Emmons, Robert A. 1958-

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Emmons, Robert A. 1958-


Born June 12, 1958. Education: University of Southern Maine, B.A., 1980; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, M.A., 1984, Ph.D., 1986.


Office—Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616-8686; fax: 530-752-2087. E-mail—[email protected].


Michigan State University, East Lansing, assistant professor of psychology, 1986-88; University of California, Davis, assistant professor, 1988-1990, associate professor, 1990-96, professor of psychology, 1996—. Teacher at University of California, Riverside, and Stanford University. Consultant to John M. Templeton Foundation, 1999-2006, Biola University, Rosemead School of Psychology, Institute for Research on Psychology and Spirituality, 2000—, Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion, 2006—. Speaker at professional symposiums and conferences.


International Network for the Study of Personal Meaning, International Positive Psychology Association, International Society for Quality of Life Studies (fellow), American Psychological Association (past president of division of the psychology of religion), American Psychological Society, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Society for Personality and Social Psychology.


Grants from University of California, 1988-1996, National Institute of Mental Health, 1991-92, Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (with Stefanie Gray-Geiner), 2002-04, and from John Templeton Foundation, 1997-99, 1999-2003, 2004-06, and 2006-09.



(Editor, with S. Frank, R.A. Zucker, and A.I. Rabin), Studying Persons and Lives, Spring Publishing (New York, NY), 1990.

The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns: Motivation and Spirituality in Personality, Guilford Press (New York, NY), 1999.

(With Joanna Hill) Words of Gratitude for Mind, Body, and Soul, Templeton Foundation Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2001.

(Editor, with Michael E. McCullough) The Psychology of Gratitude, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2007.

Contributor to books, including The Handbook of the Psychology of Religion, edited by R.F. Paloutzian and C.L. Park, Guilford (New York, NY), 2005; Oxford Companion to the Affective Sciences, edited by D. Sander and K. Scherer, Oxford University Press; and Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology, edited by S.J. Lopez and A. Beauchamp, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2007. Contributor of articles and book reviews to professional journals, including Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Journal of Creative Behavior, and Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. Member of editorial board, Journal of Personality, 1987-1991; consulting editor, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1986-88; associate editor, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology-Personality and Individual Differences, 2000-02; editor-in-chief, Journal of Positive Psychology, 2005—.


Robert A. Emmons is a professor of psychology. In his research, he has explored the psychology of emotion, the psychology of religion, the psychology of personal goals, and the psychology of gratitude. He has investigated how each of these are connected to positive emotional states, happiness, a sense of well-being, physical health, and a well-integrated personality. Another of his particular research concerns is the ways in which the expression of religiousness, and spirituality, plays into the formation of the core of an individual's personality. Overall, Emmons's research can be said to be an attempt to measure the ways in which personal striving will affect the subjective quality of an individual's life.

Emmons studied at the University of Southern Maine before earning a doctorate in personality and social ecology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He then went on to work at Michigan State University, and has been a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, for many years. His work has been extensively funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the National Institute for Disability, and the National Institute of Mental Health. Emmons has published approximately sixty articles in professional journals and chapters in books on psychology. In addition, he is the author of The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns: Motivation and Spirituality in Personality, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, and, with Joanna Hill, of Words of Gratitude for Mind, Body, and Soul. Emmons has also served in capacities such as consulting editor of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and as a member of the editorial board of the International Journal of the Psychology of Religion.

Emmons's book Thanks! was published in 2007. This book is targeted toward a general audience. In it, the author sums up his own research as well as that of others on the subject of gratitude and its benefits to humankind. He explains how gratitude can be nurtured, through exercises such as keeping a gratitude journal. His research showed that people who keep a diary listing the things for which they felt thankful ended up with better health and a more optimistic, positive attitude than people who were asked to list things that bothered them throughout the day, or those who were asked simply to list daily events without attaching any emotion to them. He finds that people who look at life as a gift are much more likely to find good things in their lives, no matter what circumstances they are currently experiencing. Furthermore, they are better able to move on after being struck by crises, and even to find positive aspects to negative events. Emmons gives historical perspectives on gratitude and breaks down its role in philosophy, theology, and many other spheres of human life.

Emmons also makes note of qualities that may stand in the way of gratitude; these include a sense of entitlement, the state of indebtedness, and the experience of psychological conflict. Ten suggestions are offered in the book for bringing a greater sense of gratitude into one's life. These include learning and saying prayers of gratitude and keeping a gratitude diary. The author also gives examples from his own experience about the ways his research on gratitude has had a positive influence on his life. A writer reviewing Thanks! for Publishers Weekly called it a "fine, succinct contribution to the relatively new field of positive psychology" and stated that the author "deftly" wove together scientific literature with inspirational material.



Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, October, 2004, R. Compton, review of The Psychology of Gratitude, p. 375.

Library Journal, July 1, 2007, Lucille M. Boone, review of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, p. 109.

Natural Health, November, 2006, "Gratitude Attitude: ‘Thank You’ Isn't Just a Figure of Speech—Honoring Its Meaning Can Actually Improve Your Well-Being," p. 112.

O, the Oprah Magazine, August, 2007, "Say Thank You," p. 46.

Publishers Weekly, May 28, 2007, review of Thanks!, p. 49.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2004, review of The Psychology of Gratitude, p. 9.


Gallup Institute Web site,http://www.gallupippi.com/ (March 24, 2007), author profile.

John Templeton Foundation Web site,http://www.templeton.org/ (March 24, 2007), author profile.

University of California, Davis, Department of Psychology Web site,http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/ (March 24, 2007), faculty profile.