Gratitude is a highly prized human disposition. But the concept of thankfulness has inspired very little systematic scientific research despite its role in our individual and collective well-being. What exactly is gratitude? What are its psychological roots? What are its components? Can they be measured? If so, how? Is gratitude universal in human societies? Is there an animal equivalent? What is the relationship between gratitude and physical and emotional health? What are the religious foundations of gratitude? What are its moral functions and spiritual uses? How might scientific inquiry into the profoundly important but heretofore neglected topic of thanksgiving be stimulated? To consider such provocative questions, the John Templeton Foundation brings together thirteen scholars in Dallas, the Texas city that is the home of the Center for World Thanksgiving. They explore the subject of gratitude from the perspectives of anthropology, biology, moral philosophy, psychology, and theology. Drawing on their own research and that of others, they examine the evidence for the conclusions reached by wise people through the ages that, as Sir John Marks Templeton put it, "an attitude of gratitude creates blessings."
Robert A. Emmons is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, where he has taught for the past twelve years. His research is focused on the measurement of personal striving as a determinant of the subjective quality of life. In particular, he explores how religiousness and spirituality may reflect core aspects of identity and how these aspects of self are involved in well-being and personality coherence and integration over time. A graduate of the University of Maine, he received a Ph.D. in personality psychology from the University of Illinois in 1986. Dr. Emmons taught at Illinois and Michigan State University before joining the Davis faculty. A consulting editor of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, he also serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of the Psychology of Religion. The recipient of grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute for Disability, and the John Templeton Foundation, he is the author of some sixty research articles and book chapters. His acclaimed new study of motivational theory, The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns: Motivation and Spirituality in Personality, was published last year by Guilford Press.
A world-renowned primatologist, Frans B. M. de Waal is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Primate Behavior at Emory University and director of the university’s Living Links Center for the Advanced Study of Ape and Human Evolution. A native of The Netherlands, he graduated from the University of Nijmegen and earned a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Utrecht in 1977. His work on the response of primates to their environment focuses on social complexity in the widest sense. At Emory’s Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, he is currently investigating conflict resolution, reciprocity, personality differences, and the use of computers in testing cognitive abilities and social knowledge. His research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation. Dr. de Waal is an elected correspondent member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. The author of numerous articles, he is the editor of three books and the author of four others. They include the international bestseller Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes (1982), Peacemaking Among Primates (1989), which won the Los Angeles Times Book Award, Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals (1996), and (with wildlife photographer Frans Lanting) Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape (1997), which has introduced readers throughout the world to the last large mammal to become known to science. Dr. de Waal’s most recent study, The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections by a Primatologist, deals with the possibility of culture in other animals and will be published next spring by Basic Books.
Barbara L. Fredrickson is a pathfinder in the fledgling field of "positive psychology." An associate professor at the University of Michigan, where she began teaching in 1995 and holds appointments in both psychology and women’s studies, she was graduated summa cum laude from Carleton College and earned her Ph.D. in psychology at Stanford University in 1990. She was subsequently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley and then an assistant professor of psychology at Duke University. Dr. Fredrickson has won numerous academic prizes, and earlier this year, she was awarded the first ever, first place John Marks Templeton Positive Psychology Prize for original research on how to cultivate and build on human strengths. She also has received research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the University of Michigan, Duke University, and the Meyerhoff Foundation. Much of her work has focused on cultivating the so-called positive emotions — joy, interest, contentment, love — at both psychophysiological and cognitive levels. Her research suggests they can speed recovery from the potentially heart-damaging effects of fear and anxiety and enhance an individual’s physical, intellectual, and social resources. Dr. Fredrickson is the author of some thirty articles and book chapters.
