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Undervaluing Gratitude: Expressers Misunderstand the Consequences of Showing Appreciation

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Expressing gratitude improves well-being for both expressers and recipients, but we suggest that an egocentric bias may lead expressers to systematically undervalue its positive impact on recipients in a way that could keep people from expressing gratitude more often in everyday life. Participants in three experiments wrote gratitude letters and then predicted how surprised, happy, and awkward recipients would feel. Recipients then reported how receiving an expression of gratitude actually made them feel. Expressers significantly underestimated how surprised recipients would be about why expressers were grateful, overestimated how awkward recipients would feel, and underestimated how positive recipients would feel. Expected awkwardness and mood were both correlated with participants’ willingness to express gratitude. Wise decisions are guided by an accurate assessment of the expected value of action. Underestimating the value of prosocial actions, such as expressing gratitude, may keep people from engaging in behavior that would maximize their own—and others’—well-being.
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https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618772506
Psychological Science
2018, Vol. 29(9) 1423 –1435
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DOI: 10.1177/0956797618772506
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ASSOCIATION FOR
PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE
Research Article
Positive connections with other people are essential for
happiness and health (Frey & Stutzer, 2002; Helliwell
& Putnam, 2004; Kahneman & Deaton, 2010; Luo,
Hawkley, Waite, & Cacioppo, 2012; Myers, 2000). For
instance, one survey distinguishing very happy people
from very unhappy people concluded, “No variable was
sufficient for happiness, but good social relations were
necessary (Diener & Seligman, 2002, p. 81). In meta-
analyses of mortality risks (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, &
Layton, 2010; House, Landis, & Umberson, 1988), lack-
ing social support is as big a risk factor for early death
as cigarette smoking and a greater risk than alcohol
consumption, obesity, and air pollution. Mismanaging
social relationships could reduce both the quality and
quantity of life.
Although the benefit of connecting with other peo-
ple is obvious in the empirical record, it may not be as
obvious in daily life. Consumers in one experiment who
received either $5 or $20 predicted being happier if
they spent the money on themselves than on someone
else, but those randomly assigned to actually spend
the money on someone else were significantly happier
than those assigned to spend on themselves (Dunn,
Aknin, & Norton, 2008). Commuters on trains and bus-
ses in another series of experiments predicted having
a less positive commute if they engaged a stranger in
conversation than if they sat in solitude, but those ran-
domly assigned to actually have a conversation with a
stranger reported a significantly more positive commute
than those assigned to sit in solitude (Epley & Schroeder,
2014). Likewise, introverted college students predicted
being less happy if they acted extroverted in an interac-
tion compared with acting introverted, but both intro-
verts and extroverts reported feeling happier when they
772506PSSXXX10.1177/0956797618772506Kumar, EpleyUnderappreciation
research-article2018
Corresponding Authors:
Amit Kumar, The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of
Business, 2110 Speedway, Austin, TX 78705
E-mail: Amit.Kumar@mccombs.utexas.edu
Nicholas Epley, The University of Chicago, Booth School of Business,
5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Chicago IL 60637
E-mail: epley@chicagobooth.edu
Undervaluing Gratitude: Expressers
Misunderstand the Consequences of
Showing Appreciation
Amit Kumar and Nicholas Epley
Booth School of Business, The University of Chicago
Abstract
Expressing gratitude improves well-being for both expressers and recipients, but we suggest that an egocentric bias
may lead expressers to systematically undervalue its positive impact on recipients in a way that could keep people
from expressing gratitude more often in everyday life. Participants in three experiments wrote gratitude letters and
then predicted how surprised, happy, and awkward recipients would feel. Recipients then reported how receiving
an expression of gratitude actually made them feel. Expressers significantly underestimated how surprised recipients
would be about why expressers were grateful, overestimated how awkward recipients would feel, and underestimated
how positive recipients would feel. Expected awkwardness and mood were both correlated with participants’
willingness to express gratitude. Wise decisions are guided by an accurate assessment of the expected value of action.
Underestimating the value of prosocial actions, such as expressing gratitude, may keep people from engaging in
behavior that would maximize their own—and others’—well-being.
Keywords
gratitude, social cognition, social connection, happiness, well-being, open data, open materials, preregistered
Received 8/2/17; Revision accepted 3/25/18
1424 Kumar, Epley
were instructed to act extroverted during the interaction
(Zelenski etal., 2013). Decisions can be guided by the
expected value of actions. These results suggest that
people may systematically undervalue positive interac-
tions with others, producing expectations that could
keep people from being social enough for their own
well-being. Here, we predicted that egocentric biases
in social judgment may also lead people to systemati-
cally undervalue the benefits of positive social engage-
ment to others.
Specifically, we studied one of the most reliable
methods of improving a person’s own well-being
through positive social engagement: expressing grati-
tude to another person (DeSteno, Li, Dickens, & Lerner,
2014; Dickens & DeSteno, 2016; Emmons & McCullough,
2003; Lyubomirsky, Dickerhoof, Boehm, & Sheldon,
2011; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). Unlike
some activities that also increase well-being, expressing
gratitude can be relatively cheap, costing only a few
minutes of conversation or a few dollars for a card.
Nevertheless, choices are guided at least partly by the
expected value of possible actions. If people systemati-
cally undervalue how positively others will respond to
their expression of gratitude, they might not express it
when they feel it, missing an opportunity to increase
both their own and others’ well-being.
We believe there are at least two reasons that people
might undervalue the positive impact of expressing
gratitude on others, both of which create a systematic
difference in perspective between gratitude expressers
and gratitude recipients. Differing perspectives can lead
to mistaken expectations because people often rely to
some degree on their own egocentric perspective when
predicting others’ mental states (Epley, Keysar, Van
Boven, & Gilovich, 2004; Ross & Sicoly, 1979; Tamir &
Mitchell, 2013). First, expressers may assume that recipi-
ents are already aware of their gratitude, a “curse of
knowledge” that makes expression seem unnecessary
(Camerer, Loewenstein, & Weber, 1989). Believing one’s
gratitude is more obvious than it actually is would lead
expressers to underestimate surprise in a gratitude
recipient. Second, actors tend to evaluate their own
interpersonal actions in terms of competence, whereas
observers tend to interpret those same actions in terms
of an actor’s warmth (Fiske, Cuddy, & Glick, 2007;
Wojciszke, 1994). Expressers may therefore worry inor-
dinately about how they are expressing gratitude—their
ability to articulate the words “just right”—whereas
recipients are focused more on the prosocial meaning
of the expression—its warmth and positive intent. This
could lead expressers to underestimate a recipient’s
positive mood and overestimate how awkward express-
ing gratitude will make a recipient feel.
These mechanisms suggest that a gratitude recipient’s
positive experience is uniquely difficult to fully appreciate
from an outsider’s perspective (Van Boven, Loewenstein,
Dunning, & Nordgren, 2013). Even if gratitude expressers
are somewhat aware of the divergence between their own
and a recipient’s perspective, existing research suggests
they may still account for it insufficiently (Epley etal.,
2004; Gilbert & Gill, 2000). This led us to predict that
people expressing gratitude would underestimate how
surprised and positive recipients would feel after receiving
a gratitude letter but overestimate how awkward recipi-
ents would feel.
