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2 min read

Dr. Paul Zak Speaks on the Science of Gratitude

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Immersion Neuroscience’s very own Dr. Paul Zak recently appeared on “The Glenn Beck Program” to discuss the science of gratitude and social connection’s impact on human health, happiness and longevity.


Beck began the discussion by explaining his interest in understanding gratitude as the reason for bringing Dr. Zak on to discuss these topics. When asked about the science of gratitude, Dr. Zak made note of the prerequisite social elements which lead to its development and perpetuation:

“We are a social species, and we need the other people around us to live satisfied lives. The data show that people who are grateful live longer and live healthier: that is, they flourish better… And they flourish because they are connected to those around [them].”

Dr. Zak continued:

“Our brains evolved to connect to others. We have specific anatomical functions that are different from any other animal that give us that value of social connection. And when we’re grateful, we are pleasant to be around, we are aware of other people’s emotions, we let those people into our lives and vice versa. 

When Beck offered an anecdote about how a social interaction as simple as a kind restaurant server can improve his outlook on life, Dr. Zak offered some more insight about the social impact of gratitude and happiness:

“We end up being of service to others. When you’re nice to that waitress, she also ends up having a better day. So we start this virtuous cycle where you have a nice customer, the waitress is happy, she’s nicer to the next customer… and that’s the way that we can improve society.”

Beck also expressed curiosity over the impact of social media on happiness and whether certain online communication behaviors can be beneficial to people’s health. Dr. Zak shared the findings of his research on the topic:

“Social media, in studies we have done, gives you between 50% and 80% of a real in-person interaction, so it’s not a bad substitute.”

When Beck pressed on whether this is true of all social media engagement behaviors, Dr. Zak clarified:

“Social media is not a bad substitute [for in-person interactions] if you’re using that to form connections, so not just looking at a 5-second Tik Tok, but actually doing FaceTime, connecting to people on Facebook, whatever it is… And what’s really cool is that [interaction] builds our capacity to emotionally connect with others very rapidly. So the more we connect the easier it is.”

Dr. Zak then explained how social connection can benefit people’s physiological health, as well:

“From a health perspective, those social connections reduce cardiovascular stress, improve the immune system, and keep us healthier and happier.”

In all, the conversation highlighted the importance of social connection in order to develop a positive outlook on life, experience gratitude, and benefit from the physiological effects that can lead to longer, better lives.

This presents a clear case for finding ways to scientifically measure the value and impact of social experiences, and it just so happens that Immersion Neuroscience’s technology does just that! 

20 years and millions of dollars worth of peer-reviewed research has produced a means of measuring people’s social “immersion” (attention and emotional resonance) and state of psychological safety via biometric data gathered from wearable device technology. Through Immersion’s algorithm, we are able to quantify these measures and develop a better sense of the impact of a virtually infinite variety of social experiences.

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