Gratitude, indebtedness, and reciprocity: An extended replication of Bartlett & DeSteno

In a landmark study in 2006, Bartlett and DeSteno found that receiving help promoted reciprocal behavior and that this effect was mediated by gratitude. Recent research, however, suggested that indebtedness is more closely associated with reciprocation than gratitude. Therefore, we examined whether reciprocal behavior could (also) be attributed to indebtedness. Specifically, we attempted to replicate and extend Bartlett and DeSteno’s Study 1 by additionally including a measure of indebtedness. Surprisingly, the replication was not successful. We did not find support for the idea that receiving help promoted reciprocal behavior, and neither gratitude nor indebtedness was associated with reciprocal behavior. Finally, we call for attention that the extant literature may be inconclusive regarding the presumed prosocial effects of gratitude.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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