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Gratitude is the appreciation of a gift received; happiness is the enjoyment of a present good; and hope is the desire for a valued future. Two studies investigated gratitude as a predictor of hope and happiness. In Study 1, hierarchical regressions (N = 181) revealed that trait gratitude exceeded other constructs (forgivingness, patience, self-control) in predicting trait hope and happiness. In Study 2, we experimentally tested the impact of a gratitude-related writing intervention on state hope and happiness. Participants (N = 153) first wrote about a current, meaningful, hoped-for outcome and completed state hope and happiness measures. Participants were randomly assigned to either (a) gratefully remember a past hope that had been fulfilled or (b) a control condition. The grateful remembering condition (vs. control) prompted significant increases in state hope and happiness, commending grateful remembering as a practice that can bolster present happiness and hope for the future.
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Running head: Gratitude, hope, and happiness
Witvliet, C.V.O., Richie, F.J., Root Luna, L.M., & Van Tongeren, D.R. (2018): Gratitude predicts hope and
happiness: A two-study assessment of traits and states. The Journal of Positive Psychology.
doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2018.1424924
e-print link:
http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/3fKy8HZQQPYFVfmMBcB7/full
Gratitude Predicts Hope and Happiness: A Two-Study Assessment of Traits and States
Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet, Fallon J. Richie, Lindsey M. Root Luna, and Daryl R. Van Tongeren
Hope College
Word count: 8271 (main text, references, appendix, footnote) + 620 words (in the tables) = 8891
Acknowledgements: We gratefully acknowledge Shengjie Chen, Allison J. DeMaagd, Carolyn E. Frazier,
Katelyn E. Klotz, Brittany Lawson, Sarah Leonard, Nicholas Pikaart, Jamie Rogalski, and Molly
Sandquist for their assistance in conducting Study 1, and Nicholas Pikaart for additional assistance with
Study 2. We also thank the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for funding support to the second author.
Contact: Charlotte V.O. Witvliet at Hope College, Psychology Department, 35. E. 12
th
St., Holland, MI 49423; witvliet@hope.edu
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Abstract
Gratitude is the appreciation of a gift received; happiness is the enjoyment of a present good; and hope is
the desire for a valued future. Two studies investigated gratitude as a predictor of hope and happiness. In
Study 1, hierarchical regressions (N = 181) revealed that trait gratitude exceeded other constructs
(forgivingness, patience, self-control) in predicting trait hope and happiness. In Study 2, we
experimentally tested the impact of a gratitude-related writing intervention on state hope and happiness.
Participants (N = 153) first wrote about a current, meaningful, hoped-for outcome and completed state
hope and happiness measures. Participants were randomly assigned to either (a) gratefully remember a
past hope that had been fulfilled or (b) a control condition. The grateful remembering condition (vs.
control) prompted significant increases in state hope and happiness, commending grateful remembering
as a practice that can bolster present happiness and hope for the future.
Word Count: 148
Keywords: gratitude; hope; happiness
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Gratitude Predicts Hope and Happiness: A Two-Study Assessment of Traits and States
Gratitude is an experience of abundance, with awareness that one is the recipient of a good gift
from a giver (Watkins, Van Gelder, & Frias, 2009). Can awareness of good outcomes already present in
one’s life uniquely inspire hope for a future good outcome while also enhancing happiness? This idea
prompts two related questions: 1) Does trait gratitude predict trait hope and happiness over and above
other traits which also have social ramifications across situations—forgivingness, patience, and self-
control? 2) Does inducing an episode of gratitude—remembering a past desired outcome that was
fulfilled—lead to increased state happiness and hope for a presently desired outcome?
Gratitude, happiness, and hope have positive affective qualities that can occur as states (e.g.,
feeling grateful, hopeful, or happy in the present moment), and as dispositional traits (e.g., a person who
is typically grateful, hopeful, or happy). Yet, gratitude, happiness, and hope are distinct, with different
orientations in time: gratitude is oriented toward the past (appreciating a gift and the giver), happiness
toward the here and now (enjoying the present), and hope toward the future (yearning for a positive future
outcome). Perhaps a focus on evidence that one has experienced a good outcome—such as when one is
grateful to have something previously hoped for—will be associated with not only happiness but also
hope for what one has not yet experienced, as one positive emotion feeds another.
Empirical studies have examined the relationships among gratitude, hope, and happiness. In
developing the dispositional gratitude questionnaire (GQ-6), McCullough, Emmons, and Tsang (2002)
found that gratitude was significantly and directly correlated with—but distinct from—hope and well-
being measures. Using the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS) with 5,299 adults, Park,
Peterson, and Seligman (2004) found that hope and gratitude were among the top 3 of 24 strengths
positively correlated with life satisfaction. A five-study investigation found that adolescents who
endorsed higher levels of social engagement scored higher on gratitude, hope, happiness, along with
personal and academic well-being indicators (Froh et al., 2010). College students’ well-being was
associated with gratitude, hope, and happiness (Jones, You, & Furlong, 2013). Across cultures, hedonia
and eudaimonia were positively related to each other and to gratitude and hope (Disabato, Goodman,
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  4
Kashdan, Short, & Jarden, 2016). Thus, correlational and experimental research has demonstrated
associations among gratitude, hope, and happiness. But how does gratitude compare to other positive
psychology traits for predicting hope and happiness? And, what effect does experimentally inducing
gratitude have on state hope and happiness?
