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Student Research Projects

The Effects of Situational and Dispositional Gratitude on Prosocial Attitudes

Student Stephanie Compton
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Psychology
Course PSY 480: Original Research Project


The present study explored the effects of situational and dispositional gratitude on people's prosocial attitudes, or prosocialness. According to Caprara, Steca, Zelli, and Capanna (2005), prosocialness is defined as "the set of voluntary actions one may adopt to help, take care of, or comfort others" (p. 77). McCullough, Kilpatrick, Emmons, and Larson (2001) suggest that the core relational theme associated with gratitude is appreciation of an altruistic gift. This empirical research is important to determine whether encouraging a sense of gratitude influences people's attitudes about helping others. The results should have important practical implications as similar methods of influencing gratitude may be used to increase altruism on a societal level.

The purpose of this research was to discover whether encouraging a sense of gratitude would result in an increased tendency to help others. Participants completed a questionnaire to assess their level of trait gratitude followed by a self-report questionnaire based on random assignment to one of three event-listing conditions. For one group the instructions were to list five things in their life for which they are grateful, another asked participants to list five hassles or irritants that they experienced in their life, and the other asked them to list five things that had a neutral impact on them in the past week. A third questionnaire, the PSA, was used to determine their attitude about about prosocial behaviors. Trait gratitude and prosocial attitudes were positively correlated. There was a significant event listing by trait gratitude interaction. Participants high in trait gratitude had higher prosocial attitudes compared to participants low in trait gratitude, but only in the gratitude and hassle event-listing conditions.


VWC Undergraduate Research Travel Award


Virginia Psychological Association

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