We conducted two initial experiments to test these
hypotheses. Participants wrote a letter of gratitude
and predicted their recipient’s experience. We then
compared these expectations with recipients’ actual
experiences of receiving the letters. We conducted
two additional experiments to examine how expecta-
tions about surprise, mood, and awkwardness might
guide decisions about expressing gratitude. A final
experiment examined whether an asymmetry in eval-
uations of competence versus warmth between
expressers and recipients could partly explain why
expressers undervalue the effect of their prosocial
actions on others.
Experiment 1
Method
For all experiments, we report all methods completely,
including discussions of how sample sizes were deter-
mined and whether any data were excluded from analyses.
Informed consent was obtained from all participants.
Participants. We asked master of business administra-
tion (MBA) students (N = 107, 41 female; age: M = 29.66,
SD = 3.10) to express their gratitude to another person as
part of a voluntary class exercise. This sample size was
the total number, out of 129 students, who were willing
to participate in this experiment for research purposes.
Of the 107 participants who sent gratitude letters, 15 did
not give us permission to contact their recipients. We
therefore sent questionnaires to 92 recipients, of whom
80 completed them (42 female; age: M = 31.83, SD =
9.46), yielding an 87% response rate. Although this
response rate is quite high, it is not perfect. Imperfect
response rates could have created an artifact in our
results if the recipients who responded differed system-
atically from those who did not or if those who allowed
us to e-mail recipients differed systematically from those
who did not. However, we did not observe any signifi-
cant differences between predictions of expressers whose
recipients responded compared with those whose recipi-
ents did not respond (see the Supplemental Material
available online for details). We address response rates
among recipients in the details of each experiment and in
Underappreciation 1425
the General Discussion. A sensitivity analysis indicates
that this sample size has 80% statistical power to detect a
minimum effect size of 0.32 for our primary analyses.
Procedure. Expressers received instructions about com-
pleting their gratitude letter in a classroom session, fol-
lowed up by a reiteration of these instructions in an
e-mail. Although this was not the unique focus of this
experiment, 99 of the 107 expressers reported their mood
on a brief survey just before receiving the in-class instruc-
tions. This enabled a comparison of the expressers’ mood
in a baseline measurement against the mood reported
after completing their gratitude letter.
Expressers were instructed to write a letter express-
ing gratitude to someone who had touched their life in
a meaningful way. Participants were encouraged to
write to another student in their MBA program but not
to another student in the same course because we
assumed this would increase the likelihood that letter
writers would know their recipient’s e-mail address
(and hence could be contacted). However, expressers
were also told that they could write their letter to some-
one else from their life if they preferred. The instruc-
tions asked expressers to write a letter explaining why
they were grateful to this person and to describe what
this person did for them and how it affected their life.
We adapted this method from Lyubomirsky etal. (2011).
Expressers were further informed that they could let
their recipient know that their letter was encouraged as
part of a class they were taking and that the professor
would be sending them a brief questionnaire that they
could complete if they wanted to. Expressers were also
given the option of not having us e-mail their recipient,
and 15 out of 107 chose that option. Expressers were
asked to write and send their letters within 2 days.
Immediately after writing and sending their gratitude
letters, expressers completed a questionnaire reporting
their own experience and predicting their recipient’s
experience. Expressers first reported their name, the
name of their recipient, their recipient’s e-mail, the date
and time they sent their letter, and what they said they
were grateful for in general terms. Participants then
reported their own experience and predicted their
recipients’ experience. To test the curse-of-knowledge
hypothesis described earlier, we attempted to measure
surprise at the content of the letter. To do this, we dis-
tinguished surprise at receipt of the letter from surprise
about the contents of the letter. Expressers first pre-
dicted how surprised the recipient would report feeling
about receiving their letter on a scale ranging from 0
(not at all surprised) to 10 (extremely surprised). They
were then told,
We’re also interested in the extent to which you
feel like the person you sent this letter to already
knows the things you wrote down. That is, how
surprised do you think they will be to learn about
the specific reasons for why you feel grateful to
them?
They predicted how surprised the recipient would
report feeling about the specific reasons for feeling
grateful on a scale ranging from 0 (not at all surprised)
to 10 (extremely surprised). Expressers then predicted
how the letter would make the recipient feel on a scale
ranging from −5 (much more negative than normal) to
5 (much more positive than normal), with the midpoint
of 0 labeled no different than normal. Expressers also
reported how writing the letter made them feel person-
ally on the same scale. Finally, expressers predicted
how awkward the recipient “will report feeling after
reading your letter” on a scale ranging from 0 (not at
all awkward) to 10 (extremely awkward) and how awk-
ward sending the letter made them feel on the same
scale.
Expressers completed the survey by reporting on the
current status of their relationship with the recipient on
a scale ranging from −5 (feels like we’re miles apart) to
5 (feels like we’re really close), reporting their age and
gender, and then pasting the letter they wrote into a
text box (if they felt comfortable doing so and redacting
any portion they preferred to keep private).
We e-mailed the recipients we had permission to
contact as soon as expressers completed their survey.
Recipients were informed that they had recently
received a letter as part of a class exercise and were
asked to complete a voluntary and confidential online
survey reporting their experience. This survey asked
recipients to report the name of their expresser, their
age, and their gender. Recipients then reported how
surprised they were to receive the letter, how surprised
they were by the letter’s content, how the letter made
them feel, and how awkward they felt after receiving
the letter on the same scales that expressers used.
Results
Consistent with many findings reported in the existing
literature (e.g., Lyubomirsky etal., 2011; Seligman etal.,
2005), our results showed that writing a gratitude letter
was a positive experience. Expressers reported being in
a significantly more positive mood than normal (M =
2.58, SD = 1.30), one-sample t(106) = 20.59, p < .0001,
d = 1.98, and reported being in a more positive mood
after sending the gratitude letter than they did at the
baseline measurement (M = 0.46, SD = 1.66), t(98) =
10.89, p < .0001, d = 1.09.
More important for our current hypotheses, express-
ers also systematically undervalued the positive impact
their gratitude letter would have on recipients. As
1426 Kumar, Epley
shown in Figure 1, expressers significantly underesti-
mated how surprised recipients would be to receive
the letter, paired-samples t(79) = 6.09, p < .0001, d =
0.68; underestimated how surprised they would be by
the content of the letter, paired-samples t(79) = 3.49,
p < .001, d = 0.40; underestimated how positive recipi-
ents would feel, paired-samples t(79) = 6.60, p < .0001,
d = 0.74; and overestimated how awkward recipients
would feel, paired-samples t(79) = −2.89, p < .01, d =
0.32. Expressers believed that receiving gratitude would
be a relatively positive experience, but it was even more
positive for recipients than they expected.