Gratitude
Gratitude occurs when understanding oneself to be the beneficiary of a benefice, particularly if
one perceives that it was intended as benevolent by the benefactor (Roberts, 2004). In distinguishing
gratitude from joy and hope, Roberts observed, “gratitude is about givers, gifts, recipients, and the
attitudes of giver and recipients toward one another. It is a deeply social emotion” whereas joy “is a
construal of some situation as good, as satisfying some concern of the person” and “Hope is a construal of
some possible future good” (p. 65). Whereas gratitude and happiness are associated with abundance, hope
is oriented to acquire abundance, to satisfy a deficiency, or to alleviate trouble in the (near or distant)
future.
Gratitude can be experienced in a variety of conditions, even difficult ones. Remarkably, even in
the context of trauma, some people are able to find benefits, and those who do are better able to flourish
(Tennen & Affleck, 2002). After an interpersonal offense, when victims focus on benefits they
experienced through facing the offense (e.g., lessons learned, resilience shown, and growth experienced),
they demonstrate greater positivity, joy, and improved cardiovascular responding (Witvliet, Knoll,
Hinman, & DeYoung, 2010). Benefit-focused reappraisal involves a focus on the silver-lining that
activates positive emotion, as underscored by self-report and neurophysiological late positive potential
(LPP) amplitude findings (Baker, Williams, Witvliet, & Hill, 2016).
Experienced globally, expressed across languages and cultures, and commended by the world’s
major religions (Emmons & Crumpler, 2000), gratitude is characterized by a social and positive
orientation as people recognize a gift from a giver and experience thankfulness and joy in response
(Emmons & McCullough, 2003). In reflecting on the gratitude and hope relationship, McCullough (2002)
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  5
proposed that they may be related through an attentive awareness of meaning in one’s life, derived from
both the kindness of others and the pursuit of goals.
Gratitude and Hope
Whereas gratitude involves the appreciation of benefits that have already been received, hope
involves the positive anticipation of receiving a future desired outcome (Snyder, Rand, & Sigmon, 2002;
Scioli, Ricci, Nyugen, & Scioli, 2011). That desired future may involve the acquisition of a positive
outcome or deliverance from a present circumstance. The realization of a hope may require action, as
emphasized by Snyder et al. (1991, 1996), or may necessitate waiting for the actions of others
(Worthington, 2005). Hope has been conceptualized in three ways. First, hope is generative and goal-
directed, emphasizing one’s own agency (motivation) and pathways (finding ways) to meet goals (Snyder
et al., 1991, 1996, 2002). Second, Bruininks and Malle (2005) characterize hope as a positive and
anticipatory emotion that emphasizes important outcomes that are not entirely within one’s own control.
Third, hope can also be understood as multidimensional, integrating cognition, emotion, motivation,
relationships, and spirituality (Scioli et al., 2011).
Like gratitude, hope has been examined in relationship to desirable and undesirable states. Hope
is inversely related to depressive symptoms (Chang, Yu, & Hirsch, 2013) and anxiety (Arnau, Rosen,
Finch, Rhudy, & Fortunato, 2007). In addition, hope is related to better psychological adjustment (Snyder
et al., 2002), life satisfaction, and well-being (O’Sullivan, 2011). McCullough (2002) theorized that
mindful attentiveness connects hope and gratitude; hopeful and grateful people savor their lives, whether
through appreciating the positive past or pursuing meaningful future goals. Furthermore, reflection on the
generosity of others—the inherently social orientation of gratitude—may further facilitate hope (see
McCullough, 2002), consistent with Scioli et al.’s (2011) view of hope.
Gratitude and Happiness
Gratitude has been considered to be a moral emotion that is strongly associated with positive
affect (e.g., Watkins et al., 2009). According to Fredrickson (2004), gratitude functions like other positive
emotions, broadening the repertoire of thought-action possibilities and building enduring personal
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  6
resources. Therefore, it is possible that cultivating gratitude may boost happiness while also generating
hope.
Trait gratitude has been positively correlated with satisfaction with life, positive affectivity, and
happiness (Watkins, Woodward, Stone, & Kolts, 2003). Researchers have also found that the
characteristic response patterns of trait gratitude account for happiness (above and beyond personality, as
measured by the Big Five) based on informants and self-reports (McCullough et al., 2002). Hill and
Allemand (2011) found that gratitude and forgivingness traits each accounted for well-being when
controlling for the other. They advised researchers to test multiple morally related trait variables to
advance research on well-being, and we adopt this approach to study hope and happiness.
Contextualizing Trait and State Gratitude
Gratitude is not the only morally and socially-oriented strength to demonstrate associations with
hope and happiness. The extant research has also focused on forgiveness, patience, and self-control.
Interpersonal forgiveness resists allowing the past to define the future by focusing on a more positive
future, which is theoretically associated with hope (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015), and empirically
associated with happiness (Yalçin & Malkoç, 2015). People higher in trait self-control are more focused
on pursuing positive future goals (Cheung, Gillebaart, Kroese, & De Ridder, 2014) and score higher in
happiness (Wiese et al., 2017). Additionally, patience has been positively associated with trait cognitive
hope and life satisfaction (Schnitker, 2012). Thus, Study 1 tested whether gratitude would go above and
beyond forgivingness, patience, and self-control to predict hope and happiness.
Beyond correlational research, experimental intervention studies include an array of gratitude
approaches intended to enhance well-being. These include counting blessings (e.g., Emmons &
McCullough, 2003), gratitude letters (e.g., Lyubomirsky, Dickerhoof, Boehm, & Sheldon, 2011),
gratitude group sessions in schools (e.g., Froh et al., 2014), and gratitude diary writing in a clinical
sample (Kerr, O'Donovan, & Pepping, 2015). Another approach has been to train people in combinations
of VIA-IS strengths (e.g., Proyer, Ruch, & Buschor, 2013).
