. Expressing gratitude is not solely a customary practice during holidays, but also a fundamental aspect of human development.

According to a recent report, the act of expressing gratitude has been a part of human tradition for centuries.

As scientists delve deeper into the study of gratitude, they have discovered that this emotion likely played a crucial role in aiding our ancestors to unite and endure.

The impact of gratitude on our species and our relationships with others remains present, influencing our identity.

According to Sarah Schnitker, a psychologist at Baylor University, this is an innate aspect of our human genetic makeup. It serves as a binding force that keeps us united.

As social beings, humans have survived for a long time not because of their size or strength, but by learning to collaborate and cooperate.

According to Michael Tomasello, a developmental psychologist at Duke University, reciprocity is a crucial aspect of forming relationships. This concept follows the idea that if someone shows kindness towards us, we are likely to reciprocate that kindness towards them.

Malini Suchak, a researcher of animal behavior at Canisius University, discovered in her studies with capuchin monkeys and chimpanzees that these primates exhibit reciprocal behaviors. She observed that they are more likely to assist a partner who has previously helped them.

According to Jenae Nelson, a researcher at Baylor and Harvard universities, some scientists believe that the emotion of gratitude developed as a way to maintain reciprocal acts of kindness. Essentially, when someone helps you, you are inclined to feel a sense of obligation to repay the favor with a good deed.

According to Nelson, the exchange of goods and services is a fundamental aspect of a cooperative society. Without it, there is a risk of creating a culture where people only take without giving back.

In both animals and humans, exchanges are not always direct and equal. According to Suchak, it is possible for an ape that has been groomed by another to defend that same partner in a fight, suggesting that reciprocity is not solely based on strict tallies, but also on developing deeper emotional connections.

Although we may not fully understand the language of chimpanzees, it is likely that they express gratitude in some way, according to Suchak. This concept of social indebtedness likely developed early in our evolution.

According to Suchak, it did not suddenly appear when humans evolved.

After many millennia, humans have developed a sense of gratitude.

Research has revealed that expressions of gratitude may be present in certain areas of our genetic makeup and brain function. These areas are associated with social connections, experiencing pleasure, and empathizing with others.

From an early age, children display a desire to reciprocate kindness, according to Amrisha Vaish, a researcher at the University of Virginia who focuses on moral development. By the age of 4, they also exhibit a tendency to “pay it forward.”

According to Vaish’s research, children were more inclined to share their sticker prize with a stranger when they received assistance in accomplishing the task of unlocking a box containing the stickers.

According to Schnitker, this type of behavior demonstrates that gratitude goes beyond a basic exchange. It has the power to make us more giving towards others in general, regardless of whether they helped us first.

Expressing gratitude could also benefit you: According to a study in 2016, individuals who wrote letters of gratitude experienced improved overall mental well-being and observed alterations in their brain function, even after several months had passed.

However, Nelson emphasized the importance of acknowledging the person giving the gift, not just the gift itself.

If Thanksgiving has put you in a grateful state, she recommends directing your thanks towards the people in your life rather than simply listing the things you have. According to her, this aligns more with the original purpose of the emotion.

Nelson stated that it’s not solely about possessions and consumerism, but also about the connections we have with others and the acts of kindness that are given and received.


The Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group provides support to the Associated Press Health and Science Department. The AP is solely responsible for all of its content.