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Warm Thanks: Gratitude Expression Facilitates Social Affiliation in New Relationships via Perceived Warmth

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Recent theorizing on the nature and function of gratitude (the find-remind-and-bind theory; Algoe, 2012) stipulates that expressing gratitude should serve to alert previously unacquainted peers to the potential for a high-quality social bond (i.e., a find function). Although the logic of this premise is supported by extant research, it has not, as yet, been tested empirically. In the current study, participants received a note from a previously unacquainted peer that contained an expression of gratitude (or did not) with regard to prior benefits provided by the participant. After providing ratings of the peer and ostensibly completing the study, participants were given an opportunity to spontaneously give their contact information to the peer, which served as a behavioral measure of affiliation. In line with the proposed find function of gratitude expressions, recipients of expressions of gratitude were more likely to extend the effort to continue the relationship with the novel peer by providing that peer with a means to contact them. This experiment also provided evidence that perceptions of interpersonal warmth (e.g., friendliness, thoughtfulness) serve as the mechanism via which gratitude expressions facilitate affiliation: insofar as gratitude expressions signaled interpersonal warmth of the expresser, they prompted investment in the burgeoning social bond. As such, these findings provide the first empirical evidence regarding 1 of the 3 central premises of the find-remind-and-bind theory of gratitude (Algoe, 2012) in the context of novel relationships. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
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Emotion
Warm Thanks: Gratitude Expression Facilitates Social
Affiliation in New Relationships via Perceived Warmth
Lisa A. Williams and Monica Y. Bartlett
Online First Publication, August 11, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000017
CITATION
Williams, L. A., & Bartlett, M. Y. (2014, August 11). Warm Thanks: Gratitude Expression
Facilitates Social Affiliation in New Relationships via Perceived Warmth. Emotion. Advance
online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000017
Warm Thanks: Gratitude Expression Facilitates Social Affiliation in New
Relationships via Perceived Warmth
Lisa A. Williams
University of New South Wales Monica Y. Bartlett
Gonzaga University
Recent theorizing on the nature and function of gratitude (the find-remind-and-bind theory; Algoe, 2012)
stipulates that expressing gratitude should serve to alert previously unacquainted peers to the potential for
a high-quality social bond (i.e., a find function). Although the logic of this premise is supported by extant
research, it has not, as yet, been tested empirically. In the current study, participants received a note from
a previously unacquainted peer that contained an expression of gratitude (or did not) with regard to prior
benefits provided by the participant. After providing ratings of the peer and ostensibly completing the
study, participants were given an opportunity to spontaneously give their contact information to the peer,
which served as a behavioral measure of affiliation. In line with the proposed find function of gratitude
expressions, recipients of expressions of gratitude were more likely to extend the effort to continue the
relationship with the novel peer by providing that peer with a means to contact them. This experiment
also provided evidence that perceptions of interpersonal warmth (e.g., friendliness, thoughtfulness) serve
as the mechanism via which gratitude expressions facilitate affiliation: insofar as gratitude expressions
signaled interpersonal warmth of the expresser, they prompted investment in the burgeoning social bond.
As such, these findings provide the first empirical evidence regarding 1 of the 3 central premises of the
find-remind-and-bind theory of gratitude (Algoe, 2012) in the context of novel relationships.
Keywords: affiliation, emotion expression, find-remind-and-bind theory, gratitude, interpersonal warmth
The past 15 years have seen a surge in research examining the
nature and function of gratitude. From subjective wellbeing to
health, prosocial engagement to relationship satisfaction, the ro-
bust message stemming from this research is that this emotion
confers a variety of benefits to individuals, relationships, and
society (see McCullough, Kimeldorf, & Cohen, 2008; Wood, Froh,
& Geraghty, 2010 for reviews). A recent theory proposed to
integrate such findings is the find-remind-and-bind theory of grat-
itude (Algoe, 2012), which highlights the role of gratitude in
facilitating initiation of new relationships (finding), orientation to
existing relationships (reminding), and maintenance of and invest-
ment in these relationships (binding).
