A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way: Explaining Why Gratitude Expressions Motivate Prosocial Behavior

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 3620 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6370, USA.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Impact Factor: 5.08). 06/2010; 98(6):946-55. DOI: 10.1037/a0017935
Source: PubMed


Although research has established that receiving expressions of gratitude increases prosocial behavior, little is known about the psychological mechanisms that mediate this effect. We propose that gratitude expressions can enhance prosocial behavior through both agentic and communal mechanisms, such that when helpers are thanked for their efforts, they experience stronger feelings of self-efficacy and social worth, which motivate them to engage in prosocial behavior. In Experiments 1 and 2, receiving a brief written expression of gratitude motivated helpers to assist both the beneficiary who expressed gratitude and a different beneficiary. These effects of gratitude expressions were mediated by perceptions of social worth and not by self-efficacy or affect. In Experiment 3, we constructively replicated these effects in a field experiment: A manager's gratitude expression increased the number of calls made by university fundraisers, which was mediated by social worth but not self-efficacy. In Experiment 4, a different measure of social worth mediated the effects of an interpersonal gratitude expression. Our results support the communal perspective rather than the agentic perspective: Gratitude expressions increase prosocial behavior by enabling individuals to feel socially valued.

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Available from: Francesca Gino, Feb 09, 2015
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    • "Desire for competence on the job, for example, can be crowded out as an external reward shifts a behavior from signaling competence to signaling reward responsiveness (Gneezy and Rustichini 2000a; Deci and Ryan 2002). Later research has focused on the mechanism of image (Ariely et al. 2009; Benabou and Tirole 2006; Grant and Mayer 2009; Lacetera and Macis 2010), where an external reward such as an award can shift the external perception of a worker's motives for prosocial behavior from " a desire to be a 'good' employee " to " a desire to win the social recognition of an award. " "
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    • "ej. Algoe, 2012; Algoe, Haidt & Gable, 2008; Bartlett, Condon, Cruz, Baumann & DeSteno, 2012; Bartlett & De- Steno, 2006; Emmons & Shelton, 2005; Fredrikson, 2004; Froh, Bono & Emmons, 2010; Grant & Gino, 2010; Lanham, Rye, Rimsky & Weill, 2012; Seligman , Steen, Park & Peterson, 2005; Toussaint & Friedman, 2009). En el contexto de la psicología positiva y el estudio de las fortalezas de carácter, se ha demostrado que es factible incluir la gratitud en el repertorio de las personas a través de una intervención deliberada (p. "
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