ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (10): 1463-1475.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.01463

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Cognitive Appraisal Basis of Gratitude

DING Ruyi1,2; ZHOU Hui2; LIN Ma3   

  1. (1 The party school of municipal Party committee of Foshan, Foshan, 528300, China) (2 Department of Psychology, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China) (3 The Research Center of Psychological Counsing,South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China)
  • Received:2013-07-18 Published:2014-10-25 Online:2014-10-25
  • Contact: ZHOU Hui, E-mail:


Gratitude is the appreciation that one feels when people receive something beneficial. Appraisal theories argue that each emotion is associated with a specific pattern of appraisals about the perceived antecedents of emotional experiences. The goal of the current research is to reveal the appraisal patterns of gratitude by identifying specific components of gratitude. In Study 1, participants recalled five past emotional experiences (angry, happy, gratitude, pride, indebted) before rating on different cognitive appraisal components and emotions. Results showed that other accountability, perceived responsiveness, and moral norm were closely related to the intensity of gratitude, while goal congruence, unexpectedness, and self-importance were not significantly associated with gratitude. In addition, some emotions were associated with different patterns of cognitive appraisals. In Study 2, participants described pleasant situations they experienced recently, in each of which one of the cognitive appraisal components was present or absent. They were asked to indicate what emotions they had experienced. Results showed that other accountability, perceived responsiveness, and unexpectedness were not only correlated with gratitude, but also affected the intensity of gratitude. Study 3 aimed to explore how trait gratitude impacted state gratitude and cognitive appraisals, and whether the relation between trait and state gratitude was mediated by cognitive appraisals. Results showed that trait gratitude was closely related to state gratitude; further, other accountability, perceived responsiveness, and unexpectedness mediated this relation. In summary, the three studies provided empirical evidence to appraisal theories. More importantly, these studies revealed that other accountability, perceived responsiveness, and unexpectedness were all cognitive appraisal components of gratitude.

Key words: appreciate, cognitive appraisal, appraisal theory