Can the answer to living a better life be found in the science of giving thanks?



Science shows us that it is always best to say thank you, even when it feels strange, because it will have a positive effect on those around us.

Marie Mohen, Contributing Writer

“Say ‘thank you’ to someone!” is a line students who have Mr. John Schineller always hear at the end of physics class. Does he know know something that the Schreiber student population doesn’t?  Do those two simple words have a more powerful effect you would expect?

The science of thank you letters suggests that recipients appreciate the acknowledgement a lot more than their senders expect them to.  In a study conducted at The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Amit Kumar and Nicholas Epley had a group of participants send thank you notes via email to someone who’s had an impact on their lives.  

There were a total of two parts to the letters.  First, the participants had to writewhat the person had done and how it played a significant role in their lives.  Next, the participants were asked to predict how these letters would make the recipients feel, reflecting the extent of the impact the participants expected their letters to have. 

When the researchers reached out to the recipients, they found that the participants had predicted that the letters would make the recipients less happy, less surprised, and more awkward about the letters than the recipients actually ended up feeling.  It is important, though, to mention that since there is no “correct” scale to measure emotion, the research was limited in this manner.  

As an additional portion of the experiment, the leaders of the experiment also asked participants to rate how successful they were at conveying their gratitude through their letters.  Researchers found that the participants responded with an average of a seven out of 10, yet the average recipient response was a 9.3 out of 10.  

It is evident that people should stop second-guessing themselves about feeling awkward when thanking someone because it’s trivial compared to the recipient’s feelings.  Ultimately, the recipients will feel happier than you’d expect them to, making it all worthwhile.  Taking after this experiment would cause positivity to spread like wildfire, and you may even get to experience both the role of a participant and a recipient.  So go ahead, thank someone!