Factors That Lead to Positive Emotions in Australian Students

Abstract

The study aimed to examine the factors that positively affect the emotional well-being of students in Australia. The hypothesis tested was on the existence of a positive link between gratitude and positive affect among students in the Bond university. The researcher presented two sets of questionnaires to two independent group of student within the university. The first group was given the questionnaire without a manipulating factors (hassles tasks for) and the second were given questionnaire with the manipulating factors hassle for. A total of twenty participants fully completed the questionnaire. The analysis involved independent sample t-test which showed insignificant relationship difference between gratitude for (positive affect for) both condition 1 and 2. Also, regression analysis provided insufficient evidence to support relationship between gratitude and positive emotion (emotional well-being). The study suggested use of a larger sample size for future researchers.

Factors That Lead To Positive Emotions in Australian Students

Learning institutions are not identical well-designed institutions with the ability of delivering a package of skills and knowledge to uniform collection of students. The institutions are diverse communities with varying sources of social capital (connections and relationships among people), human capital (skills and knowledge) and physical capital (books, buildings and other resources). Currently a sufficient body of evidence (Plagens, 2011; Roffey, 2012) exist to back the argument that social capital – defined as interactions and expectations aimed at promotion of collaboration, value and trust – significantly influence the wellbeing of students and the learning environment in general. Moreover, Wellbeing Australia (2011) established that out of 466 participants, approximately 85 per cent strongly agreed and an additional 12 per cent agreed that an effective learning environment is achieved through focus on student wellbeing. However, 74 per cent of the participants were teachers giving rise to a gap in which the current study focus on the response from students themselves (Wellbeing Australia, 2011).

The Value Fulfillment Theory

The theory postulates that to live well is to succeed concerning an individual’s values (Tiberius, 2014). The best live humans can have (regarding our own well-being) is that which give the maximum fulfilment as a whole. What is good for the students is whatever contributes to living a life closer to the ideal situation which in most occasions require adjusting an individual’s values. The theory requires that the ideal situation be an evaluative outlook of a person but does not make wellbeing an ideal (Tiberius, 2014). Therefore, well-being has the attributes associated to both psychological and ideal. Moreover, VFT does not define specific norms for the improvement of a person’s psychological states such as authenticity, rationality, and full information.  Rather, it positions a question on evaluation of current values through comparison with an ideal of life in which an individual succeed regarding levels imposed by what is valued the most in the long run (Tiberius, 2014).

Study Rationale

The improvement of the wellbeing of students is an important and an emerging issue to the development of students’ academic competence, emotional and social health. An understanding of the challenges the students undergo can significantly contribute to the ongoing struggle to prevent youth antisocial behaviour (violence and bullying), self-harm, suicide, depression and substance abuse.  The Bond university in collaboration with the Australian government is committed to improving school retention rates, students’ outcomes and disadvantages in Australian learning institutions. Identifying and decreasing the hurdles to learning such as those connected to student wellbeing, which can help improve the social and the educational outcomes for all students. Therefore, the project aims to examine factors that lead to positive emotions in Australian students.

Hypothesis

The hypothesis tested in the study was that the hassles in students’ life contribute to the level of emotional well-being of students in Bond University (Australia).

The method used in the study involved use of questionnaires on two independent groups of students with the content of the questionnaire manipulated (use of an influence question) for one group while the other group was left open.

Method

The section includes a summary of the identification process of the participants, the measures used in the study, research design and the entire process of the study.

Participants

The population under study was Bond University students in which a total of twenty students were presented with a ten minutes’ questionnaire to complete. All the participants completely answered the questions. The participation was based on free will and the participants had all the rights to quit at any point without any consequences. The only motivation for the respondents was that the study was aimed at to examining factors that lead to positive emotions in Australian students, so that practitioners can improve students’ wellbeing. The respondents consist of six females and fourteen male students currently studying at Bond University. The participants age ranged from 18 -39 years with an average age of 21 years.

Materials

Explanatory statement was used in the study to help introduce the participants to the study. The statement described the rights of the participants and assured them of confidentially which part of the ethical practices in research concerning human subjects. The statements described what was required from the participants in the project which involved completing one questionnaire, which took about ten minutes to complete. The second material used was the questionnaire which contained four questions. The first question was open ended implying the respondents were free to give up to five answers in the order they prefer. The second and third questions were closed ended and the participants had to choose the response based on the Likert scale provided at the beginning of each question. The last question was aimed at collecting demographic information (age and gender). All the questions were compulsory for the participants and the researcher collected the filled questionnaire at the end of ten minutes or as soon as the participant finished filling the questionnaire.

Design

The design used in the study was independent sample design (Lewis, 2015). The approach requires that dividing participants in multiple experimental groups where participants are only allowed in one group. In this project two groups that is those who received questionnaire A (condition 1) and those who received questionnaire B (condition 2). Condition 1 is the things grateful for task where people responded to the question about things they were grateful for. Condition 2 is the daily hassles task where people responded to the question about daily hassles in their life. The participants were randomly assigned to one of the two groups. The independent variables were the gratitude manipulation and positive affect on what the students are grateful for and the emotional wellbeing. In each group ten students were randomly selected to participate.

