Comparing gratitude and pride: evidence from brain and behavior

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2022 Dec;22(6):1199-1214. doi: 10.3758/s13415-022-01006-y. Epub 2022 Apr 18.


Gratitude and pride are both positive emotions. Yet gratitude motivates people to help others and build up relationships, whereas pride motivates people to pursue achievements and build on self-esteem. Although these social outcomes are crucial for humans to be evolutionarily adaptive, no study so far has systematically compared gratitude and pride to understand why and how they can motivate humans differently. In this review, we compared gratitude and pride from their etymologies, cognitive prerequisites, motivational functions, and brain regions involved. By integrating the evidence from brain and behavior, we suggest that gratitude and pride share a common reward basis, yet gratitude is more related to theory of mind, while pride is more related to self-referential processing. Moreover, we proposed a cognitive neuroscientific model to explain the dynamics in gratitude and pride under a reinforcement learning framework.

Keywords: Gratitude; Neuroimaging; Positive emotions; Pride; Reward.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain*
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Reward
  • Self Concept
  • Social Behavior