It is important to note that these results do not nec-
essarily indicate imperfect insight into a recipient’s
unique response to a gratitude letter. Expressers could
theoretically have complete insight into their own recip-
ient’s unique experience compared with other recipi-
ents, even if expressers are systematically miscalibrated
on each item. That is, expressers could show a high
degree of discrimination accuracy, indexed as a correla-
tion between predicted and actual experiences, even
while being miscalibrated, as indexed by a difference
between the average predicted and actual experience.
Figure 1, however, shows that this was not the case.
The correlations between expressers’ predicted ratings
and their recipient’s actual ratings were consistently
small, being significantly larger than zero only when
expressers predicted surprise at receiving the letter
(r = .35, p < .01). Accuracy correlations for predicted
surprise at the content of the letter, mood, and awk-
wardness were all nonsignificantly different from zero
(all ps > .2). Expressers did not appear to have great
insight into their recipient’s unique experience, and
they systematically underestimated how positive receiv-
ing gratitude would be for recipients.
Follow-up experiment with third-party
simulators
We suggest that people underestimate the positive
impact of expressing gratitude on the basis of an ego-
centric bias in evaluations of a recipient’s perspective.
Expressers are aware of their gratitude before express-
ing it and also may focus on their competence in
expressing gratitude, whereas recipients attend to the
warmth that comes from the positive interaction. We
conducted an indirect test of these mechanisms by ask-
ing a group of 701 participants recruited through
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) to read one of the
gratitude letters from Experiment 1 from the perspective
of either the letter writer or the recipient. We then asked
them to predict the recipient’s reaction using the same
measures as in Experiment 1 (manipulated perspective
did not systematically alter predictions; see the Supple-
mental Material for full details). Because these third-
person observers would be relatively unaware of the
expresser’s reason for expressing gratitude, we expected
that their expectation of surprise would match the eval-
uations provided by the original letter recipients. How-
ever, because the warmth that comes from experiencing
an expression of gratitude is unique to the person who
actually receives it, we predicted third-person observers’
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Surprise About
Receiving
Surprise About
Content
Recipient’s
Mood
How Awkward?
Rating
Predicted
Actual
r = .35**
r = .09
r = .16
r = .12
Fig. 1. Results from Experiment 1: expressers’ mean predictions of recipients’ experiences
receiving a letter of gratitude and recipients’ actual ratings. The correlation between pre-
dicted and actual ratings is reported for each item. All items were answered on response
scales ranging from 0 to 10, except for mood, which was answered on a scale ranging from
−5 (much more negative than normal) to 5 (much more positive than normal). We rescaled
this item for this figure by adding 5 to each participant’s response. Asterisks indicate a
significant correlation (p < .01). Error bars reflect standard errors.
Underappreciation 1427
expectations of a recipient’s mood and awkwardness
would match those of the original letter writers.
Results were consistent with our predicted perspec-
tive gaps in the actual experience of expressers and
recipients (see the Supplemental Material). First, the
average evaluations of surprise made by these outside
observers were more like average evaluations of actual
recipients than expressers for surprise at receiving the
letter (Ms = 7.61, 6.01, and 7.88 for observers, express-
ers, and recipients, respectively) and for surprise at the
content of the letter (Ms = 6.39, 4.45, 5.66, respectively).
Second, average evaluations by third-person observers
(who did not directly experience the warmth of receiv-
ing gratitude like actual recipients did) were more simi-
lar to predicted evaluations of the original expressers
for both mood (respective Ms = 3.28, 3.11, 4.12) and
awkwardness (Ms = 3.20, 2.95, 1.95). These results sug-
gest that the unique psychological perspective of people
expressing versus receiving gratitude can help to explain
why the positive impact of expressing gratitude on
recipients may be systematically undervalued. In Experi-
ment 2, we tested how systematic this underestimation
actually was by conducting a direct replication of Exper-
iment 1 outside the classroom context with participants
expressing gratitude to a broader range of recipients.
Experiment 2
Method
Participants. One hundred participants (46 female; age:
M = 20.27, SD = 2.85) recruited to a laboratory on The
University of Chicago campus completed this experiment
in exchange for $5. We expected a lower response rate for
recipients than we observed in Experiment 1 because par-
ticipants were encouraged to write to a broader range of
recipients who might not be as likely to respond. We
therefore targeted 100 participants thinking that a 50%
response rate would still yield a sufficient sample size (50
pairs) for our primary analyses.
Of the 100 participants who wrote a gratitude letter,
98 granted us permission to contact the recipients of
their gratitude letters. The contact information provided
by 6 of these participants, however, contained some
sort of mistake (e.g., a spelling error) that prevented
us from reaching their recipients. We therefore sent
questionnaires to 92 recipients, of whom 58 completed
them (33 female; age: M = 32.14, SD = 15.84), yielding
a 63% response rate. As in Experiment 1, we observed
nonsignificant differences in predictions about recipi-
ents’ experiences between expressers whose recipient
did versus did not respond (see the Supplemental Mate-
rial). A sensitivity analysis indicated that this sample
size had 80% statistical power to detect a minimum
effect size of 0.37 for our primary analyses.
Procedure. The procedure was similar to that used in
Experiment 1 with three notable exceptions. First, we
recruited participants for an experiment conducted in a
laboratory rather than as part of a voluntary class exer-
cise. Second, we encouraged participants to write to any-
one in their lives they felt grateful to, rather than
encouraging (although not restricting) them to write to
another professional student. We provided several exam-
ples as possible recipients: “parents, friends, teachers,
coaches, teammates, employers, and so on.” This poten-
tially expanded the pool of recipients who received a
letter compared with the pool in Experiment 1. Finally,
participants wrote their gratitude letter in the laboratory,
during the experimental session, rather than writing it at
their own chosen time and in their own chosen context.
All other procedural details and experimental measures
followed the methods used in Experiment 1.
Results
As in Experiment 1, writing a gratitude letter was a
positive experience. Expressers reported being in a
significantly more positive mood than normal (M = 2.56,
SD = 1.73), one-sample t(99) = 14.79, p < .0001, d =
1.48, and also reported being in a more positive mood
after writing the letter than they reported feeling at the
beginning of the experiment (M = 0.77, SD = 1.72),
paired-samples t(99) = 9.74, p < .0001, d = 0.97.
More important, expressers again systematically
underestimated the positive impact that their gratitude
letter would have on recipients (see Fig. 2). Unlike in
Experiment 1, expressers did not significantly underes-
timate how surprised recipients would be to receive
their letter, paired-samples t(57) = −0.28, p = .78, d =
−0.04. However, expressers again underestimated how
surprised they would be by the precise content of the
letter, paired-samples t(57) = 2.79, p < .01, d = 0.36;
underestimated how positive recipients would feel,
paired-samples t(57) = 3.19, p < .01, d = 0.43; and over-
estimated how awkward recipients would feel, paired-
samples t(57) = −2.99, p < .01, d = 0.39. Expressers again
showed relatively modest insight into their recipient’s
actual experience. Although we observed above-chance
accuracy in three of the four measures, as can be seen
in Figure 2, the correlations were far from perfect. This
experiment replicates the main results of Experiment 1,
demonstrating again that people may systematically
undervalue the positive impact that expressing gratitude
will have on recipients. Experiment 3a tested how these
expectations of a recipient’s reactions were related to
the reported likelihood of expressing gratitude to exam-
ine whether miscalibrated expectations about surprise,
positive mood, and awkwardness could be a barrier to
expressing felt gratitude.