A political scientist whose research focuses on the role economic ideas play in modern political thought and their impact on modern state institutions, Edward J. Harpham is an associate professor of government and political economy at The University of Texas at Dallas. He was graduated with highest distinction from Pennsylvania State University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and received his Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University in 1980. A visiting professor at the University of Houston before joining the Dallas faculty in 1981, he currently serves as both Dallas’s associate dean of undergraduate studies and director of its honors program. Dr. Harpham is the recipient of a number of teaching awards and has held research grants from Cornell, The Institute for Humane Studies, the University of Houston, the University of Texas at Dallas, and the Liberty Fund. The president-elect of the Southwestern Political Science Association, he has published more than thirty articles and book chapters and co-authored three books. The most recent, The Rhythms of American Politics (with Brian J. L. Berry, Euel Elliott, and Heja Kim), was published by University Press of America in 1998. It is the first book to systematically explore the relationships between macroeconomic movements and the cyclical nature of political activity in the United States. Dr. Harpham is currently writing a book on the economic and political thought of Adam Smith.
Aafke Elizabeth Komter, associate professor on the Faculty of Social Science of Utrecht University and chair of social science at University College, Utrecht, investigates the social and cultural meanings of gift exchange. A native of The Netherlands, she studied psychology at the University of Amsterdam where she received her baccalaureate degree followed by a Ph.D. in 1985. She began her teaching career as an assistant professor at Nijmegen University and at Leyden University then became a senior researcher at Leyden before joining the Utrecht faculty in 1990. She has been an associate member of Balliol College, Oxford and a visiting professor in the Graduate School of Social Science at Amsterdam. Her research, which also includes explorations of the phenomena of reciprocity and of solidarity, has been supported by the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research. Dr. Komter serves on the editorial board of The Netherlands’ Journal of Social Science. She is the author of numerous articles and the editor of The Gift: An Interdisciplinary Perspective (Amsterdam University Press, 1996). She is currently preparing a manuscript for publication entitled "Solidarity and the Gift."
One of the pioneers in research on human emotions, Richard S. Lazarus is the author of some twenty books in the fields of personality and clinical psychology, including the hugely influential Psychological Stress and the Coping Process (1966), which is considered a classic, and the 1991 landmark study, Emotion and Adaptation. He is now professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. A graduate of City College of New York, he served as an officer with the United States Army in World War II and then obtained a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh in 1948. His first academic appointments were at The Johns Hopkins University and Clark University, where he was director of the clinical training program in psychology. He joined the Berkeley faculty as an associate professor in 1957 and was appointed a full professor two years later. Dr. Lazarus’s early research focused on individual differences in perception, an interest that has continued throughout his career. He believed that stress and emotion were at the core of human adaptation, and he worked on crafting a theoretical framework for these concepts using innovative formulations in the tradition of leading phenomenologists. At Berkeley, he pioneered the use of motion picture films to produce stress reactions naturalistically in the laboratory. In an extensive program of psycho-physiological research, he and his colleagues made a strong experimental case for the causal role in stress of cognitive coping processes, and their work led to Dr. Lazarus’s path-breaking book. In the late 1970s, however, he changed his research style because he became convinced that the psychology of stress could best be advanced by field investigations. For more than a decade, he led the highly productive Berkeley Stress and Coping Project. In the late 1980s, he turned his attention to a larger canvas and produced his cognitive-motivational-relational theory of human emotions and how they play a complex, central role in an individual’s lifelong efforts to survive, flourish, and achieve. Dr. Lazarus’s investigations have been supported by the United States Public Health Service (USPHS), the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute on Drug Addiction, the National Cancer Institute, the Army Research Institute, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Psychological Association (APA), he has received the APA’s Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award and its Division of Health Psychology Award for Lifetime Research Contributions to Health Psychology, the American Psychology Society’s William James Fellow Award, and the California Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Achievement in Psychology Award. Dr. Lazarus has been a USPHS Special Fellow at Waseda University in Japan, Misha Strassberg Visiting Research Professor at the University of Western Australia, and a visiting professor at the University of Heidelberg and Auhus University in Denmark. He holds honorary degrees from Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany and Haifa University in Israel. In addition to his monographs and textbooks, he is the author of more than 200 scientific articles. His latest book, Stress and Emotion: A New Synthesis, was published last year by Springer (New York).
