Is Gratitude a Moral Affect?

Michael E. McCullough, Robert A. Emmons, Shelley D. Kilpatrick, David B. Larson

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Abstract

Gratitude is conceptualized as a moral affect that is analogous to other moral emotions such as empathy and guilt. Gratitude has 3 functions that can be conceptualized as morally relevant: (a) a moral barometer function (i.e., it is a response to the perception that one has been the beneficiary of another person's moral actions); (b) a moral motive function (i.e., it motivates the grateful person to behave prosocially toward the benefactor and other people); and (c) a moral reinforcer function (i.e., when expressed, it encourages benefactors to behave morally in the future). The personality and social factors that are associated with gratitude are also consistent with a conceptualization of gratitude as an affect that is relevant to people's cognitions and behaviors in the moral domain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-266
Number of pages18
JournalPsychological Bulletin
Volume127
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2001
Externally publishedYes

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

Cite this

McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., Kilpatrick, S. D., & Larson, D. B. (2001). Is Gratitude a Moral Affect? Psychological Bulletin, 127(2), 249-266. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.127.2.249