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The effects of helper intention on gratitude and indebtedness

by Jo A. Tsang
Motivation and Emotion ()

Abstract

Gratitude and indebtedness have often been equated in psychology.\nEmerging research, however, suggests that these emotions are experienced\ndifferently and occur in response to different situations (Gray, Emmons,\n& Morrison, 2001). The current set of experiments investigated the\neffects of helper intention on grateful and indebted reactions to a\nfavor. Study 1 utilized scenario methodology to present participants\nwith a favor that was given with benevolent or ulterior motives.\nParticipants felt significantly more grateful when the helper had\nbenevolent intentions. Reactions of indebtedness did not vary as a\nfunction of helper intention. In Study 2, participants recalled favors\nthat had been done for them for either unselfish or selfish reasons.\nParticipants reported significantly more gratitude for the favor when\nthey were instructed to recall an unselfish favor. Levels of\nindebtedness were not affected by helper intention. Study 3 provided\nparticipants with an ambiguous favor scenario to better assess\nindividuals' natural reactions to receiving help, and replicated the\nresults of Study 1. Together, these three experiments provide support\nfor differences between grateful and indebted emotions.

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