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In a meta-analysis, Davis et al. (2016) identified 26 gratitude intervention studies which utilized
random assignment. Overall, the gratitude interventions prompted greater well-being than measurement-
only conditions (k = 5, d = .31) and alternative activities (k = 18, d = .14), but not other positive
psychological comparisons (k = 9, d = -.03). Bolier et al.’s (2013) meta-analysis included 39 positive
psychology intervention studies in which participants could be randomly assigned to interventions or to
comparison conditions (i.e., measurement-only, placebo, or usual care). Results showed that the positive
psychology conditions yielded significantly better outcomes for subjective well-being, psychological
well-being, and depression.
Two hope intervention studies met design criteria for Bolier et al.’s (2013) meta-analysis.
Cheavens, Feldman, Gum, Michael, and Snyder (2006) found in 32 community participants that those in a
hope-focused group therapy vs. the control increased in their hope agency. Feldmen and Dreher (2012)
found that among 96 college students randomly assigned to three conditions, those in a 90-minute hope
intervention (vs. a relaxation condition) increased their hope pathways and hope agency scores, as well as
their goal progress one month later. To our knowledge, the current research is the first to test the effects
of a brief gratitude related writing intervention on happiness and hope.
The Current Studies
Our overarching research question is whether gratitude is meaningfully related to hope and
happiness. We conducted two studies to test this question. In Study 1, we predicted that trait gratitude
would significantly predict trait hope and happiness beyond other traits (Hypothesis 1). In Study 2, we
predicted that engaging in a specific gratitude practice—gratefully reflecting on a past hope that had been
fulfilled (compared to a control condition)—would cultivate significantly greater state hope and happiness
(Hypothesis 2). For both studies, we have reported all conditions, data exclusions, and how we
determined the sample sizes. When additional measures were collected, the domains assessed are reported
within the respective method section of each study.
Study 1
Method
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Participants. Participants in Study 1 were 181 (150 F, 31 M) undergraduate college students
from a liberal arts college in the Midwest who received course research participation credit. Participants
included 17-27 year olds (M = 20.07, SD = 1.19), who self-identified as white (n = 159), bi-racial or
multi-ethnic (n = 3), Black/African-American (n = 3), Asian (n = 4), Asian American (n = 2),
Hispanic/Latino (n = 6), Indian (n = 1), Middle Eastern (n = 1), unsure (n = 1), and other (n = 1). An
additional four people participated, but were excluded for failing a check of awareness (i.e., endorsing
that they were born on February 30) or honesty (i.e., indicating that they had not been fully honest during
the study). The sample size was determined based on the sample sizes in McCullough et al.’s (2002)
studies 1 and 3, which examined trait variables in relationship to dispositional gratitude.
Measures.
Trait cognitive hope. Snyder et al.’s (1991) trait hope scale contains two 4-item subscales:
agency (i.e., the motivation to achieve a goal) and pathways (i.e., the ability to find many routes to
achieve a goal), plus four filler items. Responses ranged from 1 (definitely false) to 8 (definitely true) for
the 8 items (α = .86).
Trait integrative hope. Scioli et al.’s (2011) Trait Hope Scale, Short Form A was used to measure
hopeful motivation, emotion, relationships, and spirituality. Participants answered 28 items from 0 (not at
all like me) to 3 (exactly like me) with strong reliability (α = .93).
Happiness. Using an item from Keyes’s (2002) flourishing scale, participants rated how often
they felt happy during the past month, from 0 (never) to 5 (everyday). (See findings for Keyes’ full
flourishing scale in the footnote).
Gratitude. Using the Gratitude Questionnaire-six item form (GQ-6; McCullough et al., 2002),
participants rated each item from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree), with α = .79.
Forgivingness. The Trait Forgivingness Scale (Berry, Worthington, O'Connor, Parrott, & Wade,
2005) contains 10 items that participants rated from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), with some
items reverse scored (α = .84).
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Patience. Participants rated 11 items of the Patience Scale (Schnitker, 2012) from 1 (not like me at
all) to 5 (very much like me), and we used the total score (α = .78).
Self-control. The Self-Control Scale (Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004) consists of 13 items
rated from 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much), including 7 reverse scored items (α = .81).
Procedure. Institutional Review Board approval and informed consent preceded participant
completion of the measures above via Survey Gizmo. The survey also included self-report measures of
mental health, emotion regulation, and spirituality based on questions of interest for other investigations
with students. Analyses of those variables were not run for this study.
Results
Correlations among hope, happiness, and the traits appear in Table 1. We performed hierarchical
multiple regression analyses to determine how much variance in trait hope and happiness scores was
accounted for by forgivingness, patience, and self-control, and how much additional variance was
accounted for by gratitude. When an alternative model was tested, with age and gender entered as Step 1,
this step was not significant (all Fs < 2.53, ps > .08), and the trait model did not change, so the original
model was retained. Because of the correlations among the trait variables, we calculated Variance
Inflation Factors for the predictor variables in Step 1 and Step 2, as reported in the note for Table 2. The
data did not suggest that multicollinearity among the predictors impacted the results.
Trait cognitive hope. As shown in Table 2, a two-step hierarchical regression analysis revealed
that together in Step 1, forgivingness ( = .22, p = .007), self-control ( = .16, p = .029), and patience ( =
.13, p = .089) accounted for 14% of the variance in hope scores. In Step 2, gratitude ( = .35, p < .001)
accounted for an additional 10% of the variance in trait cognitive hope (R2 = .10; F = 15.01, p < .001).
Trait integrative hope. Hierarchical regression (see Table 3) showed that in Step 1, forgiveness
( = .42, p < .001), self-control ( = .05, p = .517), and patience ( = -.05, p = .505) accounted for 16% of
the variance in trait integrative hope scores. In Step 2, gratitude ( = .69, p < .001) accounted for an
additional 39% of the variance in integrative hope (R2 = .39; F = 55.70, p < .001).
