Gratitude has been promoted as a beneficial emotional experience. However, gratitude is not universally experienced as positive. The current work examines whether an autonomous interpersonal style is associated with differential experience of gratitude. Study 1 found an inverse relationship between trait autonomy and both trait gratitude and positivity of response to receiving a hypothetical benefit from a friend. Study 2 replicated the finding that those higher in autonomy report less trait gratitude, and also demonstrated an inverse relationship between autonomy and valuing gratitude. Study 3 found that those higher in autonomy had more self-image goals and reduced compassionate goals in relationships, and that valuing gratitude mediated the relationship between autonomy and relationship goals. These results show a consistent inverse relationship between autonomy and the experience and valuing of gratitude, suggesting that degree of autonomy is one determinant of whether gratitude is experienced as positive.
Keywords: Positive emotions; autonomy; gratitude; interpersonal functioning; relationship goals.