Although the find-remind-and-bind theory carves out space for
the role of expressions of gratitude, this aspect of the theory has
received the least empirical attention. In fact, in calling for future
research, Algoe (2012) wrote, “The best tests of the theory would
involve testing whether a thanked benefactor spontaneously enacts
prorelationship behaviors other than those reinforced by the
thanks, and which couldn’t easily be characterized as repayment
(e.g., affiliation)” (p. 465). The present experiment represents the
first known answer to this call by testing whether expressions of
gratitude prompt affiliation in the context of novel relationships.
As such, the present experiment complements extant work on the
remind function of gratitude expressions in ongoing relationships
(e.g., Algoe, Fredrickson, & Gable, 2013; A. Gordon, Impett,
Kogan, Oveis, & Keltner, 2012; C. Gordon, Arnette, & Smith,
2011; Lambert & Fincham, 2011).
In the present experiment, we directly tested the hypothesis that
expressions of gratitude will facilitate affiliation with a previously
unacquainted peer (i.e., enact a find function). That is, observing
an expression of gratitude should promote a desire to build a social
relationship with the expresser. This logic draws from a consider-
able body of research establishing that feeling gratitude prompts
behaviors desirable in a future relationship partner (e.g., increased
prosociality, decreased aggression, and increased relationship in-
vestment; Bartlett & DeSteno, 2006; Bartlett, Condon, Cruz, Bau-
mann, & DeSteno, 2012; DeSteno, Bartlett, Baumann, Williams,
& Dickens, 2010; DeWall, Lambert, Pond, Kashdan, & Fincham,
2012; Tsang, 2006). Thus, in the absence of prior experience with
an individual, an expression of gratitude could provide a valuable
signal about the expresser as a future social partner.
In light of this, we examined one mechanism by which a
gratitude expression may signal that an expresser would make a
high-quality social partner: perceived interpersonal warmth. Along
with competence, interpersonal warmth is one of two dimensions
of person perception (see Cuddy, Fiske, & Glick, 2008; Wojciszke,
2005 for reviews), which subsequently guides approach and avoid-
ance (Fiske, Cuddy, & Glick, 2007). Perceptions of warmth are
driven by inferences about cooperation versus competition (i.e.,
individuals who are cooperative, and not competitive, are per-
Lisa A. Williams, School of Psychology, University of New South
Wales; Monica Y. Bartlett, Department of Psychology, Gonzaga Univer-
sity.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Lisa A.
Williams, School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney,
NSW 2052 Australia. E-mail: lwilliams@unsw.edu.au
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
Emotion © 2014 American Psychological Association
2014, Vol. 14, No. 4, 000 1528-3542/14/$12.00 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000017
1
ceived as warm; Russell & Fiske, 2008) and hence are relevant to
decisions regarding affiliation with novel partners.
Notably, and as described above, grateful individuals are inter-
personally warm. To the extent that emotion expressions inform
person inferences (e.g., Hareli & Hess, 2010; Knutson, 1996), an
expression of gratitude should provide a cue that the expresser is
interpersonally warm, and hence foster development of the poten-
tial social bond.
To test this idea, we employed an experimental design in which
participants received a note expressing gratitude, or a note not
expressing gratitude, from a previously unacquainted peer. We
measured not only participants’ affiliation intentions but also ac-
tual affiliative behaviors toward this novel person. Critically, we
measured participants’ perceptions of the peer’s interpersonal
warmth. In line with the find-remind-and-bind theory (Algoe,
2012), and the logic detailed above, we predicted that participants
who received an expression of gratitude should affiliate more with
the peer, and that this effect should be mediated by perceptions of
the interpersonal warmth of the expresser (and not by perceptions
of competence).
Method
Participants
Seventy undergraduate students (54 females, M
age
19.11, age
range 18–26) participated in partial fulfillment of course credit.
1
Participants were randomly assigned to the expressed gratitude
condition (n30) or the control condition (n40). We have
reported analyses with the single suspicious participant removed.
