Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS) in Psychology: Clinical




Gratitude can be a strong emotion, as can be indebtedness. Although historically in the social sciences gratitude and indebtedness have been equated with each other, situations may differentially affect these emotions. One situational aspect that may impact these emotions differentially is the type of benefactor; an individual, independent institution, or a related institution. Does the type of benefactor impact gratitude responses? The primary purpose of this study was to evaluate this question. Using a scenario methodology, I manipulated type of benefactor and cost of the benefit to the benefactor. With this study, I hope to gain more knowledge of gratitude and indebtedness and how different situations affect the levels of these emotions. Because well-being has a strong link to gratitude, this study provides additional information about factors that may enhance gratitude. A main effect for type of benefactor was found, such that participants in the individual benefactor condition reported higher gratitude responses compared to the independent and related institution benefactor conditions. This difference was explained by appraisals of whether individuals felt that the benefactor exceeded their obligations: they felt that the individual benefactor exceeded their obligations more than did the university. However, cost to the benefactor did not have an impact on gratitude in any of the conditions. As in past studies, there was a large main effect for type of emotion, such that participants reported far more gratitude than indebtedness in response to the benefit. Indebtedness followed the similar trend as gratitude, though not at a significant level.