19, 2013 – New Orleans – We all know that getting a good night's
sleep is good for our general health and well-being. But new research
is highlighting a more surprising benefit of good sleep: more
feelings of gratitude for relationships.
plethora of research highlights the importance of getting a good
night’s sleep for physical and psychological well-being, yet in our
society, people still seem to take pride in needing, and getting,
little sleep,” says Amie Gordon of the University of California,
Berkeley. "And in the past, research has shown that gratitude
promotes good sleep, but our research looks at the link in the other
direction and, to our knowledge, is the first to show that everyday
experiences of poor sleep are negatively associated with gratitude
toward others – an important emotion that helps form and maintain
close social bonds.”
psychologists are increasingly finding that "prosocial” behavior
– including expressing gratitude and giving to others – is key
to our psychological well-being. Even how we choose to spend our
money on purchases affects our health and happiness. And children
develop specific ways to help others from a very young age. Gordon
and other researchers will be presenting some of these latest
findings at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP)
annual meeting today in New Orleans.
large body of research has documented that people who experience
gratitude are happier and healthier. In three new studies, Gordon and
Serena Chen, also of the the University of California, Berkeley,
explored how poor sleep affects people's feelings of gratitude.
the first study, people who experienced a poor night's sleep were
less grateful after listing five things in life for which they were
appreciative than were people who had slept well the night before.
The researchers adapted the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which
measures sleep quality and number of hours slept, among other
variables, to evaluate the previous night's sleep.
the second study, participants recorded their sleep from the previous
night for two weeks and their feelings of gratitude. The researchers
found a decline in gratitude associated with poor sleep, and those
participants reported feeling more selfish those days.
final study looked at heterosexual couples and found that people tend
to feel less grateful toward their romantic partners if either they
or their partners generally sleep poorly. "In line with this
finding, people reported feeling less appreciated by their partners
if they or their partner tends to sleep poorly, suggesting that the
lack of gratitude is transmitted to the partner,” Gordon says.
sleep is not just experienced in isolation,” Gordon says. "Instead,
it influences our interactions with others, such as our ability to be
grateful, a vital social emotion.”
money to feel wealthy
as expressing gratitude confers benefits, so too does giving to
others. New research shows that people all around the world – from
Canada to Uganda, from South Africa to India – derive more
happiness from spending money on others than they do on themselves.
the first time, we show that giving away money or spending it on
others confers the ironic psychological benefit of increasing the
giver’s sense of wealth,” says Michael Norton of Harvard Business
School and co-author with Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British
Columbia of the upcoming book Happy
Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. In
a suite of new, not-yet published, studies, Norton and colleagues
showed that charitable giving makes people feel wealthier.
research follows on other recent work published in
Psychological Science by
Norton and colleagues that shows that giving time to others
– from helping with homework to shoveling a neighbors’ driveway –
actually makes people feel that they have more time. "In fact,
giving time away alleviates people’s sense of time famine even more
than receiving unexpected windfalls of free time.”
people feel wealthier from spending money on others may explain why
poor individuals tend
to give away a higher fraction of their income than members of the
middle class do. In one study, researchers reported that Americans
earning less than $20,000 a year give a higher percentage of their
income to charity than others earning up to $300,000 a year.
results suggest when the poor give money away, that very act might
mitigate their feelings of poverty,” Norton says. "More broadly
than this specific benefit, our investigation contributes to the
growing body of research documenting the benefits of prosocial
behavior, which include greater happiness, reduced mortality, and
better immune function.”
experiences to feel happy
related research, psychologists are finding that spending money on
experiential purchases, such as vacations, concerts, and meals out,
tends to bring us more happiness than material purchases, such as
clothing, jewelry, or electronic gadgets. Amit Kumar and Thomas
Gilovich of Cornell University are investigating one potential
explanation for this difference: that experiences prompt storytelling
more than possessions do.
new research, they asked participants to recall either a significant
experiential purchase or a significant material purchase. They then
asked them how much they had talked about the purchase they recalled,
and questions related to the satisfaction they derived from their
purchase. Participants rated a higher satisfaction for experiences
than for possessions, which was because they were more likely to talk
about the experiences with other people.
another experiment, the researchers measured what happens when people
cannot talk about their purchases. They asked participants if they
would be willing to pay a price to be able to talk about a beach
vacation (experiential purchase) or an electronic good (material
purchase). "Participants were more likely to switch from a better
purchase that they could not talk about to a lesser purchase that
they could talk about in the experiential condition than in the
material one,” Kumar says.
is likely to be enhanced by shifting the balance of spending in our
consumer society away from material goods and towards experiential
ones,” Kumar says. "This research also suggests that there are
benefits to be had not only by nudging people to choose experiences
over possessions, but also by encouraging people to share stories
about their experiences.”
is best to help others
roots for how we give to others form at a very young age. Children,
it turns out, are very sophisticated givers – not only coming to
someone's aid when needed but also coming up with the best strategy
for doing so, often independent of an adult's instruction.
new research, Kristina Olson of Yale University and Alia Martin have
found that children often will act, thinking they know better than
others what is best for them or others. In a series of experiments,
the researchers investigate whether 3-year-old children will help
someone by ignoring the specific request and instead offering a
one study, for example, when an experimenter asks the child for a
specific marker, but the child knows that
marker does not work, the child will instead offer up a better
marker. In another
study, a pre-recorded child asks the child participant to give her a
piece of chocolate via a tube that supposedly connects them. If the
participant knows that chocolate makes the other child sick, the
participant will decide to give her fruit snacks instead.
most provocatively, children will selectively decide not to help in
this way if they don't like the person,” Olson says. "For
example, if an experimenter has previously been mean, children won't
warn the adult of a potential harm – such as something sharp in the
container they are reaching in – but will if the experimenter was
results suggest that children are able to help adults and peers
already by the preschool years in rather complex ways, even when the
beneficiary is misguided about what he or she wants,” Olson says.
"Children don't just blindly do as they are requested, but rather
consider a person's goal and consider alternative possible ways to
achieve that goal.”
A press conference on this
research "Giving, Getting, and Gratitude” took place Jan. 19,
2013, at the SPSP annual meeting. More than 3,400 scientists are in
attendance at the meeting in New Orleans from Jan. 17-19.
SPSP promotes scientific
research that explores how people think, behave, feel, and interact.
The Society is the largest organization of social and personality
psychologists in the world (http://www.spsp.org/).
M.P. Munoz, SPSP Public Information Officer
Gordon, University of California, Berkeley
Michael Norton, Harvard Business
Amit Kumar, Cornell
Kristina Olson, Yale