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PhD Dissertation

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Research has shown that gratitude towards a benefactor positively predicts subjective well-being and other outcomes such as reciprocity and helping behaviours. However, previous research has not examined whether this effect is consistent or will differ across benefactor type (i.e., individual versus group). Research has also not examined the potential effects of accompanying thoughts related to the benefit assessment. Through two experimental studies, the hypotheses that gratitude towards benefactor is lower for group benefactor as compared to individual benefactor, that self-entitlement thoughts and downward counterfactual thoughts will have main effects on gratitude as well as moderate the effect of benefactor type on gratitude, were tested. Results showed that the hypothesised main effect of benefactor type on gratitude was supported in one of the two studies (Study 2) but the other hypotheses were not supported. Contrary to the hypothesised weaker positive effect, Study 1 found that self-entitlement thoughts had a stronger positive effect on gratitude than neutral thoughts that focused on the goodness of benefits. Contrary to the hypothesised stronger positive effect, Study 2 found that there was no difference in effect between downward counterfactual thoughts and neutral thoughts that focused on recalling about benefiting experiences. Study 2 found that participants in the individual benefactor condition reported higher intent to help than participants in the group benefactor condition, and this effect of benefactor type on intent to help was partially mediated by gratitude. In addition, trait gratitude was a moderator. When trait gratitude was high, those who reflected upon the benefits brought about by group benefactor experienced lower gratitude than those who reflected upon the benefits brought about by individual benefactor. However, when trait gratitude was low, the difference in the level of gratitude across benefactor type was not significant. The findings also showed that gratitude and indebtedness, as measured in both studies, were distinct constructs. Limitations of the current research, as well as future research directions and potential contributions were discussed.


Gratitude, emotions, well-being, sense of entitlement and downward counterfactual thought

Degree Awarded

PhD in Psychology


Developmental Psychology | Personality and Social Contexts


CHAN, Chin Tuong David

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Copyright Owner and License

Singapore Management University

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Wednesday, April 03, 2019