What is Gratitude?
American Student: To me the word Gratitude would be like… you feel the need to give back to someone for something they have done for you.
Turkish Exchange Student: As I said before, I don’t want to offer some things for people because it is supposed to be complimentary and when you say it is going to be… I feel grateful, that is supposed to be the end, but for me I offer some maybe drinks. I offer them other things for this favor.
Finnish Exchange Students: A- grateful is something I feel that is making a favor for me. And like the next time the guy asks something I’m like willing to go the extra mile
B- Yeah and usually we always remember the favors so they are like, meaningful to us. Grateful is not just saying “thank you,” it means much more than that
A- Even though we don’t show it
American Brazilian Age 12: To me it means like that when you are happy that somebody helped you with something and you appreciate what they have done for you.
North Carolinian Age 23: I think that when you are grateful … uhm … you have this feeling of being very fulfilled and happy. And you are very appreciative of your surroundings.
Chinese Exchange Student: Uh… I think grateful, to me, this word is really encouraging and supportive for me and also it reminds me that I should be aware of who encouraged me and supports me during the challenging time and when I conquered and overcame difficulties.
Dr. Jonathan Tudge: Well I’ll tell you a little bit about the study and why we decided to do it in the first place. Uhm … Actually we’ll start with the big picture, wanted to think about how to save the world. And that seemed like a bit of a grand idea, but bare with me. The problem is that people keep on using resources that the world doesn’t have. We keep on buying and buying and buying and throwing away, throwing away, and throwing away, and how do you bring about a stop to that? I think it’s useless trying to say to kids, “don’t buy,” because every minute of the day they are bombarded with advertisements saying “buy, buy, buy.” So they want to. So we thought well perhaps there is an alternative strategy we can use to make people think a little bit less about the thing that they are buying and more about the person that is giving them stuff. And that led us, sort of, to think about gratitude. That rather than encouraging children to say just “thank you” for a present, but not want more, let’s have them think about, “wasn’t it nice for so and so to give you that?” And focus the attention away from the gift they have got and more on the person that is providing the gift. And so we were interested in the fact that children, well by adolescence anyway, are really starting to be able to think about the other person and to think about what that person has done for them. And parents and teachers can encourage that thinking, they can encourage children to think about the person that gave, and focus the attention on that person rather than the thing itself they have got. And so use the development of gratitude as one way to try to lower the extent of materialism and this notion of buy, buy, buy all the time. So that is really where the study started.
Dr. Lia O’Brien: Okay, I became interested in this study because I am interested in some of the positive aspects of child development, and I think gratitude is a really interesting child factor…uhm… that can possibly be influenced by society, culture, parenting, and one that we can actually learn more about how to develop more positive aspects of gratitude. And in doing that I think we can help to change people’s relationships and change society potentially. And so I think it is really important work that we are doing and I think It’s really exciting.
Botswana Exchange Student: Uhm.. Grateful I think it has like different meanings, uhm, I am grateful to maybe like my mother because she took care of me and stuff. Uhm.. Maybe somebody who is like smart and did something for you and you kind of felt grateful for it. So I think it means appreciating something that someone has done for you.
Belgian Exchange Student: I think that when you are grateful towards someone it is that you realized the sacrifice they made for you, and uh.. and so because you understand this sacrifice you want to do something for them. Not really to return the favor but also that you feel you have, when the time comes, you also have to sacrifice something for that person.
American Brazilian Age 9: It means that like you are thankful for someone buying something for you.
Estonian Exchange Student: So what do I do when I am grateful to someone? uhm, I guess I am sort of like trying to return the favor, somehow. Like perhaps if you know they are just helping me out with something like really important to me I’d try to like be thankful to them, maybe give a chocolate or something cause in my culture it is really common to thank people with like sweets and stuff like that. So yeah I guess like returning a favor and keeping people in mind… and maybe in the future I can return the favor or whatever. I guess that’s it…
American Student: The word doesn’t mean anything to me because It’s a feeling
Dr. Jonathan Tudge:…And so it is interesting to look at how gratitude develops not simply in one culture but in different cultures as well. So for example it may well be the case that in countries like China, or Mexico, or Brazil…uhm countries that have that more, you know, are a bit more interested in the group dynamic rather than America perhaps. So let’s see how gratitude is cultivated and is encouraged in those societies as well as in the United States. And within the United States of course there are different groups…
The most sophisticated, the most helpful sense of being grateful is the recollection that okay, this person did something for me. I have some moral obligation that I need to repay that person in some way. I really want to do that. That person was really nice to me… What can I do that would be nice or helpful for that person? And that sense of gratitude, which we are calling connective gratitude, is really helpful in strengthening or building relationships between people and that is what we are trying to encourage.
American 4-year-old: I am grateful for hiding behind
His mother: And what does grateful mean to you?
4-year-old: It means being happy