Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude
Request for Proposals
The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, in collaboration with the University of California, Davis, is pleased to announce a new, three-year project, Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude, supported with funding from the John Templeton Foundation.
The first component of this project is a $3 million research initiative to expand the scientific understanding of gratitude, particularly in the key areas of health and well-being, developmental science, and social relationships. The deadline for Letters of Intent (LOIs) was February 15, 2012; the submission window has now closed.
The letter should describe the proposed project concretely and in detail, and should indicate clearly why the proposed study promises significant contributions to either the science or practice of gratitude. In addition to a cover sheet, the LOI should include (1) a title for the proposed project, (2) a description of the research, (3) an explanation of how the proposed project fits within this initiative, (4) information on the project’s methodology and significance, (5) the budget required to complete the research, and (6) proposed collaborators, if applicable.
Click here to read the full request for proposals, including background, eligibility, and application instructions, and click here to download the LOI cover sheet. If you have any questions about this RFP not answered below, please consult our list of Frequently Asked Questions.
Principal investigators will be notified of our reviewers’ decisions by April 15, 2012, with submission of full proposals due no later than June 15, 2012. Final award decisions will be issued by July 30, 2012. All projects must be completed by July 30, 2014.
Full Request for Proposals: Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude
The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, in collaboration with the University of California, Davis, is pleased to announce a $3 million research initiative, Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude, supported with funding from the John Templeton Foundation. The center is now accepting letters of intent proposing research on gratitude in the human sciences. Up to 13 grants (no more than 3 at up to $500,000 and no more than 10 at up to $200,000), not to exceed $3 million, will be awarded in this competition in 2012.
Gratitude is a virtue that is held in high esteem by virtually everyone, at all times, in all places. From ancient religious scriptures through modern social science research, gratitude has been celebrated as a desirable human characteristic with the capacity for making life better for oneself and for others.
Recently, scientists have begun to chart a course of research studies aimed at empirically elucidating the nature of this timeless virtue. The scientific study of gratitude has begun to yield valuable insights into human nature, but within the human sciences the topic remains largely underdeveloped. The aim of this initiative is to stimulate scientific research on gratitude, with a long-term goal of spurring further investigations of this essential virtue across levels and domains of human functioning.
The general goals of this initiative are to: (1) Expand the scientific database of gratitude, particularly in the key areas of human health, personal and relational well-being, and developmental science; (2) Promote evidence-based practices of gratitude in medical, educational, and organizational settings and in schools, workplaces, homes and communities, and in so doing (3) Engage the public in a larger cultural conversation about the role of gratitude in civil society.
The Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude initiative is particularly interested in four key areas of gratitude research: (1) Gratitude and health, (2) The development of gratitude, (3) Gratitude in social contexts, and (4) The practice of gratitude. Examples of research questions in each of these areas include:
1. Gratitude and Health. How does gratitude contribute to mental and physical health, well-being, and other outcomes indicative of optimal human functioning across the lifespan? In what ways does gratitude contribute to psychological resiliency and the prevention of mental health problems, or recovery from them? Does a lack of gratitude confer a risk for developing psychiatric illnesses? Is gratitude related to improved physical health, faster recovery from illness, or even to a longer life? If so, what are the biobehavioral mechanisms by which gratitude promotes healthier functioning? Is gratitude related to distinct patterns of neuroendocrine response, immune system function, cardiovascular health, or other indicators of biological functioning? In older populations, does gratitude contribute to positive aging and even to a deceleration of the aging process? Is gratitude a consequence or determinant of healthy adaptation in later life?
2. Gratitude in Youth. What is the developmental trajectory of gratitude in children? What developmental experiences facilitate or thwart gratitude? What can the people with the greatest influence over a child’s life—parents, teachers, coaches, etc.—do to foster gratitude in children? Is there a critical period when the capacity for gratitude is best transmitted from an older to a younger generation? In what ways can gratitude alleviate or prevent developmental problems in childhood and adolescence? To what degree does gratitude promote positive outcomes such as school success, overall well-being, community service, resiliency, healthy behaviors, and less risk taking?