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Trait happiness.1 In the stepwise hierarchical regression analysis reported in Table 4, in Step 1,
forgivingness ( = .24, p = .004), self-control ( = .23, p < .002), and patience ( = .04, p = .656) together
accounted for 15% of happiness scores. In Step 2, gratitude ( = .42, p < .001) accounted for an additional
13% of the variance in happiness (R2 = .13; F = 18.83, p < .001).
Study 1 Discussion
This correlational study demonstrated gratitude’s significant predictive capacity for cognitive and
integrative hope, as well as happiness. Snyder’s (1991) measure of trait hope emphasizes cognitive
approaches to goal pursuit, comprised of the capacity to consider multiple pathways to achieve a goal as
well as the necessary motivation to reach the goal. For this measure of trait hope, gratitude accounted for
an additional 10% of variance beyond the combination of forgivingness, patience, and self-control. A
different approach to conceptualizing trait hope was proposed by Scioli et al. (2011), whose measure
integrates cognitive behavioral, affective, relational, and spiritual aspects of dispositional hope.
Strikingly, gratitude accounted for more than twice the amount of variance in scores for this measure of
trait hope beyond forgivingness, self-control, and patience combined. When predicting happiness over the
past month, gratitude similarly accounted for substantially more of the variance in happiness scores than
was predicted by the combination of forgivingness, patience, and self-control. Participants with a greater
disposition to be grateful for benefits and benefactors in their lives were also happier.
Study 1 offered compelling evidence of the unique capacity of trait gratitude to predict trait hope
and happiness. However, its method was correlational, which precludes causal statements. Additionally,
by evaluating only positive traits, positive affect remains a viable explanation for gratitude’s predictive
power. Thus, we conducted an experiment in Study 2 to test the hypothesis that a gratitude-related writing
intervention would lead to increases in both state hope and happiness.
Study 2
This experiment was designed to test whether an induction that involved gratitude would not only
bolster state happiness, but would also prompt increased state hope for a meaningful outcome that
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participants currently desired in their own lives. Gratitude can be a response to experiencing an outcome
for which one previously hoped. Thus, we developed a writing task that focused participants’ attention on
a past experience in their lives in which they had similarly hoped for a meaningful outcome in their life
that had occurred, identifying what they were grateful for and to whom they were grateful. This approach
expands previous gratitude writing intervention research (e.g., Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Kerr et al.,
2015) and contributes to the literature on hope interventions (Cheavens et al., 2006, Feldman & Dreher,
2012). Within Davis et al.’s (2016) meta-analysis, ten of the gratitude writing studies with activity-
matched conditions included writing about daily activities, an approach that we adapt here.
Testing the effects of being randomly assigned to gratefully remembering of a past hope fulfilled
(versus a control condition), we measured the level of hope participants reported after identifying and
writing about a current hope, and again after the experimental or control condition. We similarly assessed
how much happiness participants experienced while thinking about the current hope at each time, using a
single item similar to Proyer et al. (2013). We predicted an interaction of Condition (grateful
remembering vs. control) x Time (pre, post intervention), specifically hypothesizing that grateful
remembering would prompt a reliable increase in state hope and happiness from Time 1 to Time 2.
In addition to self-reported state happiness and hope, we conducted linguistic analyses of written
responses to the intervention and control conditions, which provided a method for testing whether the
participants’ written responses during the intervention varied as predicted based on the literature. In
particular, gratitude has been positively associated with positive emotion (Fredrickson, 2004), religiosity
(Watkins et al., 2003, 2009; McCullough et al., 2002), and with meaningful insight and social reflection
(McCullough, 2002). Thus, we predicted that positive (but not negative) emotions, as well as grateful,
social, religious, insight language would be used more often when gratefully remembering a past hope
that was fulfilled.
Method
Participants. Participants in Study 2 were 153 (101 F, 52 M) undergraduate students from the
same liberal arts college as in Study 1 and who received course credit for participating in the experiment
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  12
as one way to meet a research requirement. Ages ranged from 15 to 23 years (M = 18.66, SD = .99).
Participants self-identified as white (n = 129, 84%), bi-racial or multi-ethnic (n = 12), Hispanic/Latino (n
= 9), African (n = 1), African-American (n = 1), and Asian (n = 1). Participants were randomly assigned
to conditions by Survey Gizmo (control condition N = 77, 67.5% female, median age = 18; experimental
condition N = 76, 64.5% female, median age = 18). Two participants were excluded because they did not
complete the entire study.
The sample sizes for each condition were based on effect sizes and Ns in gratitude interventions
using gratitude versus daily activity lists or journals for psychological well-being outcomes in Davis et
al.’s (2016) meta-analysis.
Measures. The dependent variables for this study focused on state hope and happiness, as well as
word use in typed responses. Two exploratory items were deemed peripheral to this investigation; one
assessed the perception of state optimism (and showed significantly higher scores for the experimental
condition), and another assessed perceived support from God (which did not show significant differences
between conditions). Prior to the random assignment to condition, a survey assessing traits, mental health,
emotion regulation, and spirituality were included for other investigations and were not analyzed for this
experiment.
