moral Education 45 (3), 276–290.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kristjánsson, K. (2018). Virtue from the perspective of psychology. In  N. Snow (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Virtue, pp. 546-569. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lambert, N. M., Graham, S. M., & Fincham, F. D. 2009. A prototype analysis of gratitude: Varieties of gratitude experiences. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 35, 1193–1207.

    Google Scholar 

  • Layous, K., Sweeny, K., Armenta, C., Na, S., Choi, I., & Lyubomirsky, S. 2017. The proximal experience of gratitude. PloS one 12 (7), e0179123.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ma, L. K., Tunney, R. J., & Ferguson, E. 2017. Does gratitude enhance prosociality? A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin 143 (6), 601–635.

    Google Scholar 

  • McAleer, S. 2012. Propositional gratitude. American Philosophical Quarterly 49, 55–66.

    Google Scholar 

  • McConnell, T. 1993. Gratitude. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press

    Google Scholar 

  • McCullough, M. E., Kilpatrick, S. D., Emmons, R. A., & Larson, D. B. 2001. Is gratitude a moral affect? Psychological bulletin 127 (2), 249–266.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCullough, M. E., Kimeldorf, M. B., & Cohen, A. D. 2008. An adaptation for altruism: The social causes, social effects, and social evolution of gratitude. Current directions in psychological science 17 (4), 281–285.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morgan, B., & Gulliford, L. 2017. Assessing Influences on Gratitude Experience. In J. Tudge & L. Freitas (Eds.), Developing gratitude in children and adolescents. Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morgan, B., & Gulliford, L. 2018. Assessing influences on gratitude experience: Age-related differences in how gratitude is understood and experienced. In J. R. H. Tudge & L. B. d. L. Freitas (Eds.), Developing gratitude in children and adolescents (p. 65–88). Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morgan, B., Gulliford, L., & Carr, D. 2015. Educating gratitude: Some conceptual and moral misgivings. Journal of Moral Education 44 (1), 97–111.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morgan, B., Gulliford, L., & Kristjánsson, K. 2014. Gratitude in the UK: A new prototype analysis and a cross-cultural comparison. The Journal of Positive Psychology 9 (4), 281–294.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morgan, B., Gulliford, L., & Kristjánsson, K. 2017. A new approach to measuring moral virtues: the multi-component gratitude measure. Personality and Individual Differences 107, 179–189.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morgan, B., Gulliford, L., & Waters, L. Forthcoming. Taking ‘Thanks’ for Granted: A Cross-Cultural Exploration of Gratitude in the UK and Australia.

  • Naito, T., & Sakata, Y. 2010. Gratitude, indebtedness, and regret on receiving a friend’s favor in Japan. Psychologia 53 (3), 179–194.

    Google Scholar 

  • Naito, T., Wangwan, J., & Tani, M. 2005. Gratitude in university students in Japan and Thailand. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 36 (2), 247–263.

    Google Scholar 

  • Navarro, J. & Morris, H. 2018. Defining gratitude: A theoretical and methodological review of research with children and adolescents. Poster presentation at SRCD Character Development Special Topic Meeting, October 2018.

    Google Scholar 

  • Navarro, J. L. & Tudge, J. R. H. 2020. What is gratitude? Ingratitude provides the answer. Human Development 64, 83.96.

    Google Scholar 

  • Oishi, S., Koo, M., Lim, N., & Suh, E. M. 2019. When gratitude evokes indebtedness. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being 11 (2), 286–303.

    Google Scholar 

  • Roberts, R.C. 2004. The blessings of gratitude: A conceptual analysis. In R.E. Emmons & M. E. McCullough (Eds.), The psychology of gratitude, pp. 58-78. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Roberts, R. C. 2015. The normative and the empirical in the study of gratitude. Res Philosophica 92, 883-914.

    Google Scholar 

  • Seligman, M.E.P., Steen, T.A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. 2005. Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist 60, 410–421.

    Google Scholar 

  • Simmons A. J. 1979. Moral principles and political obligations. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Snow, N. E. (Ed.). 2018. The Oxford Handbook of Virtue. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tesser, A., Gatewood, R., & Driver, M. 1968. Some determinants of gratitude. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 9 (3), 233–236.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ting, S. C. 2017. The difference between gratitude and indebtedness. American International Journal of Contemporary Research 7, 55–62.

    Google Scholar 

  • Titova, L., Wagstaff, A. E., & Parks, A. C. 2017. Disentangling the effects of gratitude and optimism: A cross-cultural investigation. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 48 (5), 754–770.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tsang, J. A. 2006. Brief Report: Gratitude and prosocial behaviour: An experimental test of gratitude. Cognition & Emotion 20 (1), 138–148.

    Google Scholar 

  • Waters, L. 2011. A review of school-based positive psychology interventions. The Educational and Developmental Psychologist 28 (2), 75–90.

    Google Scholar 

  • Watkins, P., Scheer, J., Ovnicek, M., & Kolts, R. 2006. The debt of gratitude: Dissociating gratitude and indebtedness. Cognition & Emotion 20 (2), 217–241.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wright, J.C., Warren, M. T. & Snow, N.E. 2020. Understanding virtue: Theory and measurement. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Liz Gulliford.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Gulliford, L., Morgan, B. The concept of gratitude in philosophy and psychology: an update. ZEMO 4, 201–212 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42048-021-00103-w

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s42048-021-00103-w

Keywords

  • Conditions placed on gratitude
  • Cross-cultural studies
  • Indebtedness
  • Interdisciplinary research
  • Pro-sociality
  • Reciprocity