1428 Kumar, Epley
Experiment 3a
Method
Participants. Participants (N = 50, 23 female; age: M =
32.00, SD = 13.08) recruited to a laboratory on The Uni-
versity of Chicago campus or to a laboratory in down-
town Chicago completed this experiment in exchange for
$2. A sensitivity analysis indicated that this sample size
had 80% statistical power to detect a minimum effect size
of 0.40 for our primary analyses.
Procedure. Participants were recruited for an experi-
ment on gratitude expression. On arrival to the labo-
ratory, they were told to think about expressing
gratitude to someone who had touched their life using
instructions similar to those in Experiments 1 and 2.
Participants were then asked to think of five specific
people whom they felt grateful to. To help partici-
pants think broadly, we asked them to think of people
from a variety of contexts in their life: “parents, sib-
lings, friends, teachers, coaches, teammates, employ-
ers, and so on.
For each target, participants first indicated how
important the gratitude recipient’s help was in their life
on a scale ranging from 0 (of little importance) to 10
(most important in my life) and then indicated how
grateful they felt on a scale ranging from 0 (not at all
grateful) to 10 (extremely grateful).
Participants were then asked to think about writing
a gratitude letter to the given target and to predict each
recipient’s response on the same measures and scales
used in Experiments 1 and 2. Finally, participants
re ported how likely they would be to send a gratitude
letter to each person on a scale ranging from −5 (very
unlikely) to 5 (very likely).
Results
As we requested, participants considered targets that
they believed, on average, provided help that was
important (M = 8.21) and that they felt grateful to (M =
8.75), with relatively little variation on either item (SD =
1.41 and 1.10, respectively). Because we asked partici-
pants to report the perceived likelihood of sending a
gratitude letter across multiple targets from each par-
ticipant, we computed the average correlation across
targets for each measure and the reported likelihood
of sending a gratitude letter. This allowed us to assess
how variance in one type of evaluation, such as the
recipient’s mood, was related to the perceived likeli-
hood of sending a gratitude letter across participants.
We excluded 5 participants from all analyses who did
not indicate any variance in their likelihood of sending
a letter across targets, making it statistically impossible
to calculate a correlation. We excluded additional par-
ticipants on an item-by-item basis who did not indicate
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Surprise About
Receiving
Surprise About
Content
Recipient’s
Mood
How Awkward?
Rating
r = .44***
r = .14
r = .29*
r = .35**
Predicted
Actual
Fig. 2. Results from Experiment 2: expressers’ predictions of recipients’ experiences
receiving a letter of gratitude and recipients’ actual ratings. The correlation between pre-
dicted and actual ratings is reported for each item. All items were answered on response
scales ranging from 0 to 10, except for mood, which was answered on a scale ranging from
−5 (much more negative than normal) to 5 (much more positive than normal). We rescaled
this item for this figure by adding 5 to each participant’s response. Asterisks indicate
significant correlations (*p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001). Error bars reflect standard errors.
Underappreciation 1429
any variance across potential recipients on the other
measures (two for importance, seven for felt gratitude,
five for mood, and two for awkwardness).
As predicted, participants’ perceived likelihood of
sending a gratitude letter was correlated with the per-
ceived positive impact that the letter would have on the
recipients’ mood and awkwardness. The perceived likeli-
hood of writing a gratitude letter was positively corre-
lated with the recipient’s predicted positive mood (mean
correlation = .33), t(39) = 3.99, p < .001, d = 0.63, but
negatively correlated with the recipient’s predicted feel-
ing of awkwardness (mean correlation = −.30), t(42) =
−3.70, p < .001, d = 0.57. Inconsistent with our predic-
tion, surprise at the content of the letter was nonsignifi-
cantly correlated with the perceived likelihood of writing
a gratitude letter (mean correlation = −.18), t(44) =
−1.96, p = .06, d = 0.30. Participants in this experiment
appeared to interpret “surprise at the content of the
letter” as a potentially negative response rather than as
a positive response. Indeed, surprise was positively
correlated with the negative experience of awkward-
ness across the targets they considered (mean correla-
tion = −.50), t(45) = 8.93, p < .0001, d = 1.32, but was
nonsignificantly correlated with expectations about
positive mood (mean correlation = .12), p > .1. This
suggests that participants were not thinking of this
solely in terms of a positive surprise at hearing of
another’s gratitude. This is an important result that we
will return to in the General Discussion.
Overall, these results suggest that people’s willing-
ness to express gratitude is guided by the expected
value of a recipient’s response. In Experiment 3b, we
provided another test of this hypothesis by asking
expressers to choose between different gratitude recipi-
ents who were expected to be either high or low on the
dimensions of interest. If expectations about expressing
gratitude are based on the expected value to recipients,
then people should choose to express gratitude to
someone who is expected to respond most favorably.
We tested this in Experiment 3b by asking participants
to write a letter to one of six recipients after predicting
each person’s reactions to receiving a letter.
Experiment 3b
Method
Participants. Participants (N = 100, 58 female; age: M =
20.98, SD = 3.87) recruited to a laboratory on The Univer-
sity of Chicago campus completed the experiment in
exchange for $5. A technical failure resulted in data not
being recorded for 1 participant, and another participant
did not complete the study, leaving a final sample size of
98 participants. A sensitivity analysis indicated that this
sample size had 80% statistical power to detect a mini-
mum effect size of 0.28 for our primary analyses.
Procedure. The experimenter provided participants with
written instructions asking them to think about people in
their lives to whom they could write a letter expressing
gratitude. These instructions provided a description of
what a gratitude letter would contain, consistent with the
instructions from Experiments 1 to 3a, and told partici-
pants that they would be considering six different grati-
tude recipients. The instructions then directed participants
to think of distinct individuals to whom they felt similarly
grateful but who differed on our key variables of interest
(surprise, positive mood, and awkwardness). For each
variable, presented in a random order, participants identi-
fied one person who would be high on that variable and
another who would be low on that variable. For instance,
when considering how surprised a person would be
about a letter’s content, participants thought of one per-
son who would be very surprised and another person
who would not be very surprised. Participants then indi-
cated how grateful they felt to each person on a scale
ranging from 0 (not at all grateful) to 10 (extremely grate-
ful) and which person in the pair they would rather write
a gratitude letter to if they could write to only one per-
son. Participants answered the same series of questions
for positive mood and awkwardness. These choices are
our primary variables of interest.
Participants then read that they would be asked to
write a gratitude letter to one of the six people they
considered as part of the experiment and ranked all six
individuals from the person they would be most likely
to write a letter to (ranked 1) to least likely (ranked 6).
