A social-cognitive model of trait and state levels of gratitude

Emotion. 2008 Apr;8(2):281-90. doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.8.2.281.


Three studies tested a new model of gratitude, which specified the generative mechanisms linking individual differences (trait gratitude) and objective situations with the amount of gratitude people experience after receiving aid (state gratitude). In Study 1, all participants (N = 253) read identical vignettes describing a situation in which they received help. People higher in trait gratitude made more positive beneficial appraisals (seeing the help as more valuable, more costly to provide, and more altruistically intended), which fully mediated the relationship between trait and state levels of gratitude. Study 2 (N = 113) replicated the findings using a daily process study in which participants reported on real events each day for up to 14 days. In Study 3, participants (N = 200) read vignettes experimentally manipulating objective situations to be either high or low in benefit. Benefit appraisals were shown to have a causal effect on state gratitude and to mediate the relationship between different prosocial situations and state gratitude. The 3 studies demonstrate the critical role of benefit appraisals in linking state gratitude with trait gratitude and the objective situation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Altruism*
  • Awareness
  • Character*
  • Culture*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Helping Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Personality Inventory
  • Social Perception*