Date of Award

Summer 6-14-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

Department

Clinical Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Thane Erickson, PhD

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Lynette Bikos, PhD

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Amy Mezulis, PhD

Abstract

Previous research indicates gratitude is associated with positive affective outcomes (Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010). However, researchers have primarily examined gratitude across long periods of time, and exclusively in the context of positive events. Additionally, few researchers have examined the impact of situational factors on state gratitude during specific moments. The purpose of this study was to assess the affective effects of state gratitude in specific positive versus negative events, and to examine how situational factors facilitate gratitude in a naturalistic setting. Participants included 148 (72% women) undergraduate students (M age = 19.26, SD = 1.63). Across eight weeks, participants recorded the best and worst event of each week while completing measurements of emotional experiences anchored to those events. Multilevel modeling was used to test the effects of weekly gratitude on weekly negative affect (NA), positive affect (PA), and depression symptoms. All variables were anchored to the best and worst events of each week, except depression symptoms. Events were also coded as dependent or independent and interpersonal or non-interpersonal. Results showed that person-centered weekly state gratitude predicted higher levels of weekly state PA in the context of both best (B = .515, p < .001) and worst events (B = .600, p < .001). Person-centered weekly gratitude did not predict weekly NA in either context, but gratitude linked to the best event predicted significantly lower weekly depressive symptoms (B = -.109, p = .023). Analysis of situational factors showed that participants were more likely to endorse gratitude following the best event when the event was coded as independent (B = 1.634, p < .001) or interpersonal (B = 1.193, p < .001), with a significant interaction (B = -.899, p = .046) indicating the highest level of gratitude when the event was both independent and interpersonal. There were no effects for situational factors on gratitude following the worst event. These results demonstrate the unique within-person effects of state gratitude in response to both positive and negative events. This study also offers evidence that positive events characterized as independent and interpersonal elicit the highest level of gratitude in a naturalistic setting.

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