Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Linda Zyzniewski


Gratitude and indebtedness have been treated as similar constructs that occur in social exchange, but little work has examined how these constructs are independent from each other. Relatedly, how a person evaluates the components of a social exchange – the benefactor and benefit – can vary. Two exploratory studies examined affective, cognitive and behavioral measurement during a social exchange to test whether they were associated with gratitude and indebtedness. Participants completed a distribution game for which they gave and received tickets for a raffle with a fictitious partner. Study 1 (N=34) findings indicated that gratitude was associated with positive affect, but that positive affect was a better predictor of exchange behavior. Indebtedness was more closely associated with cognition and was not a significant predictor of exchange behavior. Positive affect and positive thought were associated with a positive attitude toward the exchange partner, whereas positive thought alone was associated with a positive attitude toward the benefit (i.e., raffle tickets). Study 2 (N=60) used a between-subjects variable to see if a manipulation involving the benefit affected responses. Three conditions were used: gratitude, indebtedness, or control. Participants in the gratitude and indebtedness conditions evaluated the partner and the tickets more positively compared to a control condition. Gratitude is directly associated with positive affect and inversely associated with negative cognition, whereas indebtedness is directly associated with positive affect across the three conditions. Three components of attitude were associated with the overall evaluation of the benefactor across conditions. In contrast, affect and cognition alone provided the best model for predicting overall evaluation of the benefit. Despite some of the limitations of this study (e.g., sample size), preliminary evidence suggests associations between affective and cognitive components and social exchange behavior. Limitations stemming from partial online data collection are described and discussed.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2009

Included in

Psychology Commons