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Gratitude and Related Character Virtues

Project Overview

The Gratitude and Related Character Virtues project extends the Centre’s An Attitude for Gratitude project, by examining, both theoretically and empirically, how gratitude relates to four other virtues: generosity, compassion, forgiveness and humility.

This project formed part of the larger mission of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues to work in partnership with schools and professional bodies on projects that promote and strengthen good character within the contexts of family, schools, and communities in the UK.

A literature review conducted at the outset of the project explored the interrelationships between the five virtues and identified that there had been no examination to date of the relations between gratitude and compassion. These two virtues therefore became the focus of the school-based study that forms the empirical component of this research project.

The research took the form of a school-based intervention study focussed on promoting either gratitude or compassion over a five-week period which was aimed at 11-13 year olds. Two teacher handbooks were created with the aim of promoting the virtues of gratitude and compassion.

Key findings and implications

  • The research project broke new ground in its ambitions and scope. The theoretical significance of the project lies in the valuable work carried out in thinking through the design and form of an intervention study to examine the mutual interrelationship of virtues. This model could be adapted for studying other potentially reinforcing strengths of character.
  • The findings from this preliminary examination, which incorporated both a pilot and a replication study, provide some support for the hypothesis that the virtues of compassion and gratitude may mutually reinforce one another.
  • The project laid down conceptual foundations for the empirical examination of interrelations between virtues, by creating a specific intervention focussed on promoting the virtues of compassion and gratitude in the classroom.

The resources for the two school based interventions can be downloaded here.

 

Summary

Project Overview

The Gratitude and Related Character Virtues project extends the Centre’s An Attitude for Gratitude project, by examining how gratitude relates to four other virtues: generosity, compassion, forgiveness and humility.

The practical legacy of this research will be a reinvigorated focus on character and virtues development in schools, with particular reference to promoting the allocentric (other-focused) virtues of compassion and gratitude. The intervention will bequeath concrete materials in the form of teacher handbooks and lesson plans that can be used by schools wishing to cultivate these virtues in the classroom.

Read our Virtue Insight blog post 'The Ripple Effects of Classroom Compassion and Gratitude'.

Methodology

This interdisciplinary project combined a philosophical, conceptual analysis of the relations between five virtues, with an empirical examination of two virtues; gratitude and compassion. The empirical component of the research involved a school intervention study, specifically designed for Years 7 and 8 (young people aged 11 – 13 years).

Literature Review & Findings

A number of empirical studies have shown reciprocal relationships between the five virtues listed above. Some studies suggest these virtues are mutually reinforcing and that promoting one of these virtues may indirectly aid the cultivation of others. To date there has been no empirical examination of whether a compassion-based intervention would promote gratitude (as a side-effect) and vice versa. The empirical school-based intervention study proposed here speaks to that gap in the literature.

Read about 'How journaling, meditation and a spaceman can inspire pupils’ compassion and gratitude'.