Gratitude is important nowadays, and religions teach the significance of it. Despite the importance of gratitude, there has been little research on it. Most research make use of scenarios and self appraisal, which has been discovered to have restriction of social desirability and has low psychological realism (Tsang, 2006). The experiment conducted addresses the restriction by putting together a laboratory induction, behavioural and self appraisal of gratitude.
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Gratitude is depicted as a good social sentiment shown to other people or things. Tsang (2006) defines gratitude as ‘a positive emotional reaction to the receipt of benefit that is perceived to have resulted from the good intentions of another.’ (p. 139) Besides gratitude, indebtedness, a bad sentiment, might also be felt. Both gratitude and indebtedness will alert the person to either mirror the other party’s helpfulness, or not do anything in return.
Since most previous research were dependent on the usage of scenarios, they have several restrictions. Gratitude scenario studies may contain low psychological realism (Tsang, 2006). Participants who over think scenarios might not feel grateful, and scenario research might leave studies open to social desirability confounds (Tsang, 2006). To tackle the restrictions, laboratory induced gratitude could form real grateful behaviour.
Past research overlooked comparing voluntary effects of gratitude with the result of good mood on helping. Positivity might cause voluntary behaviour to increase, but gratitude is an other-oriented sentiment, and might increase voluntary behaviour by focusing attention on the need and deservingness of the benefactor (Tsang, 2006).
The experiment creates a laboratory induction of gratitude using a controlled group to differentiate the effects of gratitude with good mood. If gratitude is the motivating factor of voluntary behaviour, participants who obtain favours should experience more gratitude and give more supplies to their partners than those who got the same outcome by chance.
There were 38 female American Psychology undergraduate students who participated in the experiment. The participants were then isolated in an enclosed laboratory cubicle and took part in 4 rounds of supply distribution task with a partner. The only way of communication is through note passing. In actual fact, there were only 3 rounds, and the partner was fake. The participants were told that $10 would be distributed between both parties. In certain rounds, either the participants or their partners will be tasked to give supplies, while the supplies would be given arbitrarily for other rounds. The supplies were 10 green paper worth $1 each, and will be exchanged for cash after completing the experiment. In the first round, everyone received $3 by chance, and their partner $7. In the second round, participants were arbitrarily sorted into favour or chance condition. Those who are in the favour condition were given $9 by their partners, while the others got $9 by chance. In the third round, the participants were tasked to give supplies. Participants in the favour condition gave more supplies to their partners compared to those in the chance condition.
Through manipulation check, everyone knew if their results in the second round were due to their partners or to chance. The participants were more satisfied after the second round (Tsang, 2006). Participants in the chance condition gave a mean of $5.84 to their partners, while the others gave a mean of $7.38 (Tsang, 2006).
The data collected supported the voluntary nature of gratitude as the participants were more motivated by gratitude when they received a favour, compared to those who got the same outcome by chance. Those who were in the favour condition gave more supplies than those who received the outcome by chance. The results are consistent with the prediction that grateful feelings motivate people to act voluntarily towards their benefactor (Tsang, 2006).
A limitation of the current study is since the participants were questioned after their decisions, there is a chance that they gave post hoc explanations of their behaviour. Research on gratitude is still widespread and in its preliminary stage, and experiencing gratitude improve both psychological and physical well-being.
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