Gratitude When It Is Needed Most: Social Functions of Gratitude in Women With Metastatic Breast Cancer

Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.
Emotion (Impact Factor: 3.88). 06/2011; 12(1):163-8. DOI: 10.1037/a0024024
Source: PubMed


Theory and evidence suggest that everyday positive emotions may be potent factors in resilience during periods of chronic stress, yet the body of evidence is scant. Even less research focuses on the adaptive functions of specific positive emotions in this critical context. In the current research, 54 women with metastatic breast cancer provided information about their emotional responses to benefits received to test hypotheses regarding the social functions of gratitude. One set of analyses provide support for the hypothesized role of ego-transcendence in feeling gratitude upon receipt of a benefit from another person. As predicted, in a second set of analyses, grateful responding to received benefits predicted an increase in perceived social support over three months only for women low in ambivalence over emotional expression. These findings add to evidence regarding the social causes and consequences of gratitude, supporting a view of gratitude as an other-focused positive emotion that functions to promote high-quality relationships. Discussion focuses on the chronically stressful context as an important testing ground for theory on gratitude and other positive emotions.

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    • ") and are generally adaptive across contexts (Algoe and Stanton, 2011; Papa and Bonanno, 2008; Tugade and Fredrickson, 2002). "
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    • "Due to the adaptive role of positive emotions under chronic stress, Algoe and Stanton [21] suggested that gratitude could be regarded as a factor of resilience. In a study involving patients with metastatic breast cancer, feeling gratitude resulted in a readiness to accept help from supporting persons [21]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Though interest in the emotion of gratitude has historically focused on its role in social exchange, new evidence suggests a different and more important role for gratitude in social life. The find-remind-and-bind theory of gratitude posits that the positive emotion of gratitude serves the evolutionary function of strengthening a relationship with a responsive interaction partner (Algoe, Haidt, & Gable, 2008). The current article identifies prior, economic models of gratitude, elaborates on unique features of the find-remind-and-bind theory, reviews the accumulating evidence for gratitude in social life in light of this novel perspective, and discusses how the find-remind-and-bind theory is relevant to methodology and hypothesis testing. In sum, within the context of reciprocally-altruistic relationships, gratitude signals communal relationship norms and may be an evolved mechanism to fuel upward spirals of mutually responsive behaviors between recipient and benefactor. In this way, gratitude is important for forming and maintaining the most important relationships of our lives, those with the people we interact with every day.
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