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Exploring the Competent Communication of Gratitude: A Three-Study Investigation of Gratitude Messages
While much scholarly attention has been given to the benefits of expressing gratitude, a paucity of research exists in the competent communication of gratitude. The current dissertation employs three studies to ascertain qualities of gratitude communication that are favored in message recipients, establish criteria for competent gratitude communication, and identify the extent to which features of gratitude messages corresponds to the competency criteria. The first study investigated various aspects of gratitude communication that message recipients characterized as ideal, such as verbal, nonverbal, and contextual factors. Building upon these findings, Study 2 developed and validated two scales: one measuring benefactor perceptions of the extent to which gratitude messages convey meaningful impact, thoughtfulness, and sincerity (the gratitude assessment scale, or GAS); and another measuring the presence of salient features of explicitness, elaboration, and affirmation in gratitude messages (the gratitude message features, or GMF, scale). Finally, participants in Study 3 were randomly exposed to a hypothetical gratitude message that contained one of the three features, all three features, or none of the features and responded to the GAS to evaluate their perceptions of the message. Findings established the skills-competence link, in which explicitness, elaboration, and affirmation all predict benefactor perceptions of the message’s meaningful impact, thoughtfulness, and sincerity. The findings of the dissertation reveal four significant contributions to gratitude communication research: (1) the identification of salient message features and benefactor evaluations of the message that reflect competent gratitude communication, (2) the development of statistically sound instrumentation pertaining to gratitude communication competence, (3) the establishment of the skills-competence link, which associates the features of a gratitude message to message perceptions that are essential to gratitude communication, and (4) the beginnings of a model of the process of gratitude communication.
- Doctor of Philosophy
- West Lafayette