Why You’re Ungrateful

Having trouble getting into the Thanksgiving spirit? No problem, science has some good excuses for why you aren’t feeling very grateful.

One of them comes from research published this month in the journal Cognition & Emotion. It turns out that if you’re not grateful, you might be more independent. A team of psychologists from American University found that people who are more autonomous in the way they interact with others are also more ungrateful.

Specifically, they tend to experience less gratitude and to feel less positive when other people do favors for them. The latter suggests that besides feeling less grateful in general, they enjoy the feeling of gratitude less.

This isn’t the first time independence has been linked with a lack of gratitude. A study published in October showed that people who are feeling grateful are more likely to change their answers to questions to conform with the answers of others, even when those answers are factually incorrect.

Another reason you could be ungrateful is if you don’t believe in free will. A 2014 study found that people with less belief in free will felt less grateful for events in their past as well as for favors from others. One way of thinking about this: if you don’t believe someone’s doing you a favor out of free will, you might not appreciate that favor as much!

As you can see, science has plenty of reasons for why you just might not be feeling the Thanksgiving cheer. However, you should know that being an ungrateful SOB does have some downsides.

For example, it turns out people who are less grateful have lower overall well-being and lower emotional intelligence. In fact, gratitude is part of the link between emotional intelligence and well-being.

All in all, then, getting into the Thanksgiving mindset is probably the way to go. And if you heart is already full of gratitude, well, you can feel grateful for that!

Image: Flickr/hobvias sudoneighm under CC BY 2.0


  1. Sally High on November 21, 2016 at 5:30 am

    Being able to stay in a place of gratitude allows you to accept yourself and others to who they are and you are. If I am ungrateful I find that I am the one that is choosing to see life with thorns and not roses. We are our thoughts. Raise your standards and start to not see life as so personal. Each morning call in gratitude for all that you do have. If you start your day this way, your entire life will change in front of your eyes.

    • Neil Petersen on November 21, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      In fact, I think we should make every day Thanksgiving. Not just the gratitude, but the food too. 😉

  2. Aaron McCullough on July 24, 2019 at 7:43 pm

    thanksgiving was about murdering hundreds of native americans. it was not a peaceful feast. it was a massacre.