Inclusion of data from this participant does not yield any substan-
tive changes in the nature of the results.
Procedure
Participants were recruited into the study via a bulletin board
with a notice for a study titled: “A pilot study for a program that
would pair college-bound high school students with college men-
tors.” This wording served to reinforce the veracity of the cover
story.
Building on the paradigm used by Grant and Gino (2010), we
created a context in which expression of gratitude could be ma-
nipulated in an ecologically valid manner. The experiment took
place across two laboratory sessions. In the first session, partici-
pants were familiarized with an ostensible program being piloted
by the university’s admissions department. Participants were told
that, as part of that program, current university students would
provide comments on a high school student mentee’s college
application writing sample. Participants were asked to spend 15
minutes providing suggestions on a purported writing sample.
During the second session, one week later, all participants
received a handwritten note purportedly from the mentee whose
writing sample they had commented upon. The content of this note
varied by condition. Text in italics appeared only in the expressed
gratitude condition: “I received your feedback through the editing
program. Thank you SO much for all the time and effort you put
into doing that for me! I hope to use the paper for my college
applications.”
After receiving the note, participants completed questionnaires
assessing their impression of and affiliation intentions toward the
mentee. Specifically, as a manipulation check, participants rated
the degree to which they perceived the mentee to be appreciative
of their comments. Participants also rated the mentee’s level of
interpersonal warmth (friendliness, thoughtfulness, positivity, po-
liteness, and likableness; ␣⫽.82) and the mentee’s competence in
writing (grammar, style, vocabulary, and level; ␣⫽.74). With
regard to affiliation intentions, participants indicated their willing-
ness to affiliate with the mentee (introduce the mentee to their
friends, host the mentee for a weekend campus visit, meet with the
mentee before high-school classes [at 8:30am], communicate with
the mentee via email; ␣⫽.85). Note that these particular behav-
iors were chosen to represent active efforts to invest in the rela-
tionship and cannot be construed as reciprocal exchange. All
ratings were completed on 7-point scales anchored appropriately
for each item (e.g., 1 not at all,7extremely). Last, partici-
pants completed a demographic questionnaire.
The computer then informed participants that the study was
complete and instructed participants to notify the experimenter in
order to receive a participation receipt. At this point, the experi-
menter casually mentioned that the organizers of the pilot program
had provided notecards that mentors could fill out as a “welcome
note” which would be delivered to the mentee if admitted to the
university. The experimenter announced the mentee’s program ID
number, and pointed out a large envelope where the participant
could deposit the note, if she or he chose to write one, emphasizing
that it was optional. The experimenter then departed the room to
obtain a participation receipt for the participant.
2
Whether the
participant left his or her contact information in the note to the
mentee constituted the behavioral measure of affiliation.
Results
Examination of the manipulation check, interpersonal ratings,
affiliation intentions, and note-writing data did not reveal signifi-
cant differences between male and female participants. We there-
fore collapsed across gender in all analyses. Means and standard
deviations for ratings appear in Table 1.
In support of the success of the gratitude expression manipula-
tion, participants who received the note expressing gratitude rated
the student as significantly more appreciative than participants
who received the control note, t(67) 10.52, p.001, d2.56
[1.91:3.21].
3
Participants who received the note expressing gratitude also
rated the student as significantly higher in interpersonal warmth
than participants who received the control note, t(67) 5.36, p
.001, d1.31 [.78:1.83]. Importantly, these effects were limited
1
These data were collected under the rule that we obtain at least 30
participants per condition. This rule is consistent with sample sizes used in
similar behavioral studies in our labs (Bartlett & DeSteno, 2006; Williams
& DeSteno, 2008). We have reported all measures as well as all statistical
analyses undertaken on those measures.
2
As a result of experimenter error, 8 participants were not given the note
writing opportunity before departing the laboratory. Data from these par-
ticipants were excluded from analyses including the contact information
variable.
3
The confidence intervals reported here and for other ttests represent
95% confidence intervals calculated around each respective effect size d
(Smithson, 2003).