State hope for a particular outcome questionnaire. A 7-item hope scale assessed participants’
state levels of hope for a particular meaningful outcome that one desires in one’s life, and which is not
entirely assured to occur. The existing literature does not include scales that assess state hope for a
specific future outcome. Thus, we drew on features from state hope research, including motivation
(Snyder et al., 1996), social support (Scioli et al., 2011), and language about the importance and
likelihood of the specific desired outcome (Bruininks & Malle, 2005; Bruininks, 2012) to assess state
perceptions related to the currently hoped-for outcome participants identified at the beginning of the
study. Questions were “Right now,… how much are you hoping that this outcome will occur?, how
hopeful are you that this outcome will occur?, how much do you hope that this outcome will occur?, how
important is this hoped-for outcome to you?, how likely is it that this hoped-for outcome will actually
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  13
happen?, what is your level of motivation to do what you can to bring about this hoped-for outcome?,
how much do you feel supported by others as you hope for this outcome?” Participants responded to 7
items on a scale from 1 (not at all) to 10 (completely). The internal reliabilities for the 7-item hope scale
were good (αs =.82 pre-intervention; .89 post-intervention). The test-retest correlation across all
participants was r (153) = .84, p < .01.
State Happiness. After answering the hope items related to their current hoped-for outcome,
participants next responded to the question, “Right now, how happy are you?” on a scale from 1 (not at
all) to 10 (completely). The test-retest correlation was r (153) = .81, p < .01
Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC). To analyze participants’ typed responses during the
course of the writing conditions, we used LIWC (Pennebaker, Booth, & Francis, 2007), which identifies
words that match dictionaries and calculates the percentage of those words compared to the overall
number of words participants used for that response. The following LIWC language categories were
tested: positive emotion, negative emotion, social, religious, insight, and gratitude using a gratitude
dictionary (Witvliet et al., 2010).
Procedure.
Participants first identified and wrote about a specific outcome that they were currently hoping to
experience. They were instructed to identify a current hope that was meaningful to them but had an
outcome that they could not completely control. They also described how they would feel if this hoped-
for outcome was experienced in real life. Participants held this particular outcome in mind as they rated
their level of state hope and happiness right then. They were then randomly assigned to one of two
conditions: a grateful remembering condition or a neutral control. Participants could also be randomly
assigned by Survey Gizmo to alternative conditions that were for a different study (legacy hope,
eschatological hope, control condition).
The instructions for the grateful remembering condition guided participants to identify and write
about a past hope that had been fulfilled (see Appendix for full prompt). The control condition prompted
a length and complexity matched alternate activity (Davis et al., 2016). Participants described their
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  14
traveling routes for the previous day, where they went and what they saw, as well as their anticipated
travel routes for the following day. Each condition had eight response boxes for typing responses.
Participants again completed measures of state hope for the particular outcome they had identified at the
beginning of the study, followed by their happiness right then.
Results
A review of participants’ written responses showed that common current hopes included
relational, academic, and job-related outcomes. None of the dependent variables were correlated with age
or differed by gender.
Linguistic analyses. As shown in Table 5, the predicted differences were found in the language
used during the experimental grateful remembering condition versus the control. Specifically, more
positive emotion, social, religious, insight, and gratitude language words were used by participants in the
grateful remembering condition compared to the control, although the total number of words typed per
condition differed significantly, with higher overall word counts produced for the control condition. There
was no significant difference between the negative emotion words used by participants in the control
condition versus the grateful remembering condition. While the experimental condition, which ended with
a prompt to identify to whom and for what participants were grateful, resulted in more gratitude language
use than the control condition, the actual percentage of gratitude words was still low. It is possible that
this writing induction may have elicited increased language related to correlates associated with gratitude
(e.g., positive emotion, sociality, insight, and religiosity) rather than prompting participants to actually
write words synonymous with gratitude.
Changes in hope and happiness. Participants’ hope and happiness ratings were tested using
mixed 2 Condition (grateful remembering, control) between-subjects x 2 Time (pre, post intervention)
repeated measures ANOVAs. Hope and happiness data are depicted in Figure 1. As can be seen in Table
6, the predicted interactions of Condition x Time were significant both for hope and for happiness.
Planned comparisons showed that participants in the two conditions did not differ in their starting levels
of hope, F(1,151) = 0.14, p = .71, partial η2 = .001, mean difference = -0.42, .95 CI [-2.64 to 1.79], or
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  15
happiness, F(1,151) = 0.01, p = .93, partial η2 = .000, mean difference = 0.03, .95 CI [-.55 to .60]. Post
intervention scores were, however, significantly higher for participants in the grateful remembering
condition than those in the control condition for both state hope, F(1,151) = 7.56, p = .007, partial η2 =
.048, d = .45, mean difference = 3.38, .95 CI [.95, 5.80], and state happiness, F(1,151) = 5.88, p = .016,
partial η2 = .037, d = .39, mean difference = 0.73, 95 CI [.14, 1.33].
Critically, and as predicted, participants in the grateful remembering condition reported
significant increases from pre to post intervention for both state hope, F(1, 75) = 9.76, p = .003, partial η2
= .115, d = .36, mean difference = 1.25, .95 CI [.35, 2.15], and state happiness, F(1, 75) = 25.79, p < .001,
partial η2 = .256, d = .58, mean difference = .46, .95 CI [.21, .71]. Unexpectedly, participants in the
control condition experienced decreases in state hope, F(1,76) = 11.71, p = .001, partial η2 = .134, d = .39,
mean difference = -1.71, .95 CI [-2.59, -.81], and a trend of decreased happiness, F(1,76) = 3.89, p = .052,
partial η2 = .049, d = .22, mean difference = -0.30, .95 CI [ -.55, -.05]. However, given the significant
changes from Time 1 to Time 2 in the grateful remembering condition, the differences between conditions
at Time 2 were not merely due to decreases in the control condition.
To ascertain whether the effect of gratitude was simply due to increases in positive emotion,
follow-up analyses tested whether positive emotion mediated the effect of condition on hope and on
happiness changes using PROCESS 2.16 macro (see Preacher & Hayes, 2004; Hayes, 2016) for SPSS
(version 21) with 5000 bootstraps. Results showed that writing condition did not have an indirect effect
on hope or happiness through positive emotion words. Specifically, while the path from condition to
positive emotion word counts was significant in each test (ps <.0001), the paths from positive emotion to
hope and happiness were not significant (ps >.12), and both completely standardized effect confidence
intervals crossed 0. Thus, condition effects on hope and happiness were not mediated by positive emotion.
