Skip to main content

In Society

The Ripple Effects of Gratitude


Researchers studying gratitude have found that being thankful and expressing it to others is good for our health and happiness. A new study suggests that expressing gratitude not only improves one-to-one relationships, but could also bring entire groups together.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Sara Algoe and her colleagues ran multiple experiments to investigate how witnessing gratitude affects people. Their findings show that expressions of gratitude not only provide social glue for the people involved, but also spread beyond the dyad, affecting witnesses in ways that could reverberate throughout a group.

In one experiment, participants were more drawn to videotaped individuals who praised their partner than to those who focused on how they’d benefitted personally. To Algoe, this points to a particularly important element of gratitude—its other-focused nature—which may be key to influencing witnesses of gratitude.

“It’s easy to imagine how this might work in a workplace, where people are actually attending to and acknowledging other people’s good deeds and kindnesses,” says Algoe. “A whole group of people could be inspired to be kinder to one another, and, through this interwoven kindness, the group itself could become a higher-functioning group.”

This excerpt was adapted from an article by Jill Suttie in the Dec. 20 issue of Greater Good Magazine, of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

Q: I have a hard time sharing Buddhism with others. What can I do?

NEW BOOK: You Are a Genius at Something