• Understanding the measuring procedures of gratitude
  • Discussing Psycho-physiological Underpinnings of Gratitude
positive psychology  MEASURING GRATITUDE Objectives:

Measuring Gratitude

Several approaches have been adopted to measure gratitude. One tactic was to ask people to list the things about which they felt grateful. This simple method allowed researchers to find those events that produced gratefulness. Another strategy was to take the stories that people wrote about their lives and code these vignettes for gratefulness themes. Barusch (1999) was surprised to find that gratitude was a common response among older women who were living in poverty. In another study, one in which findings were more consistent with the researcher’s expectations, Bernstein and Simmons (1974) found that kidney recipients frequently cited their gratitude toward their donors. Moreover, the survivours of Hurricane Andrew commonly expressed gratitude for having lived through this natural disaster. Some attempts also have been made to measure gratitude behaviourally.

Specific Scales

Working in the context of an overall index called the Multidimensional Prayer Inventory, Laird and his colleagues (2004) have developed and validated a 3-item Thanksgiving self-report subscale on which people respond along a 7-point response scale (1= Never to 7= All of the time) to each item. The three Thanksgiving items are:

  • “I offered thanks for specific things,”
  • “I expressed my appreciation for my circumstances,” and

“I thanked God for things occurring in my life.” This Thanksgiving subscale of the Multidimensional Prayer Inventory obviously is worded in terms of religious prayer, and higher scores have correlated with stronger religious practices such as prayer.

Two trait-like self-reports:

There are two trait-like self-report measures of gratitude that do not inherently link the wording of the items to religious prayer.

1. The first such measure is the Gratitude, Resentment, and Appreciation Test (GRAT), a 44-item index developed and validated by Watkins et al. (1998). The GRAT taps the three factors of resentment, simple appreciation, and social appreciation.

2. The trait self-report index that appears to be most promising is the Gratitude Questionnaire (GQ6; McCullough, et al. 2003). The GQ-6 is a 6-item questionnaire on which respondents endorse each item on a 7-point Likert scale (1= Strongly disagree to 7= Strongly agree).

Gratitude Questionnaire (GQ-6)

Sample Items

  • I have so much in life to be thankful for
  • When I look at the world, I don’t see much to be grateful for
  • As I get older, I find my self more able to appreciate the people, events and situations that have been part of my life history

GC-6 & Correlates (McCllough et al., 2002)

Higher gratitude on the GQ-6 correlated positively with:

  • Elevated positive emotions
  • Vitality
  • Optimism & hope
  • Satisfaction with life
  • Empathy, sharing, forgiving, benefiting, etc.
  • Giving one’s time for the benefit of others
  • Less concerned with material goods

Psycho-physiological Underpinnings of Gratitude

Appreciation has produced another form of physiological coherence, the synchrony between alpha brain wave activity (taken from electroencephalograms EEGs) and heartbeats. In research by McCraty and colleagues (2002), for example, under experimental manipulations of appreciation relative to baseline, the synchrony of heartbeat and EEG was higher in left hemisphere.

Although frustration typically elicits disordered and erratic heart rhythms reflecting a lack of synchrony between the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system, appreciation produces a more coherent pattern of heart rhythms (McCraty & Childre, 2004).

Figure 1 given below illustrates the conditions of a grateful and ungrateful heart.

Figure 1

The Grateful Heart

positive psychology  MEASURING GRATITUDE Objectives:

How do we practice grattude?

There are some essential aspects to practice this. These aspects include to:

  • Keep a Gratitude Journal
  • Keep an Encouragement Box

• Find a Gratitude Mentor Personal Mini-Experiments Count Your Blessings At the beginning and end of each day, list five things for which you are grateful, and then take a few minutes to meditate on the gift inherent in each.

Thanking Your Heroes

To thank the heroes in your life you consider and owe your gratitude.


Snyder, C.R., & Lopez, S.J. (2007). Positive Psychology. London: Sage Publications (pp. 272, 275-278).

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