Dan P. McAdams is the Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence and a professor of human development and psychology at Northwestern University. He also directs Northwestern’s Foley Center for the Study of Lives. A graduate of Valparaiso University, where he received his degree with highest distinction, he earned a Ph.D. in psychology and social relations at Harvard University in 1979. Before joining the Northwestern faculty, he taught at the University of Minnesota and Loyola University in Chicago. Dr. McAdams’s research on the relationship between storytelling and personal development has put him in the forefront of psychology’s effort to understand people in the contexts of their everyday lives. It has been supported by grants from the Foley Family Foundation, the Spenser Foundation, Northwestern, Loyola, and the American Lutheran Church. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) and a recipient of the Henry A. Murray Award given by the APA’s Division of Personality and Social Psychology. Dr. McAdams currently serves as editor of The Narrative Study of Lives, associate editor of The Encyclopedia of Psychology, consulting editor of Personality and Social Psychology Review, and on the editorial board of Psychological Science. He is the author of some 100 articles and the author or editor of ten books. His most recent, The Person: An Integrative Introduction to Personality Psychology, was published last summer by Harcourt Brace.
An investigator who looks at links between spirituality and health, Michael E. McCullough joined the faculty of Southern Methodist University this year as an associate professor of psychology. He also holds adjunct appointments at Duke University in the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development and the Center for Religion/Spirituality and Health. Dr. McCullough was formerly the director of research at the National Institute for Healthcare Research (NIHR), where he also conducted studies on forgiveness and gratitude. A graduate of the University of Florida, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, he received a Ph.D. in psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1995. He taught at Virginia Commonwealth and Louisiana Tech University before joining the NIHR staff in 1996. Dr. McCullough has won awards from the Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling, the John Templeton Foundation, and the Psychology of Religion Division of the American Psychological Association. The author of some sixty research articles and book chapters, he is the co-editor (with Kenneth I. Pargament and Carl E. Thoresen) of the recently published book, Forgiveness: Theory, Research, and Practice (Guilford Press, 2000), and the co-author of two other books, including the forthcoming Religion and Health (with Harold G. Koenig and David B. Larson), which will be published by Oxford University Press later this year.
Robert C. Roberts is Distinguished Professor of Ethics at Baylor University. A graduate of Wichita State University, he earned a bachelor of divinity degree from Yale University in 1970 and a Ph.D. there in 1974. After teaching at Western Kentucky University for eleven years, he was J. Omar Good Distinguished Visiting Professor at Juniata College for one year before accepting appointment as a professor of philosophy and psychological studies at Wheaton College, a position he held from 1984 to 2000. Dr. Roberts’s scholarly work, which involves Christian thought as well as philosophy more generally, has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Pew Charitable Trusts. In 1998-99, he held a Distinguished Scholar Fellowship at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Philosophy of Religion. The former president of the Illinois Philosophical Association and a former member of the Executive Committee of the Society of Christian Philosophers, he serves as a contributing editor of Journal of Psychology and Theology and as a corresponding editor of Christianity Today. In addition to publishing some forty journal articles and twenty chapters in collected volumes, he has edited two books and is the author of five others, including Taking the Word to Heart: Self and Other in the Age of Therapies (1993). Dr. Roberts is presently completing a study entitled "Shaped Passions: An Essay in Moral Psychology," a two-volume work on emotions and virtues.