Study 2 Discussion
The condition of gratefully remembering a past hope that was successfully fulfilled reliably
increased state hope and happiness from pre- to post-intervention, as well as compared to the neutral
control condition at post-intervention. To contextualize these findings, a meta-analysis by Davis et al.
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  16
(2016) found that gratitude interventions outperformed inert matched activities, with a small effect size
for post-test psychological well-being (d = .14). The current experiment showed that at post-test, the
grateful remembering condition outperformed the control condition on measures of hope (d = .45) and
happiness (d = .39). Further, within the gratitude group, participants showed pre- to post-intervention
increases for both hope (d = .36) and happiness (d = .58). However, we do not know how long these
effects last.
As predicted, linguistic analyses of written responses produced during the writing intervention
showed that the proportion of negative affect was unaffected by condition, but positive affect words were
used more in the gratitude-related condition. Fredrickson (2004) has also viewed positive emotions as
playing an important role in gratitude. In this case, it appears that the grateful remembering induction
activated positive emotion, which in this case broadened and built participants’ current hope for a desired
outcome not yet reached. However, analyses of the indirect effects support the conclusion that the effect
of condition was not due to the increase in positive affect per se. Consistent with Scioli et al.’s (2011)
vision, the condition that prompted more social language also prompted more hope. In line with research
on gratitude and religiosity (McCullough et al., 2002; Watkins et al., 2003, 2009), the gratitude
intervention prompted more religious language use. Finally, McCullough (2002) posited that meaningful
reflection may link gratitude to hope, and the linguistic variable most closely tied to this demonstrated
that insight word use was higher in the condition of gratefully remembering a past hope fulfilled.
General Discussion
Two studies provided evidence that greater trait and state gratitude were positively associated
with hope and happiness. Study 1 demonstrated that trait gratitude was a strong predictor of dispositional
hope and happiness, beyond forgivingness, patience, and self-control combined. These results are
consistent with predictions and advance the scholarship of trait gratitude in the context of strengths,
happiness, and hope—using both the dominant cognitive measure of trait hope (Snyder et al., 1991) and a
more recent integrative measure of trait hope (Scioli et al., 2011).
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  17
Study 2 contributes to the emerging literature on positive psychology hope interventions, which
have focused on goal-directed hope development with community members (Cheavens et al., 2006) and
with college students (Feldman & Dreher, 2012). The current study also contributes a new gratitude
related writing paradigm to the gratitude intervention literature (e.g., Davis et al., 2016, Emmons &
McCullough, 2003; Froh et al., 2014; Kerr et al., 2015; Lyubomirsky et al., 2011). As predicted, the
writing intervention reliably increased state hope and happiness (vs. the control condition). Furthermore,
linguistic results echo conceptualizations of gratitude in the literature, which emphasize its relationship to
positive emotion (McCullough et al., 2002), religiosity (Watkins et al. 2003, 2009; McCullough et al.,
2002), meaning (Van Tongeren, Green, Davis, Hook, & Hulsey), and sociality (McCullough, 2002).
Gratitude and Hope
Insights from Study 1 advance understanding beyond the literature correlating trait gratitude to
trait cognitive hope (Snyder et al., 1991) by also demonstrating a potent relationship with integrative hope
(Scioli et al., 2011). Therefore, both hope constructs are relevant to the study of gratitude and other traits
(i.e., forgivingness, patience, self-control). Notably, gratitude accounted for substantial variance in both
integrative hope and cognitive hope scores beyond the other traits. Gratitude may be an important trait to
examine in future research projects that investigate integrative and cognitive hope dispositions.
At the state level, the process of gratefully writing about one’s own experience in the past of
facing a similar experience of hoping—and of having the hope fulfilled—prompted increases in current
hope. Although this evidence suggests the non-clinical benefit of gratefully remembering a past positive
outcome to produce increases in current hope and happiness, future work may be directed to other
populations such as those experiencing a loss of hope or those in clinical settings. Drawing on work
showing the value of gratitude writing with clinically distressed people waiting for their therapy to begin
(Kerr et al., 2015), we suggest that the grateful remembering approach tested in the present study may
have pre-therapeutic utility. This offers another gratitude approach that may proffer affective benefits
while also bolstering hope, a common factor in successful therapy (Asay & Lambert, 1999).
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  18
It is possible that gratitude and hope naturally prompt temporal reflections, on the past and future
respectively, and that this temporality partially explains their relationship. The condition in which
participants gratefully remembered a past hope fulfilled emphasized looking back with awareness that one
once looked ahead with hope. The control condition also prompted temporal reflections, but with a focus
on routine details that may have detracted from state hope for a meaningful outcome. A more stringent
future test of our hypothesis would be to compare the grateful remembering induction in Study 2 with an
established method for bolstering hope and happiness to determine whether gratefully remembering a past
hope fulfilled is a particularly effective intervention for state hope and happiness, testing this
longitudinally.
Gratitude and Happiness
In Study 1, we accrued trait evidence that each of the traits tested was significantly and positively
correlated with happiness. This echoes work linking happiness to forgivingness (Yalçin & Malkoç, 2015),
patience (Schnitker, 2012), and self-control (Cheung et al., 2014). However, gratitude went beyond these
traits combined to account for an additional significant proportion of variance in happiness scores.
