Better together: Integrative analysis of behavioral gratitude in close relationships using the three-factorial interpersonal emotions (TIE) framework

Emotion. 2022 Dec;22(8):1739-1754. doi: 10.1037/emo0001020. Epub 2021 Nov 18.


Several lines of research document various relational and personal benefits of gratitude and its key behavioral manifestation, expressed gratitude. Integrating these lines, we propose the three-factorial interpersonal emotions (TIE) analytical framework, using two directions of gratitude behavior-expression and receipt of the expression-perspectives of both individuals reporting those behaviors-the acting self and the observing partner-and two temporal scopes to examine gratitude-the dispositional and the situational (operationalized as one's 2-week average thanking behavior and daily variations around the average, respectively). These describe eight (2 × 2 × 2) prototypical aspects of behavioral manifestations of interpersonal emotions such as expressed gratitude. We demonstrate the TIE model using a well-powered dyadic daily-diary dataset of naturally emerging gratitude interactions within romantic couples. Results show all aspects of situational gratitude behavior uniquely forecast daily increases in relationship satisfaction; these effects mediate contemporaneous daily increases in life satisfaction, and are not attributable to self-disclosure, fairness, politeness, or general positivity. Alternatively, although they each show a zero-order effect, many aspects of dispositional gratitude behavior do not exert independent effects on relationship or life satisfaction, nor do they hold against the four nongratitude constructs. Exemplifying the utility of the TIE model, we conclude behavioral gratitude is an everyday phenomenon; it comprises related yet distinguishable interpersonal acts, and can be understood from the different perspectives of the actors involved. Methodologically, our work shows the value of bringing relationship-science techniques to study the social functions of emotions, and generates new questions about gratitude in everyday life. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Personality
  • Social Perception