A social scientist who conducts research on emotion, James A. Russell studies the structure of emotion, the development of emotional understanding in young children, and the facial expressions of emotion. For the past thirteen years, he has been a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), he earned his Ph.D. in psychology there in 1974. He was a UCLA Chancellor’s Fellow and subsequently a Killam Senior Fellow and winner of a Killam Research Prize. Dr. Russell joined the UBC faculty in 1975. He is a recipient of the UBC Alumni Prize for Research in the Social Sciences. His research also has been supported by the Canada Council, UBC, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. He has been a visitor at the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research at the University of California, Berkeley and a visiting professor at Autonoma University of Madrid. A fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychology Society, he is a past member of the editorial board of the Journal of Environmental Psychology and a current member of the editorial boards of Motivation and Emotion, Review of Personality and Social Psychology, Cognition and Emotion, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitude and Social Cognition, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Personality and Individual Differences, and Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. Dr. Russell is the author of nearly 100 articles and book chapters and the co-editor of four books, including most recently The Psychology of Facial Expression Concepts of Emotion (with J.M. Fernandez-Dols), which was published by Cambridge University Press in 1997.
Solomon Schimmel is a professor of Jewish education and psychology at Hebrew College in Brookline, MA, and a life member of Clare Hall College, Cambridge University. A graduate of City College of New York, he did graduate work at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and received a Ph.D. in psychology from Wayne State University in 1971. He subsequently held a National Science Foundation post-doctoral research fellowship at Harvard University. He was appointed an assistant professor of psychology at Brandies University in 1972, a position he held for three years before joining the Hebrew College faculty as an associate professor. Named a full professor in 1978, Dr. Schimmel was a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar at Cambridge University in 1998, where he also was a visiting fellow at Clare Hall. He is the author of some twenty scholarly articles and book chapters as well as a book hailed as a humane guide for self-transformation, The Seven Deadly Sins: Jewish, Christian and Classical Reflections on Human Psychology (Free Press, 1992; Oxford University Press, 1997). He is currently preparing two new volumes for publication, a study on repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation and a Jewish perspective on communal service and social work.
A practicing clinical psychologist and an associate professor of psychology at Regis University in Denver, Charles M. Shelton, S. J. is a graduate of St. Louis University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and went on to receive a M.A. in political science. He was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1982, received a master of divinity degree from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA in 1983, and earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Loyola University in Chicago in 1989. His research in moral development, mental health, and social justice has been supported by the Cambridge Center for Social Studies and Regis. The former assistant managing editor of The Modern Schoolman, he is the author of nearly fifty articles and book chapters and six books. His latest study, Achieving Moral Health, was published by Crossroad earlier this year. Dr. Shelton is currently working on a manuscript entitled "Living A Grateful Life: A Psychology of Gratitude for Everyday Life."
Brother David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B. is a senior member of the Benedictine community at Mount Savior in Elmira, New York, who has deepened the spiritual lives of people all over the world through his lectures, workshops, and writing. A native of Austria and a graduate of the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, he also studied anthropology and psychology at the University of Vienna, where he earned a Ph.D. in 1952. The next year, he followed his family to America and joined his present order. Brother David was subsequently a post-doctoral fellow at Cornell and the first Roman Catholic to hold the university’s Thorpe Lectureship. After twelve years of monastic training and studies in philosophy and theology, he was sent by his abbot to Japan to participate in Buddhist-Christian dialogue. He studied with Zen masters there and soon became active in monastic renewal throughout the United States. He also has lectured extensively abroad. Brother David’s essays have appeared in a wide range of periodicals, and he has contributed chapters to more than thirty books and made audio and video tapes that have been distributed on five continents. He is the author or co-author of five books, including Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer (1984, 1990), which has been anthologized in a number of collections on matters of the spirit, and (with physicist Fritjof Capa) Belonging to the Universe (1992), a dialogue on new thinking in science and theology. His most recent book (with Sharon Lebell), The Music of Silence, is a meditation on liturgical devotion, which was published by Harper-San Francisco in 1996.
single grateful thought raised to heaven is the most perfect prayer.”
invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”
is what binds all people and all creation together—the gratuity of the
gift of being.”
is more blessed to give than to receive.”
attitude of gratitude creates blessings.”
Humble Approach Initiative
Program of the John Templeton Foundation