Participants then wrote a letter of gratitude to the per-
son they ranked first, using either e-mail (which they
sent) or a notecard we provided (which we subse-
quently mailed for participants).
Immediately after writing their gratitude letter, par-
ticipants reported their mood on a scale ranging from
−5 (much more negative than normal) to 5 (much more
positive than normal). Finally, participants reported
how frequently they expressed gratitude in this way by
responding to the following question:
Think about how often you typically write
gratitude letters like this. Sometimes people feel
they do certain activities too rarely (for example,
many people think they exercise too little). Other
times people feel they do certain activities too
often (for example, many people think they
procrastinate too much). And still other times,
people think their behavior is just right, such as
spending just the right amount of time on work
or leisure activities. When thinking about how
1430 Kumar, Epley
often you typically write letters of gratitude, do
you feel that you do this less often than you’d like
to, more often than you’d like to, or is your
frequency just right?
Participants responded on a scale ranging from −5
(I do this much less often than I’d like) to 5 (I do this
much more often than I’d like), where 0 was labeled
just about right. Participants then indicated their age
and gender and were thanked for completing the
experiment.
Results
If people’s willingness to express gratitude is at least
partly guided by its expected value to recipients, then
participants should prefer expressing gratitude to a recipi-
ent who is expected to respond positively. Consistent
with Experiment 3a, results showed that expectations
about the recipient’s surprise were not related to their
preference for expressing gratitude, with only 53.05%
preferring to express gratitude to a person they believed
would be more surprised, χ2(1, N = 98) = 0.37, p = .54.
Expectations about a recipient’s mood and awkward-
ness, however, were again strongly related to prefer-
ences for expressing gratitude. Specifically, 88.78% of
participants preferred to express gratitude to the person
they believed would feel especially positive, χ2(1, N =
98) = 58.94, p < .0001, φ = 0.78, and 84.69% preferred
the person they believed would not feel awkward, χ2(1,
N = 98) = 47.18, p < .0001, φ = 0.69.
Participants’ rankings of their preference for express-
ing gratitude to all six of the potential recipients showed
a similar pattern. Specifically, participants ranked the
recipient they expected would be in a really positive
mood as the person they would be most interested in
sending a letter to (average rank = 2.22), followed by
the person they expected would not feel awkward
(average rank = 2.87), the person they thought would
be very surprised about the letter’s content (average
rank = 2.90), the person who would not be surprised
(average rank = 3.40), the person who would not feel
positive (average rank = 4.70), and the person who
would feel awkward (average rank = 4.89). Participants
were most interested in expressing gratitude to the
person who would feel really positive and least inter-
ested in expressing gratitude to the person who would
feel awkward.
Participants choice of whom to write a letter to fol-
lowed these stated preferences: 31 (32% of the sample)
wrote a gratitude letter to the person they expected
would feel very positive, 25 (26%) to the person they
expected would not feel awkward, 22 (22%) to the
person they thought would be really surprised, 16
(16%) to the person they anticipated would not be
surprised, 3 (3%) to the person would not feel positive,
and only 1 (1%) to the person he or she expected would
feel awkward when receiving it. These results again
suggest that expressions of gratitude are guided by
expectations about a recipient’s reactions, with people
choosing to express their gratitude to recipients who
they believe will feel positive.
Finally, participants reported feeling significantly
happier than normal after expressing gratitude (M =
2.91, SD = 1.63), one-sample t(97) = 17.72, p < .0001,
d = 1.79. However, participants also reported express-
ing gratitude in this way significantly less often than
they would like to (M = −2.06, SD = 2.04), t(97) =
−10.00, p < .0001, d = −1.01. Misunderstanding how
positively recipients will respond to an expression of
gratitude may leave people choosing to express grati-
tude less often than they would actually want to, a
potentially misplaced barrier to positive interactions
that could be suboptimal for both their own and others’
well-being.
Experiment 4
We predicted that people would undervalue the posi-
tive impact of expressing gratitude partly because of
an asymmetry in evaluations of competence and warmth
between gratitude expressers and recipients. To test
whether concerns about competence could serve as a
barrier to expressing gratitude, we asked 198 MTurk
workers (see the Supplemental Material) to indicate
someone they feel grateful to, to imagine writing that
person a gratitude letter, and then to indicate how
much they would be thinking about two competence
attributes when deciding to write a gratitude letter
(“What will I actually write?” and “How articulate will
I be?”) and two warmth attributes (“How friendly and
kind will my letter appear to be?” and “How sincere
will my letter seem to this person?”). On scales ranging
from 0 (not at all) to 10 (a great deal), participants
indicated that they would be thinking about all of these
attributes equally (and highly), on average. But when
asked what would come to mind first, 74.75% indicated
one of the competence items, χ2(1, N = 198) = 48.51,
p < .0001. Experiment 4 tested the extent to which
expressers’ expectations about warmth and competence
guided evaluations of a recipient’s reaction and their
calibration with recipients’ actual experiences.
Method
Participants. One hundred twenty-seven MBA stu-
dents (64 female; age: M = 29.26, SD = 2.48) participated in
a preregistered study that closely followed the procedure
Underappreciation 1431
of Experiment 1. The sample size was the total number
of students in the course who agreed to complete a class
exercise and also consented to using their data for research
purposes. Of the 127 participants who volunteered to
write gratitude letters, 31 did not provide contact informa-
tion for their recipients. We thus sent questionnaires to 96
recipients, of whom 78 completed the follow-up survey
(43 female; age: M = 38.32, SD = 14.17), yielding an 81%
response rate. Predictions again did not differ signifi-
cantly between expressers whose recipient did versus
did not respond (see the Supplemental Material). A sen-
sitivity analysis indicated that this sample size had 80%
statistical power to detect a minimum effect size of 0.32
for our primary analyses.
Procedure. The procedure was very similar to that used
in Experiment 1, with a few notable exceptions. First,
participants did not provide a baseline mood rating in
class. Second, participants were instructed to write their
gratitude letter to anyone they felt grateful to (as in
Experiment 2), rather than being encouraged to write to
another student at their school.
More important, this experiment included measures
of competence and warmth based on the traits and
definitions provided by Fiske etal. (2007). Expressers
reported their perceived competence in expressing
gratitude by answering the following two items: (a) “To
what extent were you able to express your gratitude
using words that were just right?” and (b) “After your
recipient reads your letter, how articulate do you
believe they will think your expression of gratitude is?”
Both items were rated on 11-point scales ranging from
0 (not at all) to 10 (extremely). Expressers reported their
perceived warmth by answering these two items: (a)
“After your recipient reads your letter, how warm do
you think they will perceive your letter to be?” and (b)
“How sincere do you believe they will think your
expression of gratitude is?” These responses were pro-
vided on similar 11-point scales. The follow-up survey
sent to recipients also included these four items pertain-
ing to the letter writer’s ability to express their gratitude
using words that were just right, how articulate the
letter was, how warm the letter was, and how sincere
they believed the expression of gratitude to be (using
the same scales as the expressers).
