More than Merely Positive: The Immediate Affective and Motivational Consequences of Gratitude

Lisa C. Walsh, Christina N. Armenta, Guy Itzchakov, Megan M. Fritz, Sonja Lyubomirsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although gratitude is typically conceptualized as a positive emotion, it may also induce socially oriented negative feelings, such as indebtedness and guilt. Given its mixed emotional experience, we argue that gratitude motivates people to improve themselves in important life domains. Two single-timepoint studies tested the immediate emotional and motivational effects of expressing gratitude. We recruited employees (n = 224) from French companies in Study 1 and students (n = 1026) from U.S. high schools in Study 2. Participants in both studies were randomly assigned to either write gratitude letters to benefactors or outline their weekly activities (control condition). Expressing gratitude led to mixed emotional experiences (e.g., greater elevation and indebtedness) for employees and students as compared with the control group. Students also felt more motivated and capable of improving themselves, as well as conveyed stronger intentions to muster effort towards self-improvement endeavors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8679
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors.


  • emotion
  • gratitude
  • motivation
  • positive activity intervention
  • self-improvement
  • well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Building and Construction
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


Dive into the research topics of 'More than Merely Positive: The Immediate Affective and Motivational Consequences of Gratitude'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this