Procedure

The projected started with class tutorials on various research methods and statistical analysis. Then the questionnaires and its accompanying description statement were formulated by the lecturer in charge of the projected. The study was examined for ethical issues by the BUHREC ethics officer at Bond University who gave the go ahead for the study. The participants were requested to participate in the study and were presented with the explanatory statement upon which if they were satisfied they were presented with either questionnaire A or B to fill out. The results were then input in IBM SPSS for analysis. The procedures of analysis involved descriptive statistics and independent t-tests.

Results

Basic demographics of the twenty students in the two study groups, All the twenty students completed the questionnaires (100% response rate). In addition, all the questionnaires were eligible for evaluation. Mean age in the sample was 20.65 years (18 – 39 years), with 90% of them between 20 and 21 years of age. The figure 1 shows the gender and age distribution of the sample.

The responses are in terms of percentages except for the age. From table 1 in the appendix, the mean for gratitude for condition A and B are equal (35.70). The standard deviation for gratitude under condition A is 2.90 while for condition B is 3.10. The mean age is 20.65 (SD = 5.28). the mean for positive affect on condition A is 16.30 and for B is 15.30. The standard deviation for positive affect under condition A is 3.16 while for condition B is 2.53.

Regression analysis

            The independent variables used in the study is the positive affect (Y) while the dependent variable is the gratitude (X). Using the data obtained the results were obtained.

Table 2: Coefficients    
Model Coefficients t-calculated p-value
Constant 6.330 0.804 0.432
Gratitude 0.265 1.208 0.243
R-squared 0.075
Source: Author (2018)

The results do not show a strong liner relationship between positive effect and gratitude since the R2 = 0.075 indicate that only 7.5% of the variations in positive emotion effect are explained by gratitude. Also the coefficient for gratitude 0.265 has a t-value of 1.208 with corresponding p-value of 0.243 (not significant at an alpha level of 5%).

Independent Sample t-test

The hypothesis that the mean score on gratitude for condition 1 is greater than the mean score on gratitude for condition 2.

Ha:

H0:

The following results were obtained: The tobt. = 0.00 is less than tcrit. = 1.734 at 5% level of significance we fail to reject the null hypothesis and conclude that there does not exists a difference between mean score on gratitude for condition 1 and the mean score on gratitude for condition 2. Also, in testing the hypothesis that the mean score on positive affect for condition 1 is greater than the mean score on positive affect for condition 2.

Ha:

H0:

The following results were obtained; the tobt. = 0.00 is less than tcrit. = 1.734 at 5% level of significance we fail to reject the null hypothesis and conclude that there does not exists a difference between mean score on positive affect for condition 1 and the mean score on positive affect for condition 2.

The two null hypothesis are not rejected implying that the wellbeing of students in Bond University is not affected by the manipulation of the independent variable.

Discussion

The project investigated the factors that lead to positive emotions in Australian students using independent sample design. The results obtained showed no statistical differences in the student’s positive emotion based on condition 1 (effects for) or condition 2 (affect given hassles). However, in a study by Collings, Swanson & Watkins (2014) the was a significantly higher mean sores for students who were not given a questionnaire with a manipulating question. The reasoning might originate from the small sample size (20 participants) used for this project. The results further showed that other factors other than gratitude affects positive emotion of students in the University because the regression results failed to confirm a direct link between gratitude and the positive affect.

Moreover, the lack of direct link indicates that the student’s wellbeing in Bond university does not depend on the things the students are grateful for. These results contradict the results obtained by McCullough, Emmons & Tsang (2002) which correlated the disposition towards gratitude. In the fours studies carried out by McCullough, Emmons & Tsang (2002). The first study revealed that observer’s ratings and self-rating on the gratitude disposition are significantly linked to spirituality, behaviour and traits, prosocial, well-being and positive affect. Similar results were obtained in their second results which involved replication of the first study using a much larger sample size. The conclusion was that gratitude has a negative association with materialistic and envy attitudes (McCullough, Emmons & Tsang, 2020).

Similarly, the non-association between gratitude and positive affect obtained in this current project further contradicts the findings of Watkins, Grimm & Koltz (2004) on a study that was conducted to investigate the relationship between gratitude to life history of negative and positive life events. In the same way as this project the students were asked to recall both negative and positive events from their past in which a significant positive association was established between positive memory bias and trait gratitude. Therefore, the results of this study might have been affected by the use of a small and non-representative samples size (more males in the study compared to female students).

The study limitation includes small sample size (20 participants), non-representative sample (female students represented less than 20% of the total sample size). Therefore, the recommendation put forward for the future researchers is to use a more representative sample with size not less than 200 to allow for generalisation of the results. Also, the researcher may consider assessing students in a longitudinal framework over the transition to University.

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