Collections > UNC Scholarly Publications > Article > Putting the “You” in “Thank You” Examining Other-Praising Behavior as the Active Relational Ingredient in Expressed Gratitude

Abstract. Although positive emotions as a class can build interpersonal resources, recent evidence suggests a unique and direct role for gratitude. In the current research, we shine the spotlight on what happens between a grateful person and the benefactor to illuminate what can build a bridge between them. Specifically, we draw on work calling gratitude an “other-praising” emotion. In an original study and a conceptual replication that included two independent samples, couples had video-recorded conversations in which one member expressed gratitude to the other (n = 370). Expresser’s other-praising behavior was robustly positively associated with the benefactor’s postinteraction perception of expresser responsiveness, personal good feelings in general, and felt loving in particular. Several practical and theoretical alternative explanations are ruled out. By clarifying the specific behavioral and subjective psychological mechanisms through which expressed gratitude promotes relationships, this work advances affective and relationship science, two domains that cut across disciplines within psychology.