Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Psychology (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Wendy Wolfe


Gratitude interventions are emerging as a method to improve physical health outcomes; however, gratitude’s effect on pain perception and the autonomic response is understudied. Recent research suggests the perigenual anterior cingulate cortex is activated in gratitude interventions and is also involved in the perception of pain and the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. In this study, we investigated the effect of state gratitude induction on pain through the use of the cold pressor method. We found that although there were no significant differences in self-reported unpleasantness, participants in the gratitude condition reported a higher intensity of pain. Nevertheless, participants in the gratitude condition also opted to continue the painful stimulus for a longer duration than those in the control condition. We also found that the participants in the experimental condition maintained a relatively steady diastolic blood pressure when comparing baseline to post-intervention as compared to the control group whose diastolic blood pressure increased on average. This is the first study to show that gratitude interventions may extend pain toleration in acute settings. Clinical applications and future research directions are discussed.