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Differentiating between grateful and indebted reactions to receiving help

Altruism and Prosocial Behavior in Groups

ISBN: 978-1-84855-572-3, eISBN: 978-1-84855-573-0

ISSN: 0882-6145

Publication date: 23 September 2009


This chapter aims to clarify the distinction between feeling grateful and feeling indebted. Often overlooked and underappreciated, the differences that define these unique affective experiences are critical to understanding the consequences of helping behavior. This chapter describes the psychological underpinnings of gratitude and indebtedness and outlines the ways in which previous research has conflated the two constructs. In addition, it puts forth a set of testable propositions that help distinguish the relative importance of gratitude and indebtedness in interpersonal relations. The implications of these ideas are discussed in the context of individual generosity, social exchange, and group dynamics.


Schaumberg, R. and Flynn, F.J. (2009), "Differentiating between grateful and indebted reactions to receiving help", Thye, S.R. and Lawler, E.J. (Ed.) Altruism and Prosocial Behavior in Groups (Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 26), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 105-132.



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