Instrumentality Boosts Gratitude
We propose that in social interactions, gratitude for a helper depends on the helper’s instrumentality: The more motivated one is to accomplish a goal and the more a potential helper facilitates that goal, the more gratitude one will feel for that helper. In one lab experiment with strangers and one field experiment with real study partners, we found support for this instrumentality-boost hypothesis. Beneficiaries felt more gratitude for their helpers while they were receiving help toward an ongoing task than after that task had been completed. Beneficiaries thus felt more gratitude when they had received less benefit.