Purdue University Graduate School
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Implicit Gratitude Theories

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posted on 2019-05-15, 19:44 authored by Katherine E AdamsKatherine E Adams
Theorists posit that despite the well-known benefits of feeling grateful, the adoption of a grateful perspective is not always easy and the occurrence of a gratitude-worthy event is not always readily salient. Indeed, to experience a sense of gratitude may partly require that people actively regulate their cognitive and attentional resources to notice, appreciate, and subsequently respond to a gratitude event. Drawing from Dweck et al.’s (1995) implicit theories framework, I examined whether implicit beliefs concerning the development of various attributes/characteristics differentially influences people’s feelings of gratitude. Implicit theories framework stipulates that people adopt one of two learning perspectives – namely, an entity or incremental perspective. Those with an incremental perspective believe that certain characteristics (e.g., emotions, attributes) are not fixed, but are dynamic and changeable, and that their ability in a certain area can be improved, and that the associated outcomes are linked to their own diligence and labor. By comparison, people with an entity perspective believe certain characteristics are static and cannot be easily changed, and that the outcomes associated with a particular attribute are generally decoupled from their own labors. I reasoned that because incremental (vs. entity) theorists are confident that they can actively regulate their behavior to experience a desired emotional state, they should also believe that they can regulate their feelings of gratitude. In doing so, incrementals (vs. entity) should be more likely to expend cognitive and attentional resources to notice and attend to a salient gratitude event, capitalizing on opportunities to practice cultivating a grateful perspective. With the current studies, I used correlational, longitudinal, and experimental methods to examine both the fundamental association between implicit gratitude beliefs and gratitude, and whether the effect of implicit gratitude beliefs (i.e., incremental vs. entity) on feelings of gratitude differ as a function of gratitude event salience. I hypothesized that compared to entity theorists, incremental theorists should be more sensitive and attentive to a salient (vs. less salient) gratitude event, and as a result, incrementals (vs. entities) should exhibit higher levels of gratefulness/gratitude. The results across six studies provided reliably consistent evidence in support of the key hypotheses. Gratitude was positively associated with an incremental perspective and negatively associated with an entity perspective; when the gratitude event was salient (vs. less salient) incrementals were more attentive to the opportunity, and their level of gratitude was systematically higher compared to those with an entity perspective, and across the salience conditions, the difference between incrementals’ and entities’ gratitude levels was also partially explained by gratitude motivation and increased attentiveness to the gratitude event.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Psychological Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. James Tyler

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Christopher Agnew

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Kipling Williams

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Janice Kelly

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