The effect of engaging in intentional activities on happiness has received substantial attention
(e.g., Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005). We believe gratitude can be an intentional response to
one’s circumstance, in which people aim to identify a good for which they are thankful and a benevolent
giver to whom they can give thanks. A recent meta-analysis of gratitude interventions (Davis et al., 2016)
showed that at post-test, these had small effects on psychological well-being compared to a matched
activity comparison (d = .14). While still modest, the current Study 2 gratitude writing intervention
outperformed the control writing condition with comparatively stronger effect sizes for post-test
happiness (d = .39) and hope (d = .45). Thus, the strategy of reflecting and writing about a past hope that
was fulfilled appears to show promise as an approach for strengthening state happiness and hope,
although longer term effects remain to be tested.
Summary, Limitations, and Future Directions
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  19
Ordinary life is replete with hopes for the future that are meaningful, desired, possible, and not
entirely within our control. As people invest their cognitive energy in remaining motivated and finding
alternate pathways to pursue their goals (Snyder et al., 1991), they may also draw on their emotions,
relationships, and spirituality (Scioli et al., 2011). The current work suggests that trait gratitude plays an
important role in both approaches to hope, as well as happiness. At the state level, the simple pivot of
looking to a past similar hope that was fulfilled—and reflecting on for what and to whom one is
grateful—can prompt an elevated experience of hope and of happiness.
Limitations of the present studies include that results are constrained by the nature of the sample
tested—predominantly white, mostly female, mainly religious and/or spiritual undergraduates, with 10-
16% identifying as “not religious at all” and 9-10% identifying as “not spiritual at all” across studies.
Future research could determine whether the findings generalize to samples with greater religious
diversity and people who are predominantly not religious or spiritual, given that trait gratitude has been
found to be directly correlated with single-item religious and spiritual variables (McCullough et al.,
2002). We also relied on a single-item measure of happiness while thinking about one’s future hope, and
assessed hope based on a state hope scale developed for this research. Future research could use other
psychometrically validated measures. In addition, our state measure of gratitude during the induction
relied on word counts, as did our assessment of positive affect, whereas future research could confirm that
this writing induction increased scores using other established measures of gratitude and emotion.
Moreover, longitudinal designs could calibrate the length of the effects elicited by the writing induction.
Future research could test whether adapting this intervention to elaborate on the gratitude writing
prompts (e.g., listing more things or people for which one was grateful or by providing more details about
why one experienced gratitude for the hope fulfilled) would strengthen the induction by manipulating the
span or density of gratitude (see McCullough et al., 2002), which could increase potency. Further designs
could compare a grateful remembering intervention to the range of gratitude interventions included in the
Davis et al. (2016) meta-analysis, as well as positive emotion inductions. A promising area for future
research would be to test whether such gratitude interventions can be practiced so that participants
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  20
cultivate dispositional gratitude, and can be associated with the tendency to have cognitive goal-pursuit
hope (Snyder et al., 1991) as well as integrative hope (Scioli et al., 2011) and sustainable happiness
(Lyubomirsky et al., 2005).
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  21
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GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  27
Running head: Gratitude, hope, and happiness
Table 1.
Correlations among Hope, Happiness, and Strengths and Virtues
1 2 3 4 5 6
1. Cognitive Hope
-
2. Integrative Hope
.555***
-
3. Happiness
.479***
.391***
-
4. Gratitude
.443***
.711***
.479***
-
5. Patience
.277***
.150*
.204**
.357***
-
6. Self-Control
.277***
.180*
.323***
.169*
.270***
-
7. Forgivingness
.336***
.410***
.333***
.390***
.452***
.350***
Note. *** p < .001 ** p < .01 * p < .05
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  29
Table 2.
Hierarchical Regression Predicting Trait Cognitive Hope
Note. For all regression analyses, the Variance Inflation Factors for Step 1 and Step 2 are: Forgivingness = 1.35 and 1.45,
Patience = 1.28 and 1.34, Self-Control = 1.16 and1.16, and Gratitude = 1.24.
Steps and predictors B SE B β t Adjusted
R2 R2 F p
Step 1
.14
10.88
<.001
Forgivingness
.23
.09
.22
2.71
.007
Patience
.17
.10
.13
1.71
.089
Self-Control
.15
.07
.16
2.21
.029
Step 2
.24
.10
15.01
<.001
Forgivingness
.13
.08
.12
1.51
.133
Patience
.07
.10
.05
0.72
.471
Self-Control
.15
.06
.16
2.30
.
.023
Gratitude
.56
.12
.35
4.83
<.001
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  30
Table 3.
Hierarchical Regression Predicting Trait Integrative Hope
Steps and predictors B SE B β t Adjusted
R2 R2 F p
Step 1
.16
12.25
<.001
Forgivingness
.89
.17
.42
5.24
<.001
Patience
-.13
.20
-.05
-0.67
.505
Self-Control
.09
.14
.05
0.65
.517
Step 2
.55
.39
55.70
<.001
Forgivingness
.47
.13
.22
3.64
<.001
Patience
-.53
.15
-.21
-3.59
<.001
Self-Control
.08
.10
.04
0.78
.439
Gratitude
2.26
.18
.69
12.42
<.001
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  31
Table 4.
Hierarchical Regression Predicting Trait Happiness
Steps and predictors B SE B βt
Adjusted
R2 R2 F p
Step 1
.15
11.25
< .001
Forgivingness
.03
.01
.24
2.95
.004
Patience
.01
.01
.04
0.45
.656
Self-Control
.02
.01
.23
3.11
.002
Step 2
.28
.13
18.83
< .001
Forgivingness
.01
.01
.12
1.55
.123
Patience
-.01
.01
-.06
-0.81
.418
Self-Control
.02
.01
.23
3.34
.001
Gratitude
.07
.01
.42
5.92
<.001
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  32
Table 5.