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2WILLIAMS AND BARTLETT
to judgments on this dimension; participants in both conditions
rated the student’s writing competence equivalently, t(67) 0.98,
p.33, d.23 [-.24:.72]. Of key import to the find hypothesis,
participants who received the gratitude note reported higher inten-
tions to affiliate with them as compared to participants who re-
ceived the control note, t(67) 2.69, p.009, d.65 [.16:1.14].
Notes were coded as to whether they contained contact infor-
mation (i.e., e-mail address or phone number). The four partici-
pants who did not write a note, who were all in the control
condition, were coded as not having left contact information. An
analysis of the frequency of leaving contact information by con-
dition showed that more participants left their contact information
when they received the gratitude expression note (68.0%) than
when they received the control note (41.7%),
2
(1) 4.10, p
.04, ⌽⫽.26, BCa 95%CI of [.05:.49].
To examine the causal role that perceptions of warmth played in
affiliation intention and leaving contact information, structural
equation modeling was employed using maximum likelihood es-
timation in AMOS (Version 22.0). The full model is depicted in
Figure 1. Note that the paths between expression condition and
affiliation intention, between expression condition and leaving
contact information, and also between interpersonal warmth and
leaving contact information were nonsignificant. When these paths
were trimmed from the model, model fit met accepted standards
(Kline, 2005),
2
(3) 2.41, p.49, SRMR .06, CFI 1.00,
RMSEA 0.00, 90%CI of RMSEA [.00:.20]. In the trimmed
model, all paths were significant, s.41, ps.001.
To further examine the mechanism underlying the link between
expression of gratitude and affiliation, two indirect effect analyses
were conducted using a bootstrapping procedure (Hayes, 2013)
with 10,000 resamples. Note that indirect effects do not require
that the respective direct effect be significant (Hayes, 2009). The
95% confidence interval (CI) around the indirect effect of gratitude
expression on affiliation intention through perceived warmth did
not contain zero [.04:1.15] (point estimate .53). Likewise, the
95% CI of the indirect effect of gratitude expression on leaving
contact information through perceived warmth did not contain zero
[.01:2.23] (point estimate .86). These results provide evidence
that the observed increased affiliation (intention and behavior)
directed toward grateful individuals is driven by higher percep-
tions of interpersonal warmth resulting from the expression of
gratitude.
Discussion
These findings represent the first known evidence that expres-
sions of gratitude facilitate affiliation among previously unac-
quainted peers and establish support for a mechanism of this
effect: perceptions of interpersonal warmth. Insofar as a gratitude
expression signaled interpersonal warmth of the expresser, recip-
ients of gratitude expressions extended the effort to continue the
relationship with their mentee by giving the mentee a means to
contact them. Supporting the uniqueness of this mechanism, ex-
pressions of gratitude did not alter perceptions of competence. A
key strength of these findings is that they captured actual affiliative
behavior in the context of an experimental design: not only did
participants intend to act more affiliatively toward gratitude ex-
pressers, they also engaged more frequently in an objective affili-
ative behavior: leaving their contact details.
These findings contribute substantially to the field’s understand-
ing of when and why expressions of gratitude encourage initiation
of social relationships, thus building upon existing research on
expressions of gratitude in ongoing relationships. Further, these
findings provide support for an as-yet-untested premise of the
find-remind-and-bind theory (Algoe, 2012), that is, that gratitude
expressions serve a finding function among previously unac-
quainted individuals.
