Category: X - Other - Not Fitting Better Elsewhere

PS11- #A28 - Are One's Relationships About Exchange? Then Daily Gratitude Is Less Likely to Increase Trait Gratitude

Saturday, Nov 18
12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Couples / Close Relationships | Ecological Momentary Assessment | Emotion

People vary in how exchange oriented they are in their relationships (Clark & Mills, 2011). Those highly exchange oriented focus on reciprocity. They expect to receive benefits from others when they have provided benefits and also feel obligated to give back when they have received from others. Those lower in exchange orientation, instead, are satisfied even with more asymmetrical relationships. The present research investigates whether exchange orientation moderates the effects of the daily experience of gratitude on trait gratitude. Gratitude appears to assist in building new bonds and maintaining existing relationships (Ahrens & Forbes, 2014; Algoe, 2012). Given the importance of gratitude for relationships, and relationships for well-being, it is important to ask whether being exchange-oriented impacts the effects of a daily gratitude exercise on being grateful.


Ninety-seven college students participated in a larger study in which they were asked to complete daily diaries over a period of two weeks. Initially, they completed measures of gratitude (GQ-6; McCullough, Emmons & Tsang, 2002) and exchange orientation (EOS; Mills & Clark, 1994), along with other measures. Then, daily for two weeks, they were asked to report about a situation in which they felt grateful and how grateful they felt in response. Eighty-five participants completed both at least 4 diaries and the GQ-6 at the follow-up, and were thus included in the final analysis.


Controlling for initial trait gratitude, exchange orientation moderated the relationship between daily gratitude and trait gratitude at the end of the study (interaction term: β = -.019, t(79) = -2.20, p = .031). In particular, the relation of daily gratitude with end of study trait gratitude was more positive for those with a lower level of exchange orientation in relationships. 


These findings suggest that experiencing gratitude increases trait gratitude less for those who are more exchange oriented in their relationships. For them, gratitude may be less potent, as it may tie them to a more narrow interpretation of the giver’s motivations (e.g., to earn exchange). It could also be that for those more exchange oriented, feeling grateful for receiving something may increase their sense of indebtedness towards others, adding to the already burdening feeling of having to give back. Increases in gratitude may thus be costly for them, resulting in resistance to change. Assessing the recipient’s exchange orientation may then be key when investigating how to increase gratitude and build trust in relationships.

Carla De Simone Irace

American University, District Of Columbia

Tara L. Spitzen

Graduate student
American University
Washington, District Of Columbia

Anthony H. Ahrens

American University