Universals and cultural diversity in the expression of gratitude

Simeon Floyd*, Giovanni Rossi, Julija Baranova, Joseph Blythe, Mark Dingemanse, Kobin H. Kendrick, Jörg Zinken, N. J. Enfield

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)
    33 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    Gratitude is argued to have evolved to motivate and maintain social reciprocity among people, and to be linked to a wide range of positive effects—social, psychological and even physical. But is socially reciprocal behaviour dependent on the expression of gratitude, for example by saying ‘thank you’ as in English? Current research has not included cross-cultural elements, and has tended to conflate gratitude as an emotion with gratitude as a linguistic practice, as might appear to be the case in English. Here, we ask to what extent people express gratitude in different societies by focusing on episodes of everyday life where someone seeks and obtains a good, service or support from another, comparing these episodes across eight languages from five continents. We find that expressions of gratitude in these episodes are remarkably rare, suggesting that social reciprocity in everyday life relies on tacit understandings of rights and duties surrounding mutual assistance and collaboration. At the same time, we also find minor cross-cultural variation, with slightly higher rates in Western European languages English and Italian, showing that universal tendencies of social reciprocity should not be equated with more culturally variable practices of expressing gratitude. Our study complements previous experimental and culture-specific research on gratitude with a systematic comparison of audiovisual corpora of naturally occurring social interaction from different cultures from around the world.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number180391
    Pages (from-to)1-9
    Number of pages9
    JournalRoyal Society Open Science
    Volume5
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2018

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

    Keywords

    • gratitude
    • reciprocity
    • assistance
    • collaboration
    • social interaction
    • cross-cultural

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