Means, standard deviations, and confidence intervals of word counts and language categories used during each condition. Different
superscripts represent statistically significantly different values.
Grateful Remembering Control Condition
M
SD
.95 CI
M
SD
.95 CI
F (1, 151)
partial η2
Word Count 161.50 a 66.27 [146.36, 176.64] 235.01b 185.95 [192.81, 277.22]
10.55*** .07
Words/Sentence 16.79 7.69 [15.28, 18.30] 15.99 5.45 [14.49, 17.48] 0.56 .00
Gratitude 0.90 a 0.53 [0.81, 0.98] 0.02
b
0.10 [-0.07, 0.10] 201.09*** .57
Positive Emotion 8.08 a 2.69 [7.59, 8.58] 1.54
b
1.51 [1.05, 2.03] 346.60*** .70
Negative Emotion 0.70 1.00 [0.49, 0.90] 0.46 0.79 [0.25, 0.66] 2.77 .02
Social 7.74 a 3.40 [6.94, 8.54] 2.99
b
3.66 [2.19, 3.78] 69.27*** .31
Religious 1.61 a 1.40 [1.34, 1.87] 0.54
b
0.88 [0.28, 0.81] 31.88*** .17
Insight 3.31 a 1.29 [2.96, 3.66] 1.18
b
1.76 [0.83, 1.52] 72.95*** .33
Note. *** p < .001 ** p < .01 * p < .05. Negative emotion p = .098.
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  33
Table 6.
Pre-post writing condition score means (SDs) by condition with F-values and partial η2s for each analysis
Grateful Remembering Control
M (SD) M (SD) Time Condition Time x Condition
Pre Post Pre Post F (1, 151) partial η2F (1, 151) partial η2F (1, 151) partial η2
Hope
(7-70)
61.62a
(6.67)
62.87b
(6.83)
61.19a
(7.19)
59.49c
(8.27) 0.50 .003 2.82 .018 21.33*** .124
Happiness
(1-10)
8.04a
(1.76)
8.50
b
(1.69)
8.06a
(1.85)
7.76a
(2.04) 0.84 .006 1.56 .010 18.39*** .109
Note. *** p < .001. Based on post-hoc comparisons of the interaction with Bonferroni correction, values with different superscripts represent
statistically significant (p < .05) and reliable differences among the means (.95 CIs for mean differences did not include 0).
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  34
Figure 1. Average hope and happiness ratings pre- and post-writing intervention by condition.
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  35
Appendix
Remembering with Gratitude prompt:
“Now reflect on a time in your past when you had hoped for an outcome, and your hope was fulfilled. Try to identify a past hope that is similar in
significance to the ‘current hoped-for outcome’ which you described in the beginning of this study. Some people learn lessons or insights based on
having a past hope fulfilled. Some people were motivated to do what they could to bring about a past hope. People sometimes see the approaches
or steps they took that contributed to the positive outcome. Some people see how others played a role in bringing about the outcome they hoped
for in the past. Some people grow spiritually, in their beliefs and practices when they experience an outcome they had previously hoped would
occur. Sometimes, people have a stronger sense of purpose after experiencing the fulfillment of a past hope. Some people recognize character
strengths in themselves that grew through the process of hoping in the past and seeing that outcome fulfilled. Sometimes, people become more
grateful after a past hope is fulfilled. Using 1-2 complete sentences, describe the outcome you hoped for in the past, which really did come true
already in your life. [Response box] Write about what you learned through having this past hope fulfilled in your life. (Use at least 1 complete
sentence for this and the remaining write-in boxes that follow.) [Response box] Describe the motivation you had to bring about the fulfillment of
this past hope. [Response box] Write about the steps you took that contributed to the positive fulfillment of the past hope you have described.
[Response box] Reflect on how relationships with others played a role in your past hope and experiencing its fulfillment. [Response box] Write
about your spiritual growth through the experience of having your past hope fulfilled. [Response box] Describe how your strengths and virtues
grew in the process of hoping in the past and seeing that hope fulfilled. [Response box] As you reflect on this past fulfilled hope in your life,
identify and name what you are grateful for and to whom you are grateful. [Response box]”
GRATITUDE,HOPE,ANDHAPPINESS  36
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1Using a stepwise hierarchical regression analysis for total flourishing scores (α = .94), in Step 1, forgivingness ( = .35, t = 4.56, p < .001), self-
control ( = .14, t = 1.93, p = .056), and patience ( = .10, t = 1.34, p = .182) together accounted for 21% of flourishing scores, (adjusted R2 = .21;
F = 17.14, p < .001). In Step 2, gratitude ( = .54, t = .8.81, p < .001) accounted for an additional 24% of the variance in flourishing scores
(adjusted R2 = .45; R2 = .24; F = 37.81, p < .001).
... Converging evidence indicates that TSC is linked with individual differences in hope. Studies show that individuals higher in trait selfcontrol tend to pursue long-term benefits with far-sighted actions (Hare et al., 2009;Harris et al., 2013;, focus on the positive consequences of tasks (Cheung et al., 2014;Hennecke et al., 2019), and hold higher hope for achieving future goals (Ferrari et al., 2012;Witvliet et al., 2019). When confronted threats and obstacles, people with high TSC (vs. ...
... First, in line with previous studies, our results showed that TSC was positively correlated with hope and its motivational and cognitive constructs. Studies have shown that possessing high self-control ability promotes one's pursuit of long-term value and hope for goal-attainment (Ferrari et al., 2012;Hare et al., 2009;Harris et al., 2013;Witvliet et al., 2019). Moreover, individuals with high TSC are more inclined to have autonomous motivation and employ effective coping (Boals et al., 2011;Converse et al., 2019;Hennecke et al., 2019;Holding et al., 2019), which can further foster their hope. ...
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