In an article published this summer by the Association for Psychological Science, the impact of sending a Thank You note was revealed as even more impactful than most senders believe it will be. In the study, documented by Amit Kumar and Nicholas Epley of Booth School of Business, The University of Chicago, it was discovered that the “pro-social” act of expressing gratitude is often undervalued.
Participants in three experiments wrote gratitude letters and then predicted how surprised, happy, and awkward recipients would feel. Recipients then reported how receiving an expression of gratitude actually made them feel. Expressers significantly underestimated how surprised recipients would be about why expressers were grateful, overestimated how awkward recipients would feel, and underestimated how positive recipients would feel.
Scientists believe that the gap between perception and reality when it comes to expressing gratitude could be holding some people back from reaching out. The documented evidence of positive outcomes from sharing gratitude could help motivate more people to write thank you notes.
Underestimating the value of prosocial actions, such as expressing gratitude, may keep people from engaging in behavior that would maximize their own—and others’—well-being.
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This story also appeared in the NY Times Science Section click here