We wish to highlight that expressions of gratitude do more than
reinforce a desired behavior. Grant and Gino (2010) demonstrated
that receiving an expression of gratitude for editing an essay (or
making call center calls) motivated participants to help edit an-
other essay (or make more calls). Such findings are open to the
interpretation that receiving an expression of gratitude positively
reinforces the benefactor’s behavior but does not in fact build the
benefactor-recipient relationship. The findings from our study,
however, show that expressions of gratitude specifically motivate
Table 1
Means and Standard Deviations of Rated Constructs
by Condition
Expressed
gratitude
condition Control condition
Variable MSDMSD
Appreciation 6.10 1.18 2.98 1.25
Interpersonal warmth 5.52 .79 4.45 .84
Writing capability 4.32 .76 4.13 .80
Affiliation intention 4.64 1.03 3.81 1.41
Figure 1. Full path model depicting the relationship between expressions of gratitude, interpersonal warmth,
and affiliation intention and behavior (leaving contact information). Path estimates reflect standardized values.
Expression of gratitude was dummy coded as 0 no expression control condition and 1 expressed gratitude
condition.
p.05.
ⴱⴱ
p.001.
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3
GRATITUDE EXPRESSION FACILITATES AFFILIATION
affiliation (e.g., leaving a welcome note with one’s contact infor-
mation on it) with the expresser, which cannot be construed as
simple reinforcement for editing an essay. Such a motivational role
goes beyond reinforcement and is in line with the premises of the
find-remind-and-bind theory.
These findings fuel a number of future research directions. One
intriguing possibility is that, insofar as expressions of gratitude
signal interpersonal warmth, witnesses to the expression of grati-
tude should also infer the worth of affiliating with the expresser.
This is an important question as ever-more interpersonal commu-
nication, and indeed thanks-saying, occurs in public arenas (e.g.,
Twitter, Facebook).
Further, it will be important to explore the precise role of
interpersonal warmth in the gratitude expression–affiliation link.
That is, all expressions of gratitude need not be warm. In fact,
expressions of gratitude that lack warmth—“cold gratitude”—may
fail to promote affiliation. An intriguing avenue for future research
will be to establish whether warmth alone can promote affiliation
(i.e., is warmth sufficient?) and whether gratitude expressions that
lack warmth promote affiliation (i.e., is warmth necessary?). We
expect that warmth is indeed sufficient in general cases of potential
affiliation (Russell & Fiske, 2008). In the context of expressions of
gratitude specifically, warmth should also be necessary.
Although these findings carry a variety of strengths (i.e., mea-
surement of behavior in addition to intention, an experimental
design), a number of limitations should be acknowledged. A
written format was utilized for the manipulation of expression of
gratitude. Although we believe that this is important for experi-
mental control and purity of manipulation, we also recognize that
it is important for future research to establish that the same patterns
of findings are observed when the expression of gratitude is
delivered face-to-face. In addition, we suggest that future research
deploy a variety of control conditions (e.g., expression of positive
emotion other than gratitude) in addition to that used here (i.e., no
positive emotional content).
We acknowledge that other mechanisms have received em-
pirical support in research on gratitude expressions (i.e., per-
ceived responsiveness and communal strength; Algoe et al.,
2013; Lambert et al., 2010). We postulate that interpersonal
warmth is a broader construct that likely subsumes perceived
responsiveness and communal strength. In fact, many of the
items used to assess these constructs would not be suitable in
the context of novel relationship partners such as created in the
current study (cf. Kleiman, Kashdan, Monfort, Machell &
Goodman, in press). Future research will need to establish the
specificity of perceived responsiveness and communal strength
as mechanisms for expressed gratitude in the context of ongoing
relationships as well as establish ways to test these specific
mechanisms in the context of novel relationships.
These findings are the first to show that expressions of
gratitude directly shape affiliation between previously unac-
quainted individuals. They also provide evidence for the mech-
anism of this effect: expressions of gratitude promote affiliation
among strangers to the extent that they signal the interpersonal
warmth of the expresser. As is the case with many colloquial-
isms, we suggest that there is some truth to the phrase ‘warm
thanks.’
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Received February 1, 2014
Revision received June 12, 2014
Accepted June 22, 2014
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5
GRATITUDE EXPRESSION FACILITATES AFFILIATION
... The emotion of gratitude also binds a beneficiary and a benefactor together especially when it is expressed. Past studies revealed that benefactors who were thanked by beneficiaries were more likely to behave prosocially back to the beneficiaries (Grant & Gino, 2010;Williams & Bartlett, 2015). The find-remind-and-bind theory also indicates that expressed gratitude should make the bond between the beneficiary and the benefactor stronger rather than just increase prosocial behaviour between them (Algoe, 2012). ...
