The Eighth European Positive Psychology Conference (ECPP) took place in Angers, France, between June 28th and July 1st 2016. Research Fellows Drs. Blaire Morgan and Liz Gulliford spoke at one of the 24 thematic paper sessions, presenting the findings from their cross-cultural replication of three empirical strands of the An Attitude for Gratitude research project. Liz and Blaire gave a paper based on the Taking 'Thanks' for Granted: Unravelling the Concept of Gratitude in a Developmental, Cross-Cultural Analysis report, which was funded by a Society for Educational Studies (SES) small grant, and presented findings of a cross-cultural study of the understanding of gratitude to an international audience.
An abstract for Liz and Blaire's presentation is given below and the PowerPoint presentation is available here.
Paper Session: Cross-Cultural Differences in Gratitude Experience
Theme: Cross-Cultural Approach
Authors: B. Morgan (1) L. Gulliford (1) L. Waters (2)
Authors' Address: (1) Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham, UK (2) Centre for Positive Psychology, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, Australia
Abstract: As is well known, gratitude has been related to a host of intrapersonal, interpersonal and health benefits. However, gratitude research tends to have had the narrow aim of increasing gratitude experience without much opportunity for probing the meaning of the concept itself. We believe a more effective method of fostering moral values, such as gratitude, would be to encourage reflection on what gratitude is, and when and why it is experienced (Morgan, Gulliford & Carr, 2015; Carr, Morgan & Gulliford, 2015). We have developed instruments to shed light on both children’s and adults’ understanding of the concept. We have used these instruments to examine developmental differences in the understanding of gratitude in both the UK and Australia and report the extent to which understandings of gratitude differ cross-culturally. Findings from a prototype analysis of gratitude conducted in Australia will be compared with our UK study (Morgan, Gulliford & Kristjansson, 2014), and the earlier findings of Lambert, Graham and Fincham’s (2009) US study. This cross-cultural comparison of ‘gratitude features’ reveals that, relative to Australia and US, our UK sample demonstrates more negative associations with the construct. We also present findings from a vignette questionnaire probing intuitions about gratitude. The questionnaire was compiled following an extensive literature review on how gratitude is conceptualised (Gulliford, Morgan, & Kristjánsson, 2013). It presents various scenarios to which respondents decide whether (and to what degree) gratitude is appropriate. For instance, if a benefactor has ulterior motives, are you still grateful for the benefit they bestow? Should you be grateful to someone who is doing their job? We compare UK responses to this questionnaire with our Australian sample of young people and adults. Australian adults, for example, deem benefits that do not materialise as more worthy of gratitude than do UK adults, and UK adults report less gratitude in response to non-valuable benefits. Finally we report on the findings from our gratitude stories for children. The stories incorporate themes elaborated in the vignettes, enabling us to examine the way in which different factors that may impact on gratitude differ across the lifespan and between different cultures. Whilst in need of further replication, these results seem to suggest that Australian children may place fewer conditions on when gratitude is due. This research provides important insights into the conception of gratitude, how this might change and develop across the life-span, and the degree to which it differs cross-culturally. Such differences will inevitably impact upon gratitude interventions and gratitude measurement. Furthermore, educational interventions are currently adopted from different countries (primarily from the USA) without appropriate sensitivity to cultural differences. We believe these cross-cultural differences deserve further scrutiny.