The Powerful Are More Grateful

Monica Y. Bartlett: Those studying gratitude have argued that the emotion is predicated on recognizing that another person has done a kind act out of care and concern for you. In fact, if you think someone has been generous in order to gain future favors or because you are incapable, you are likely to feel something very different than gratitude — suspicion, indebtedness, irritation. But, researchers have also long known that people with high self-esteem are likely to believe that others regard them highly and care about them — the very sorts of beliefs that underlie feelings of gratitude. Who is known to be high in self-esteem? Yep, you guessed it — the powerful! Thus, something like this seems to be happening: The powerful, who are higher in self-esteem, more often view others’ acts of generosity as done out of care and concern for them, thus leading to gratitude rather than a different emotional response.

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