Looking on the bright side of life: Gratitude and experiences of interpersonal transgressions in adulthood and daily life

J Pers. 2020 Jun;88(3):430-446. doi: 10.1111/jopy.12501. Epub 2019 Jul 24.


Objective: Gratitude plays an important role in individual and social well-being. However, less is known about the link between gratitude and experiences of interpersonal stressors. The current research examined the associations between gratitude and interpersonal transgressions.

Method: One cross-sectional study with a broad age range and two daily diary studies (total N = 2,348; total age range: 18-91) were used to test the associations on the between- and within-person level.

Results: A consistent result across all studies was that dispositionally grateful individuals tended to report fewer interpersonal transgressions than less grateful people. In turn, people who generally reported more interpersonal transgressions were less grateful in daily life. Moreover, higher gratitude on one specific day was associated with fewer reported transgressions on the same day. However, the results from the daily diary studies indicated differences between the samples. Whereas gratitude was consistently associated with interpersonal transgressions in one daily diary sample, the findings in the second daily diary sample were less consistent.

Conclusion: The present findings suggest that grateful people tend to perceive their social exchanges differently and/or actually experience fewer interpersonal transgressions. Future work is needed to test the underlying mechanisms of this negative association.

Keywords: adulthood; daily diary; gratitude; interpersonal transgressions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality / physiology
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Interaction*
  • Social Perception*
  • Young Adult