Expressers and recipients also completed all other
measures from Experiment 1 and the measure from
Experiment 3b that asked expressers to indicate whether
they express gratitude too little, too much, or just the
right amount.
Results
As in Experiments 1 and 2, writing a gratitude letter
was again a positive experience for expressers, who
reported feeling significantly better than they usually
do after writing their letter (M = 2.85, SD = 1.45), one-
sample t(126) = 22.28, p < .0001, d = 1.97. Expressers
also significantly undervalued the positive impact of
their gratitude on recipients, replicating the primary
results from Experiments 1 and 2. That is, expressers
significantly underestimated how surprised recipients
would be to receive the letter, paired-samples t(77) =
3.28, p < .01, d = 0.37; underestimated how surprised
they would be by the content of the letter, paired-
samples t(77) = 3.57, p < .001, d = 0.40; underestimated
how positive recipients would feel, paired-samples
t(77) = 8.43, p < .0001, d = 0.96; and overestimated how
awkward recipients would feel, paired-samples t(77) =
−2.80, p < .01, d = 0.32 (see Fig. 3). Finally, expressers
again indicated that they did not express gratitude often
enough (M = −2.29, SD = 2.09), one-sample t(126) =
12.36, p < .0001, d = 1.10.
Our primary hypotheses in this experiment, however,
focused on evaluations of competence and warmth by
expressers and recipients. Because the two competence
and two warmth items were each highly correlated (rs >
.5, ps < .0001), we averaged each pair into a single
composite measure of competence and warmth. As pre-
dicted, expressers significantly underestimated how
competent they would be rated by recipients (Ms = 6.99
and 9.28, respectively, SDs = 1.65 and 0.92), paired-
samples t(77) = 10.62, p < .0001, d = 1.20, and also
underestimated how warm they would be rated by
recipients (Ms = 8.40 and 9.54, respectively, SDs = 1.25
and 0.88), paired-samples t(77) = 6.95, p < .0001, d =
0.79. More important, miscalibration was significantly
larger for competence (mean difference = 2.28, SD =
1.90) than for warmth (mean difference = 1.14, SD =
1.45), paired-samples t(77) = 7.33, p < .0001, d = 0.83.
These results suggest that the first thoughts that may
come to mind for people when deciding to express
gratitude—their ability to competently articulate their
gratitude—may be an unwarranted barrier to expressing
gratitude more often in everyday life. As expected, we
also observed a significant correlation between express-
ers’ competence ratings and their expectations about
their recipient’s mood (r = .32, p < .01). The correlation
was directionally larger, however, between expressers’
warmth ratings and their expectations about their recip-
ient’s mood (r = .57, p < .0001). Given that evaluations
of warmth and competence were highly correlated in
this experiment (r = .57, p < .0001) and that we did not
experimentally manipulate expectations about compe-
tence and warmth, we cannot identity the causal rela-
tionship between these two variables.
A brief follow-up experiment replicating the proce-
dure of Experiment 3a confirmed that expectations
about competence could guide expressers’ willingness
to express gratitude (see the Supplemental Material for
1432 Kumar, Epley
a full report). In this experiment, 99 Amazon MTurk
workers completed a procedure identical to that in
Experiment 3a, in which each participant thought of
five people they felt grateful to. The only difference in
this procedure was that two predictions about a recipi-
ent’s surprise were replaced with two predictions about
competence. Specifically, before predicting each per-
son’s mood and awkwardness, participants predicted
the extent to which they would be able to get the words
just right if they really wrote a gratitude letter to a given
person, on a scale from 0 (not at all able) to 10 (defi-
nitely able), and also reported how well they thought
they would be able to express their gratitude, on a scale
from −5 (I think I’d do a very bad job) to 5 (I think I’d
do a very good job). Participants also made predictions
about each target’s anticipated mood and expected feel-
ings of awkwardness, as in Experiment 3a. After provid-
ing these ratings, they indicated how likely they would
be to actually write and send a gratitude letter to the
potential recipient in question, using the same scale as
in Experiment 3a. Excluding participants who did not
indicate any variance in their ratings across the five
targets, we found that the reported likelihood of writing
a letter to each target was positively correlated, on
average, with their predicted ability “to get the words
just right” (mean correlation = .30), t(84) = 5.07, p <
.001, d = 0.55, and with their predicted ability to express
their gratitude well (mean correlation = .33), t(82) =
6.04, p < .001, d = 0.66. Collectively, the results of
Experiment 4 and the two additional experiments we
report with it suggest that people expressing gratitude
may be inordinately concerned about their competence
in expressing gratitude, a focus that may partly explain
why expressers underestimate the positive impact their
gratitude will have on recipients, thereby representing
a miscalibrated barrier to expressing gratitude more
often in everyday life.
General Discussion
Civility costs nothing and it buys everything.
—Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (Halsband, 1967, p. 107)
Expressing gratitude is a powerful act of civility benefit-
ting both expressers and recipients. Our experiments
suggest that people who feel grateful may not calculate
its value the way Lady Montagu did. Participants in Exper-
iments 1, 2, and 4 systematically underestimated how
positive recipients would feel to a sincere expression of
appreciation. A central tenet of rational agency is that
people behave in ways consistent with the expected
value of their actions (Becker, 1993; see also Bernoulli,
1954). Experiments 3a and 3b and a follow-up to Experi-
ment 4 suggest that mistaken expectations could guide
decisions about expressing gratitude in daily life.
Although we predicted that expectations about a
recipient’s surprise would guide people’s willingness
to express gratitude, this was not supported. We believe
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Surprise
About
Receiving
Surprise
About
Content
Recipient’s
Mood
How
Awkward?
Competence Warmth
Rating
Predicted
Actual
r = .17
r = .07
r = .34**
r = .02
r = –.01 r = .10
Fig. 3. Results from Experiment 4: expressers’ predictions of recipients’ experiences receiving a letter of gratitude
and recipients’ actual ratings. The correlation between predicted and actual ratings is reported for each item. All
items were answered on response scales ranging from 0 to 10, except for mood, which was answered on a scale
ranging from −5 (much more negative than normal) to 5 (much more positive than normal). We rescaled this item
for this figure by adding 5 to each participant’s response. Asterisks indicate a significant correlation (p < .01). Error
bars reflect standard errors.
Underappreciation 1433
this occurred because surprise is more ambiguous than
we anticipated. Instead of being positive, it could be
perceived as negative by expressers concerned about
competence. Consistent with this ambiguity, findings
revealed that expressers’ predictions of surprise at the
letter’s content and positive mood was nonsignificantly
correlated in Experiments 1, 2, and 4 (rs = .17, .09, and
.05, respectively, ps > .1). Recipients, however, seem to
have interpreted surprise in a more positive fashion, as
their reported surprise at the content of the letter was
positively correlated with their reported positive mood
in Experiments 1, 2, and 4 (rs = .32, .37, and .39, respec-
tively, ps < .05). Future work will need to clarify the
actual role of expected surprise as a potential barrier
to prosocial actions.
