Gratitude, indebtedness, and reciprocity: an extended replication of Bartlett & DeSteno (2006)

Cong Peng*, Charlotte Malafosse, Rob M.A. Nelissen, Marcel Zeelenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

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In a landmark study in 2006, Bartlett and DeSteno found that receiving help promoted reciprocal behavior and that this effect was mediated by gratitude. Recent research, however, suggested that indebtedness is more closely associated with reciprocation than gratitude. Therefore, we examined whether reciprocal behavior could (also) be attributed to indebtedness. Specifically, we attempted to replicate and extend Bartlett and DeSteno’s Study 1 by additionally including a measure of indebtedness. Surprisingly, the replication was not successful. We did not find support for the idea that receiving help promoted reciprocal behavior, and neither gratitude nor indebtedness was associated with reciprocal behavior. Finally, we call for attention that the extant literature may be inconclusive regarding the presumed prosocial effects of gratitude.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-16
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Influence
Issue number1
Early online date31 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Gratitude
  • indebtedness
  • reciprocity
  • Replication

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