... On the other hand, if they do not like a message from a beneficiary, they would not act prosocially to the beneficiary. Prosocial behaviour has been often used to assess a beneficiary's voluntary behaviour intended to benefit others (Eisenberg et al., 2006;Grant & Gino, 2010;Williams & Bartlett, 2015). To assess these possibilities, the following hypothesis is posed: H1: Benefactors (Japanese participants) who receive a message expressing gratitude, apologies, or both behave more prosocially to a beneficiary than those who receive a message without any of these. ...
... Like the prediction in H1 in this study, existing literature has mainly used prosocial behaviour to assess a benefactor's willingness to interact with a beneficiary after the beneficiary thanked the benefactor (e.g., Grant & Gino, 2010;Williams & Bartlett, 2015). However, one of the core arguments of the find-remind-and-bind theory is that expressed gratitude facilitates the development of interpersonal relationships, which could be assessed beyond just how much a benefactor is willing to help a beneficiary. ...
Article
The core idea of the find‐remind‐and‐bind theory articulated by (Algoe, 2012, Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6, 455) is that receiving expressed gratitude facilitates positive attitudes toward the expressor such as increased prosocial behaviour. The current study tries to observe the phenomena in Japan where apologies are sometimes used when people express gratitude. In this experimental study, 671 Japanese participants received expressions of gratitude, apologies, both, or neither (control condition) in exchange for their help. The results showed that expressed gratitude had the most positive effect compared to the control, apology and both conditions; that is, expressed gratitude most strongly facilitated the message receiver's prosocial behaviour, self‐disclosure, predicted outcome values, and social worth. Expressed apologies showed a limited positive effect. A structural equation model further indicated that predicted outcome values and social worth functioned in unique ways to mediate the link between expressed gratitude and prosocial behaviour as well as self‐disclosure.
... Gratitude has been a focus of research in the field of psychology in recent years (Kong et al., 2015;Williams and Bartlett, 2015;Bartlett and Desteno, 2016). Gratitude, also known as gratitude or feeling, is a positive emotion that individuals experience when they receive favors from others (McCullough et al., 2002). ...
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Gratitude, as one of the positive emotions associated with self-transcendence, is also a moral and pro-social emotion with a pro-social nature. Therefore, in order to verify whether gratitude has the same effect as pro-social in promoting connection with nature, this study (N = 890) divided subjects into three groups (gratitude, recreation, and control) and used a questionnaire to explore the effects of gratitude on positive emotions of self-transcendence, connection with nature, and pro-environmental tendencies (willingness to participate in environmental protection, willingness to sacrifice for the environment). The results found that (1) positive emotions of self-transcendence partially mediated the effect of the gratitude condition on connection to nature, and (2) positive emotions of self-transcendence and connection to nature were fully and continuously mediated, suggesting that the gratitude condition had an indirect effect on both (a) willingness to participate in environmental protection and (b) willingness to sacrifice for the environment. These findings imply that we may need to pay more attention to the connection between gratitude and nature to promote a harmonious relationship between humans and nature.
... Gratitude is a well-known aspect of positive psychology and has been studied in connection with various factors. A study by Williams and Bartlett (2015) viewed gratitude as an emotion, while Fehr et al. (2017) viewed gratitude as a mood. Jia et al. (2014) stated that gratitude is the result of an individual perceived that they have gained an intended favour from other people or God. ...