We believe that our experiments provide strong evi-
dence that people underestimate the positive impact of
expressing gratitude on recipients, but they contain one
important limitation common to naturalistic experi-
ments: imperfect response rates. Not all gratitude recipi-
ents completed our survey. This could lead to selection
biases that produce misleading results. If people who
responded were more positive than those who did not,
then our estimate of the recipients’ experience would
be positively biased. We do not, however, think this
can explain our results for two reasons. First, express-
ers’ predictions did not differ between those whose
recipient did versus did not respond, even though
expressers had some accurate insight into their recipi-
ent’s unique reactions. Second, if nonresponses were
coming from recipients who had systematically more
negative reactions, then we would expect a smaller
misprediction in experiments with higher response
rates. This was not the case. Experiment 1 had a mean-
ingfully higher response rate (87%) than Experiment 2
(63%), and yet the average misprediction on our key
variables was larger in Experiment 1 (mean Cohen’s
d = 0.54) than in Experiment 2 (mean Cohen’s d = 0.29).
Experiment 4 had a similarly high response rate as
Experiment 1 (81%) and a similar average effect size
as well (mean Cohen’s d = 0.52). Ultimately, only an
experiment with perfect response rates will com-
pletely eliminate this concern, a difficult goal given
the naturalistic approach to our studies.
Beyond whether or not to express gratitude, our
results may also have implications for how people
choose to express their gratitude. If people mistakenly
anticipate a somewhat awkward interaction, then they
may choose to express warmth through more psycho-
logically distant communication media in which the
awkwardness of a negative reaction might be dulled,
such as in writing rather than in face-to-face interaction.
The problem is that text-based media do not appear to
communicate one’s sincere intention, positive emotion,
or deliberate thought as clearly as voice-based or face-
to-face media (Hall & Schmid Mast, 2007; Kruger, Epley,
Parker, & Ng, 2005; Schroeder & Epley, 2016; Zaki,
Bolger, & Ochsner, 2009). If expected awkwardness is
miscalibrated, then people might also choose media for
communicating their gratitude that could be suboptimal
as well (Kumar & Epley, 2018a). We believe this is an
interesting avenue for future research.
Although we have focused on the prosocial action
of expressing gratitude, the asymmetry in evaluations
of competence versus warmth we identified in Experi-
ment 4 suggests that misunderstanding about the con-
sequences of prosocial interactions is more widespread.
In existing research, people have underestimated the
hedonic benefit of spending on others (Dunn etal.,
2008), acting more extraverted (Zelenski etal., 2013),
speaking to strangers (Epley & Schroeder, 2014), and
performing random acts of kindness for others (Kumar
& Epley, 2018b). In another experiment, we randomly
assigned participants to express gratitude to another
person or to share positive news with someone they
knew. Although we observed a main effect in which
gratitude recipients felt more positive than good news
recipients, expressers were similarly miscalibrated in
underestimating the positive impact of a positive social
interaction: They significantly overestimated awkward-
ness and underestimated positive mood to a similar
extent. Another experiment we conducted asked people
to send a card to someone “just because” (Kumar &
Epley, 2018b). Participants wrote notes for the sake of
checking in, cheering someone up, letting them know
they were thinking of them, and so on. Here, too, par-
ticipants underestimated the positive consequences of
this warm, prosocial engagement with another person.
We believe the asymmetry in attention to competence
versus warmth could create mistaken expectations
across a wide range of prosocial actions. If people
engaging in prosocial actions are more concerned
about competence than those benefiting from them,
then our experimental results should be just one exam-
ple of a broader tendency.
Positive social connections are a powerful source of
well-being, and creating those connections can some-
times come at little or no cost. However, they also
require that people choose to engage in actions that
strengthen social bonds, such as expressing gratitude.
Miscalculating the positive impact of social connections
on oneself, or on others, could keep people from being
prosocial enough for their own well-being. Expressing
gratitude may not buy everything, but it may buy more
than people seem to expect.
Action Editor
Bill von Hippel served as action editor for this article.
1434 Kumar, Epley
Author Contributions
A. Kumar and N. Epley generated the ideas for the study and
designed the experiments. A. Kumar collected, analyzed, and
interpreted the data under the supervision of N. Epley. Both
authors wrote the manuscript and approved the final version
of the manuscript for submission.
Acknowledgments
A. Kumar conducted this research while at The University of
Chicago Booth School of Business but is now affiliated with
The University of Texas at Austin.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared that there were no conflicts of interest
with respect to the authorship or the publication of this
article.
Supplemental Material
Additional supporting information can be found at http://
journals.sagepub.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/0956797618772506
Open Practices
All data and materials have been made publicly available via the
Open Science Framework and can be accessed at https://osf.io/
md9fk/. The design and analysis plans for the experiments were
preregistered at AsPredicted (introductory study: http://aspre
dicted.org/blind.php?x=ex8wk8, main study: http://aspredicted
.org/blind.php?x=ky357e, follow-up study: http://aspredicted
.org/blind.php?x=xi5a8r). The complete Open Practices Disclo-
sure for this article can be found at http://journals.sagepub
.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/0956797618772506. This article has
received badges for Open Data, Open Materials, and Prereg-
istration. More information about the Open Practices badges
can be found at http://www.psychologicalscience.org/publica
tions/badges.
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Social Psychology, 104, 1092–1108.
... Nevertheless, as with other forms of sociality, people may be somewhat reluctant to reach out and express appreciation when they feel it. Indeed, when asked in surveys, respondents reported expressing gratitude and giving compliments less often than they felt they 'should' [38,39]. ...
... When asked to actually express their gratitude [39], or to pass along a compliment to either a stranger [40] or a friend or family member [38] (Figure 2), those expressing appreciation consistently underestimated how positively their recipients would react. These miscalibrated expectations are not limited to a single exchange because observers who predicted how a recipient would feel receiving one new compliment each day over the course of a week also underestimated how positive recipients would report feeling each day, expecting that recipients would feel successively less Trends in Cognitive Sciences positive after each daily compliment when recipients actually reported feeling similarly positive after each one [41]. ...
... In one illustrative experiment, MBA students thought of a person they felt grateful to, wrote a letter expressing their gratitude, anticipated how their recipient would feel after receiving the letter, and then enabled researchers to ask each recipient to complete a confidential survey reporting how they actually felt (experiment 1 in [39]). Expressers recognized that recipients would feel positive, but they still underestimated how positive recipients would feel, while overestimating how awkward recipients would feel. ...
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A person’s well-being depends heavily on forming and maintaining positive relationships, but people can be reluctant to connect in ways that would create or strengthen relationships. Emerging research suggests that miscalibrated social cognition may create psychological barriers to connecting with others more often. Specifically, people may underestimate how positively others will respond to their own sociality across a variety of social actions, including engaging in conversation, expressing appreciation, and performing acts of kindness. We suggest that these miscalibrated expectations are created and maintained by at least three mechanisms: differential construal, uncertain responsiveness, and asymmetric learning. Underestimating the positive consequences of social engagement could make people less social than would be optimal for both their own and others’ well-being.
