Gratitude Predicts Selective Moral Concern About Interpersonal Harms

Document Type


Publication Date





© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Past research has established that gratitude, a sense of appreciation for the benefits one has received, is a moral emotion that motivates reciprocity. How does gratitude influence moral evaluations generally? The current paper provides a novel investigation of the relationships between trait gratitude and moral outrage, an index of concern over specific moral violations. In two studies, we found that more grateful individuals expressed greater moral concern about domains in which harms were perpetrated against people, but not harm violations against animals or more trivial moral violations. In Study 2, we explore whether gratitude-based differences in moral concern might be explained by trait empathy or differences in commitment to specific moral foundations and find that empathy, specifically, largely accounts for gratitude’s role in moral concern. This research expands understanding of gratitude’s role in moral psychology and speaks to gratitude’s importance in moral judgment.

Publication Title

Journal of Positive Psychology

Find in your library