3. Gratitude in Social Contexts. As gratitude is inherently a relational phenomenon, another focus of the RFP is on gratitude’s role in social contexts, especially as it relates to relational well-being. What is the function of gratitude in building, promoting, and maintaining social relationships? What are the benefits of gratitude in close relationships? In what ways is gratitude related to trust, cooperation, generosity, intimacy, conflict reduction, and other pro-relationship behaviors? What factors hinder or thwart expression of gratitude in relationships? Are there conditions in which gratitude might be harmful for relationships?
4. Gratitude in Practice. How can gratitude be practiced and encouraged in medical, educational, or organizational settings and in schools, workplaces, homes and communities, and how can interventions to increase gratitude in these settings be evaluated? What evidence-based gratitude interventions are most effective with which populations, and why? What school-based interventions can promote sustainable increases in grateful character traits? To what degree can gratitude be incorporated into patient care?
Gratitude is derived from the Latin gratia, meaning grace, graciousness, or gratefulness and has been conceptualized as an emotion, an attitude, a moral virtue, a habit, a personality trait, and coping response. Broadly defined, gratitude is an acknowledgment that a person has received something of value from another moral agent. Most existing theoretical treatments agree that gratitude results most often from a specific set of attributions: (1) when a benefit is evaluated positively; (2) when the benefit that one has encountered is not attributed to one’s own effort; and (3) when the benefit was rendered intentionally by the benefactor. There is consensus that gratitude can be regarded as a moral emotion, in that it leads to behavior intended to benefit others. The experience of gratitude results from acknowledging the ‘gratuitous’ role sources of social support may play in promoting the well-being of others.
As a trait, gratitude refers not only to the gratitude that arises following help from others but also to a habitual focusing on and appreciation of the positive aspects of life. Gratitude may be explicitly ‘other-directed’ or benefit triggered in the context of having received a valued gift from another, or it may be a more generalized orientation toward life that is independent of an exchange-based relationship. Benefit-triggered gratitude is elicited by a specific transfer of a benefit, whereas generalized gratitude includes being grateful for that which is valuable and meaningful to oneself. As part of the Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude initiative, projects may address these multiple meanings of gratitude in terms of either interpersonal or transpersonal gratitude, religious or nonreligious gratitude, benefit-triggered or generalized gratitude.
Gratitude is foundational to well-being and mental health throughout the life span. In the past few years, there has been an accumulation of scientific evidence showing how gratitude contributes to psychological and social well-being. A growing body of research has documented the wide array of psychological, physical, and relational benefits associated with gratitude from childhood to old age.
Yet, the scientific study of gratitude is still in its early stages. The overall aim of this initiative is to stimulate scientific research on gratitude in the social and biological sciences, with a goal of spurring investigations of this essential virtue across levels and domains of human functioning.
III. Application Instructions
Letter of Intent (LOI) Stage
The cover sheet for the LOI can be downloaded here, and it must be filled out and included with the LOI. In addition to the cover sheet, the LOI should include (1) a title for the proposed project, (2) a description of the research, (3) an explanation of how the proposed project fits within this initiative, (4) information on the project’s methodology and significance, (5) the budget required to complete the research (no more than 15% of the proposed budget may cover indirect costs), and (6) proposed collaborators, if applicable.
Not counting the cover sheet, the letter of intent should be no longer than three pages in length (single-spaced, Times Roman 12-point font, 1 inch margins, in English). Only LOIs of this length and with a thorough description of the proposed research will be considered. Casual inquiries are not invited. The LOIs will be reviewed and evaluated by an interdisciplinary Selection Committee that will select the most promising and appropriate of the proposed projects.
Applicants are encouraged to familiarize themselves with recent scholarship on gratitude by reading key background papers below.
If you have any questions about the LOI or the RFP in general, please consult our list of Frequently Asked Questions.
Full Proposal Stage
Principal investigators invited to submit full proposals will be notified by April 15th, 2012. Full proposals must be received by June 15th, 2012, and must follow the format and guidelines below in order to be considered. Further details on the proposal submission process will be communicated to PIs who advance to that stage.