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The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted the well-being and mental health of people around the world. Positive emotions like resilience and gratitude have been proven to be able to improve one’s well-being. The theory of Broaden-and-build was used to explore resilience’s mediating role in the relationship between gratitude and well-being among Malaysian adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. The data of 530 participants aged 18 to 35 years was analyzed using SmartPLS. The results showed that grateful and more resilient participants showed a better well-being, and the effects were further moderated by financial income and marital status. The results also supported the hypothetical statistical mediation model in which resilience is the statistical mediator for the association between gratitude and well-being. The results highlighted the significant influence of gratitude and resilience on Malaysian adults’ well-being and explained the role of gratitude in boosting their well-being. It is suggested that policymakers and mental health professionals should consider promoting gratitude and resilience to increase positive emotions and well-being in young adults and help society to be prepared for challenging times of adversity in the future.
... Similar to meaning in life, gratitude is strongly related to integration (Algoe et al., 2008;Jia et al., 2014Jia et al., , 2015, and connectedness is a common theme to both of them (Delle Fave & Soosai-Nathan, 2014; Hlava & Elfers, 2014). Gratitude leads to the development of relationshipbuilding behaviors (Bartlett et al., 2012;Jia et al., 2014Jia et al., , 2015 and enables the maintenance of interpersonal relationships by initiating a virtuous cycle between recipient and benefactor (Algoe et al., 2008;Williams & Bartlett, 2015). Communal strength (Lambert et al., 2010) and relationship maintenance (Lambert & Fincham, 2011) are increased through expressions of gratitude. ...
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... First, individuals need to perceive that others need help, which is an important condition for pro-social behavior to occur. Gratitude is related to perceiving that others need help, and it has been suggested that gratitude promotes individuals' pro-social motivation (Bartlett and DeSteno, 2006;Grant and Gino, 2010;Williams and Bartlett, 2015). McCullough et al. (2002) concluded that individuals with a strong tendency to be grateful have a lower threshold for experiencing gratitude in daily life and can perceive help-seeking signals from others. ...
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Reciprocity is inherent to business-to-business (B2B) exchanges and paves the way for salespeople and customers to experience the emotional states of gratitude and indebtedness. Despite advancements in understanding customers' experience of these two emotions and the notion that salespeople, too, are subject to emotional influence, there is limited understanding of salesperson gratitude and indebtedness and the ensuing implications for managers. Using emotion and relationship marketing theory, this study addresses this gap by gathering salesperson data from a large B2B organization to identify relationship characteristics eliciting these emotions in salespeople and the effects on relational outcomes, including relationship quality, relationship satisfaction, and positive word of mouth (WOM). The findings demonstrate differences in the relational characteristics associated with these emotions and the beneficial consequences of gratitude and not indebtedness, thereby presenting theoretical and managerial implications and suggestions for future research.
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Prior research has found that perceiving positive responses from others following self-disclosures enhances social bonds and plays a role in the maintenance of romantic relationships. We sought to extend this effect by exploring perceived responsiveness to good news in the context of initial social interactions with a stranger. In this study, unacquainted college students (n = 106) participated in a 45-minute semi-structured social interaction, and information on their emotions and behaviours was collected immediately after and one week later. We found that the receipt of supportive reactions to self-disclosure attempts during the social interaction was associated with immediate positivity and a more positive memory of the event (remembered enjoyment and positive emotions) one week later. This effect could not be attributed to how positively the event was experienced immediately afterwards, suggesting that perceived responsiveness during an initial social interaction facilitates a positive memory bias. These results offer new insights into how friendships might develop and be maintained.
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McCullough, Kilpatrick, Emmons, and Larson (2001) posited that gratitude prompts individuals to behave prosocially. However, research supporting the prosocial effect of gratitude has relied on scenario and self-report methodology. To address limitations of previous research, this experiment utilised a laboratory induction of gratitude, a method that is potentially more covert than scenarios and that elicits actual grateful emotion. Prosocial responses to gratitude—operationalised as the distribution of resources to another—were paired with a self-report measure of gratitude to test the prosocial effect of gratitude. To investigate positive mood as an alternative explanation, this experiment compared responses of individuals receiving a favour to responses of individuals receiving a positive outcome by chance. A total of 40 participants were randomly assigned to either a Favour or Chance condition. Participants receiving a favour helped more and reported more gratitude compared to participants in the Chance condition.
