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Motivated gratitude and the need to belong: Social exclusion increases gratitude for people low in trait entitlement

  • Michael J. MacKenzieEmail author
  • Roy F. Baumeister
Original Paper

Abstract

Three studies examined effects of social exclusion on reactions to receiving an unexpected gift. Trait Psychological Entitlement was also measured as a potential moderator in all studies. In Study 1, participants wrote about a time they felt rejected, accepted, or something neutral. Compared to the control condition, social exclusion increased self-reported gratitude and observer-rated gratitude. These effects were found among people scoring low on narcissistic entitlement. For these participants also, social rejection increased perception of the benefactor’s warmth, and this increase in perceived warmth mediated the increase in gratitude. Study 2 measured trait need to belong (rather than manipulating it via social rejection) and found similar results: participants low in trait entitlement and high in trait need to belong had higher levels of gratitude than those low in trait need to belong. In Study 3 some participants underwent a peer rejection manipulation. Upon receiving a gift, rejected participants low in entitlement were more grateful (according to self and observer ratings) and engaged in more prosocial behavior than nonrejected participants. The main conclusion is that, among people low in entitlement, social rejection stimulates a heightened desire for social connection, which moves them to functionally project warm intentions onto a benefactor, which in turn makes them more grateful.

Keywords

Social exclusion Gratitude Psychological entitlement Social acceptance Motivation Belongingness 

Notes

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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