... For example, Algoe and Way (2014) found a biological factor (i.e., oxytocin) was associated with expression of gratitude in both a lab-based study and a daily diary field survey study with romantic partners. Other research found that expectations of a positive emotional impact from gratitude expression influenced expressed gratitude (Kumar & Epley, 2018). Specifically, Kumar and Epley (2018) found that individuals were most interested in expressing gratitude to another who would feel positive about receiving their gratitude and were least interested in expressing gratitude to another who would feel awkward. ...
... Other research found that expectations of a positive emotional impact from gratitude expression influenced expressed gratitude (Kumar & Epley, 2018). Specifically, Kumar and Epley (2018) found that individuals were most interested in expressing gratitude to another who would feel positive about receiving their gratitude and were least interested in expressing gratitude to another who would feel awkward. Individuals reported feeling happier than normal after expressing gratitude, but ironically, they indicated that they expressed gratitude less often than they liked. ...
... expressions have positive intrapersonal effects on beneficiaries and benefits for how they are perceived by others. For example, research suggests that a beneficiary who expresses gratitude experiences elevated positive mood (Kumar & Epley, 2018;Lambert et al., 2012, Study 4). ...
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Though gratitude research in organizational behavior (OB) is nascent, this emotion has a rich history in the social sciences. Research has shown gratitude to promote prosocial behaviors, encourage personal well-being, and foster interpersonal relationships. However, gratitude research has been siloed among these three outcomes of gratitude (moral, wellness, and relational). Similarly, past reviews of gratitude have focused on only one group of outcomes, one of its forms (trait, state, or expressed), or empirical findings without emphasis on the theoretical underpinnings. In contrast, this review recognizes that each type of gratitude, its functions, and outcomes are part of a single process model of gratitude. As such, in the current review we provide a comprehensive assessment of gratitude in the social sciences by distilling and organizing the literature per our process model of episodic gratitude. Then, we translate the insights for management scholars, highlighting possible differences and synergies between extant research and workplace gratitude thereby helping advance “gratitude science” in the workplace. In all, this review (a) examines definitions and operationalizations of gratitude and provides recommendations for organizational research; (b) proposes a process model of episodic workplace gratitude as a conceptual map to guide future OB research on gratitude; (c) reviews empirical gratitude research through the lens of our process model; and (d) discusses the current state of the literature, important differences for workplace gratitude, and future directions for organizational scholars.
... By showing full appreciation for the assistance received, beneficiaries can increase a helper's willingness to help again in the future regardless of the level of autonomous motivation in the previous helping episode. This is particularly important considering that, despite gratitude being relatively costless and easy to communicate, people miss many opportunities to express it because they either underestimate its positive effects on helpers' moods or overestimate how awkward gratitude recipients may feel (Kumar & Epley, 2018). It is worth noting, however, that high-quality gratitude expression goes well beyond sending a brief message of "kthx". ...
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Moral identity has been considered an important predictor of prosocial behavior. This article extends prior research by investigating how and when moral identity predicts helping behavior. Specifically, we examine the mediating effect of episodic autonomous motivation on the relationship between moral identity and future helping intentions. We also test the moderating effect of an important contextual factor in helping episodes: the quality of the gratitude expression received by helpers. In two studies using autobiographical recall tasks with different samples (Study 1: N = 134, college students; Study 2: N = 192, adult workers), we found convergent evidence that helpers with high moral identity experience higher autonomous motivation in a helping episode, which in turn increases their willingness to help the same beneficiary in the future. We further found support for the interactive effects between autonomous motivation and gratitude quality on future helping intentions. High-quality gratitude expressions are particularly important in predicting subsequent helping for helpers with low episodic autonomous motivation. In this case, high-quality gratitude expressions can compensate for the lack of intrinsic motivation in a helping episode and increase future help provision.
... According to the extended construction theory of gratitude, gratitude can improve individual cognition as well as help re-recognize and interpret meaning. Reminding people about gratitude occasionally can resist the impact of negative emotions on mental health (Kumar and Epley, 2018), thereby enhancing the perception and experience of the value of one's own existence. However, if an individual uses the expression suppression strategy for a prolonged period, they report a lower level of gratitude. ...
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This study aimed to explore the mechanism of college students’ meaning of life. The Emotion Regulation Questionnaire, the Gratitude Questionnaire Six-Item Form, the General Wellbeing Schedule, the Meaning in Life Questionnaire were used as measurement instruments. In total, 1,312 valid responses were obtained. The results showed that the cognitive reappraisal and expression suppression strategies were significantly positively and negatively correlated with gratitude, subjective wellbeing, and the sense of life meaning, respectively. Further, Emotion regulation strategies can affect college students’ sense of life meaning through three paths: the mediating effect of gratitude; the mediating effect of subjective wellbeing; the chain mediating effect of gratitude and subjective wellbeing. This study illuminated the roles of gratitude, and subjective wellbeing in influencing the sense of life meaning among the Chinese college students. Limitations and future research directions are discussed.
... Dengan mengetahuinya dan mampu memahaminya serta menjalaninya dengan penuh keikhlasan maka akan menghadirkan rasa tenang yang akan menimbulkan rasa bahagia. Hubungan positif memiliki pola yang sama dari setiap interaksi individu misalnya saling menguntungkan satu sama lain, memberikan bantuan pada orang lain, dan membuat individu lebih bahagia dan sehat (Kumar & Epley, 2018). Konsistensi hubungan positif terhadap kebahagiaan dibuktikan dari hasil penelitian Kumar dan Epley (2018) yang menyebutkan bahwa dengan terciptanya hubungan sosial yang positif, kesejahteraan dan koneksi dengan orang lain semakin kuat sehingga terkadang membuat individu lupa waktu dan merelakan sebagian uangnya untuk mewujudkan hubungan yang positif. ...
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Penelitian ini bertujuan untuk mengetahui ada tidaknya hubungan yang signifikan antara variabel bersyukur kepada Tuhan, perilaku bersedekah dan kebahagiaan secara bersamaan pada mahasiswa. Populasi penelitian ini adalah mahasiswa Fakultas Psikologi Universitas Ahmad Dahlan. Sampel yang digunakan sebanyak 80 orang. Teknik sampling yang digunakan adalah Cluster Random Sampling yaitu menentukan sampel yang dilakukan dengan secara acak tanpa memperhatikan strata yang ada dalam. Teknik analisis yang digunakan ialah korelasi ganda dengan koefisien signifikansi Sig< 0,05 dinyatakan ada hubungan signifikan. Temuan penelitian ini pada salah satu hipotesisnya diterima yakni ada hubungan yang signifikan antar bersyukur dengan kebahagiaan dari korelasi senilai 0,000. Sedangkan secara simultan terdapat hubungan yang signifikan antara bersyukur kepada Tuhan dan perilaku bersedekah dengan kebahagiaan. Penelitian berikutnya diharapkan mampu menjangkau lebih banyak aspek dan bidang lainnya seperti memasukkan bimbingan dan konseling yang lebih terarah untuk hasil penelitian yang lebih maksimal.
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