By Erin Holaday Ziegler
A University of Kentucky psychology Professor gives columnist John Tierney a healthy helping of Thanksgiving gratitude with his recent study on the sentiment and its effects on aggressive behavior featured in today's New York Times.
Tierney discusses DeWall's "A Grateful Heart is a Nonviolent Heart: Cross-Sectional, Experience Sampling, Longitudinal, and Experimental Evidence," in a story focusing on gratitude, as Americans enter into the throes our "most psychologically correct holiday."
DeWall and his colleagues conducted cross-sectional, longitudinal, experience sampling, and experimental studies with more than 900 undergraduate students to show that gratitude is linked to lower aggression.
"We tried to triangulate on this phenomenon in as many different ways as we could," said DeWall, who tested the effects of gratitude both inside and outside of the lab.
The study, found in the September issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science, links gratitude to "a nonviolent heart," with those less inclined to aggression.
"I wanted to bust the myth that only certain people are grateful," DeWall said. "Gratitude is an equal opportunity emotion that causes lower levels of aggression."
An activity as basic as writing a letter or mentally counting your blessings can be enough to decrease aggression.
"Take a step back, and look at what you've got," DeWall said. "Don't spend every waking moment being grateful, but one time a week definitely increases your well-being over time. And if you get bad news — you're given a shot that protects you."
DeWall's findings have broad applications and can inform interventions aimed at reducing interpersonal aggression and anger.