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Does gratitude enhance prosociality: a meta-analytic review

Ma, Lawrence; Tunney, Richard J.; Ferguson, Eamonn

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Lawrence Ma

Richard J. Tunney

Professor of Health Psychology


Theoretical models suggest that gratitude is linked to increased prosociality. To date, however, there is a lack of a comprehensive quantitative synthesis of results to support this claim. In this review we aimed to 1) examine the overall strength of the association between gratitude and prosociality, and 2) to identify the theoretical and methodological variables that moderate this link. We identified 252 effect sizes from 91 studies across 65 papers— (Total N = 18,342 participants). The present meta-analysis revealed a statistically significant, and moderate positive correlation between gratitude and prosociality (r = 0.374). This association was significantly larger among studies that assessed reciprocal outcomes relative to non-reciprocal outcomes, and in particular among studies that examined direct—compared to indirect—reciprocity. Studies that examined gratitude as an affective state reported significantly larger effect size studies assessing gratitude as a trait. Studies that examined benefit-triggered gratitude (in response to other’s kindness) had a stronger effect that generalized gratitude that focuses on the appreciation of what is valued and cherished in life. Finally, studies that manipulated gratitude in-vivo (e.g., economic games) had larger effect sizes compared to those based on recalled incidents when the person felt grateful. We describe the theoretical and practical significance of the results.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 17, 2017
Publication Date Jun 1, 2017
Deposit Date Mar 7, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jun 1, 2017
Journal Psychological Bulletin
Print ISSN 0033-2909
Electronic ISSN 1939-1455
Publisher American Psychological Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 143
Issue 6
Pages 601-635
Keywords gratitude, prosociality, meta-analysis, direct reciprocity, indirect reciprocity
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record


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