All proposals must be submitted in English, single-spaced, and typed with one-inch margins. Font size may be no smaller than 11-point and no larger than 12-point, and font type must be Times New Roman. Proposals that do not follow these font and margin specifications will not be accepted. Emphasis should also be placed on completeness and clarity of content. The full proposal must include all of the information below.
The following is a description of documents that will be required for all full proposal submissions. Additional information on each of these will be provided when full proposals are invited.
1. Cover Sheet (downloadable from website)
2. Table of Contents
3. Project Summary
4. Project Description
5. Project Timeline
6. Curriculum Vitae
7. Detailed Budget
8. Budget Narrative
The PI must have a doctoral degree (or equivalent) and be affiliated with an accredited college or university in the United States (or be affiliated with another major research institution, such as a hospital). Applicants can only have their name on one proposal for this competition. Proposed projects are encouraged but not limited to scholars in the disciplines of psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, family and developmental studies, medicine, law, education, religious studies, affective neuroscience, and evolutionary biology. Proposals may be either discipline-specific or inter-disciplinary and may come from scholars with expertise in gratitude research or those recently investing in gratitude research. The project must be accomplished within a two-year time span, by July 30th, 2014.
V. Evaluation Criteria
1. Significance: Does the study address an important problem or question in research on gratitude? Does it build upon prior findings? How does it advance the science or practice of gratitude? What will be the impact of this project on future research on gratitude?
2. Approach and methods: Is the design adequately developed and rigorous for the purpose of the study and commensurate with the research question(s) addressed? Does the study seek to identify causal mechanisms between gratitude and health outcomes or mechanisms that foster or impede the development of gratitude?
3. Creativity: Does the project employ novel and innovative ideas or methods? Would it be considered leading-edge research?
4. Potential influence: Will the results be publishable in scholarly journals? Will the results enhance public awareness of the importance of gratitude or increase knowledge about how it can be successfully practiced?
5. Capacity for success: What are the qualifications of the investigators? Can they carry out the project in a timely manner? Can they effectively communicate their findings to both academic and nonacademic audiences?
VI. Key Background Papers
Below are some seminal studies from the science of gratitude. Click on the title to download a PDF of the full paper.
- Froh, J. J., Fan, J., Emmons, R. A., Bono, G., Huebner, E. S., & Watkins, P. (2011). Measuring gratitude in youth: Assessing the psychometric properties of adult gratitude scales in children and adolescents. Psychological Assessment, 23(2), 311-324.
- Wood, A. M., et al. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.005.
- Froh, J. J., Sefick, W. J., & Emmons, R. A. (2008). Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. Journal of School Psychology, 46(2), 213-233.
- McCullough, M. E., Kimeldorf, M. B., & Cohen, A. D. (2008). An adaptation for altruism? the social causes, social effects, and social evolution of gratitude. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(4), 281-285.
- Watkins, P. C., Woodward, K., Stone, T., & Kolts, R. L. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality, 31, 431-452.
- Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389.
- McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(1), 112-127.
- McCullough, M. E., Kilpatrick, S. D., Emmons, R. A., & Larson, D. B. (2001). Is gratitude a moral affect? Psychological Bulletin, 127(2), 249-266.
VII. Greater Good Science Center Resources
What to know more about the science and practice of gratitude? Please see these Greater Good resources:
- “Pay It Forward,” by Robert A. Emmons
- “Why Gratitude is Good,” by Robert A. Emmons
- “Ten Ways to Become More Grateful,” by Robert A. Emmons
- “Love, Honor, and Thank,” by Jess Alberts and Angela Trethewey
- The GGSC Community Gratitude Journal.
VIII. Contact Information
For detailed information about proposal procedures, topics of interest, eligibility, deadlines, available resources, contact information, or to sign up to receive project updates, refer to the project website
Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude
Greater Good Science Center
University of California, Berkeley
2425 Atherton Street #6070
Berkeley, CA 94720-6070
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