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Five studies tested the hypothesis that gratitude is linked to lower levels of aggression. Although gratitude increases mental well-being, it is unknown whether gratitude mitigates against aggression. Gratitude motivates people to express sensitivity and concern for others and stimulates prosocial behavior. Aggression, defined as intentionally harming another person who is motivated to avoid the harm, runs counter to the motivation to increase others’ welfare and should be reduced among grateful people. Cross-sectional, longitudinal, experience sampling, and experimental designs yielded converging evidence to show that gratitude is linked to lower aggression. Higher empathy mediated the relationship between gratitude and lower aggression. These findings have widespread applications for understanding the role of emotion on aggression and can inform interventions aimed at reducing interpersonal aggression.
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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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People feel grateful when they have benefited from someone's costly, intentional, voluntary effort on their behalf. Experiencing gratitude motivates beneficiaries to repay their benefactors and to extend generosity to third parties. Expressions of gratitude also reinforce benefactors for their generosity. These social features distinguish gratitude from related emotions such as happiness and feelings of indebtedness. Evolutionary theories propose that gratitude is an adaptation for reciprocal altruism (the sequential exchange of costly benefits between nonrelatives) and, perhaps, upstream reciprocity (a pay-it-forward style distribution of an unearned benefit to a third party after one has received a benefit from another benefactor). Gratitude therefore may have played a unique role in human social evolution.
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Understanding communication processes is the goal of most communication researchers. Rarely are we satisfied merely ascertaining whether messages have an effect on some outcome of focus in a specific context. Instead, we seek to understand how such effects come to be. What kinds of causal sequences does exposure to a message initiate? What are the causal pathways through which a message exerts its effect? And what role does communication play in the transmission of the effects of other variables over time and space? Numerous communication models attempt to describe the mechanism through which messages or other communication-related variables transmit their effects or intervene between two other variables in a causal model. The communication literature is replete with tests of such models. Over the years, methods used to test such process models have grown in sophistication. An example includes the rise of structural equation modeling (SEM), which allows investigators to examine how well a process model that links some focal variable X to some outcome Y through one or more intervening pathways fits the observed data. Yet frequently, the analytical choices communication researchers make when testing intervening variables models are out of step with advances made in the statistical methods literature. My goal here is to update the field on some of these new advances. While at it, I challenge some conventional wisdom and nudge the field toward a more modern way of thinking about the analysis of intervening variable effects.
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Recent theory posits that the emotion of gratitude uniquely functions to build a high-quality relationship between a grateful person and the target of his or her gratitude, that is, the person who performed a kind action (Algoe et al., 2008). Therefore, gratitude is a prime candidate for testing the dyadic question of whether one person's grateful emotion has consequences for the other half of the relational unit, the person who is the target of that gratitude. The current study tests the critical hypothesis that being the target of gratitude forecasts one's relational growth with the person who expresses gratitude. The study employed a novel behavioral task in which members of romantic relationships expressed gratitude to one another in a laboratory paradigm. As predicted, the target's greater perceptions of the expresser's responsiveness after the interaction significantly predicted improvements in relationship quality over 6 months. These effects were independent from perceptions of responsiveness following two other types of relationally important and emotionally evocative social interactions in the lab, suggesting the unique weight that gratitude carries in cultivating social bonds. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
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Structural features of interpersonal relationships, particularly competition and status, can cause people, respectively, to (dis)like and (dis)respect each other, although they think they are reacting to the target's personality. Two studies manipulate structural relationships between students in a 2 × 2 between-participants design. Competition and status, respectively, differentiate perceptions of the target's warmth and competence. In Study 1's pre–post design, the pre- and post-interaction warmth, but status affected only pre-interaction competence. Study 2 post-interaction-only design did replicate both of Study 1's pre-interaction results. Competing targets were judged less warm than cooperating targets; high-status targets were judged more competent than low-status targets. These experiments demonstrate the structural predictors of the intergroup stereotype content model at the interpersonal level. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.