The Psychosocial Effects of Material Thanks-Giving

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Researchers have recently shown that practicing gratitude and prayer lead to better life-satisfaction, health, happiness, and relationships (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Krause, 2004). Presenting activities as a form of prayer is a unique way of framing interventions that have shown various benefits. Whittington and Scher (2010) suggest that different types of prayers have different well-being effects and that it might be the ego-centric or ego-less content of prayer that accounts for those outcomes. For the current study, I used a between-subjects design whereby subjects were randomly assigned to one of three intervention conditions that varied by type of journaling (just journaling [no frame], social journaling [sharing journal with a friend], prayer journaling [praying journal to God]). The content of each gratitude journal was then coded into a variety of categories from relational, spiritual, and material content. Analyses showed that the content of the gratitude journals differed based on the condition to which one was assigned such that the social journaling condition reported the greatest amount of thanks for luxury items and the just journaling condition reported the least amount of gratitude for monetary gifts. There were no findings that material content would decrease well-being. However, when accounting for the condition in which the material content was journaled, participants’ overall health related outcomes increased for those who reported more material thanks and participated in the social journaling or prayer journaling conditions. This study is the first of its kind to have a researcher code the content of the participants’ journals and analyze how that content affects outcomes, and it demonstrates the importance of attending to the content of journals in future journal intervention studies.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

First Advisor

Schnitker, Sarah A.

Document Type





Gratitude, Prayer, Well-being, Quality of life, Contentment, Materialism




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