Urgent societal problems, including climate change, require innovation, and can benefit from interdisciplinary solutions. A small body of research has demonstrated the potential of positive emotions (e.g., gratitude, awe) to promote creativity and prosocial behavior, which may help address these problems.
This study integrates, for the first time, psychology research on a positive and prosocial emotion (i.e., gratitude) with engineering-design creativity research. In a pre-registered study design, engineering students and working engineers (pilot N = 49; full study N = 329) completed gratitude, positive-emotion control, or neutral-control inductions. Design creativity was assessed through rater scores of responses to an Alternate Uses Task (AUT) and a Wind-Turbine-Blade Repurposing Task (WRT).
No significant differences among AUT scores emerged across conditions in either sample. While only the pilot-study manipulation of gratitude was successful, WRT results warrant further studies on the effect of gratitude on engineering-design creativity. The reported work may also inform other strategies to incorporate prosocial emotion to help engineers arrive at more original and effective concepts to tackle environmental sustainability, and in the future, other problems facing society.