Public Release: 13-Dec-2016
Feeling grateful? No, thanks!
New research by American University psychology professor reveals autonomous individuals dislike gratitude and explores connection to interpersonal relationships
When you receive a gift from someone, do you have feelings of gratitude? Or do you feel obliged and burdened to reciprocate the gesture? Not everyone experiences gratitude in response to the generosity of others, according to new psychology research in the journal Cognition and Emotion.
What could temper gratitude for some people? One answer could have to do with autonomous personal style, one's sense of independence and self-reliance.
"There's nothing wrong with self-reliance and valuing autonomy. The concern is, to what extent could that interfere with the processes that bind people together?" Ahrens said.
Gratitude has been widely studied in psychology, and researchers are finding evidence for its many benefits. It helps to build relationships. It's been associated with physical and mental well-being. In Ahrens' research, autonomy was characterized by responses to questions about topics such as how much respondents liked to rely on others for help or to have others depend on them.
"Relationship quality could suffer without expressions of gratitude. A person who is more autonomous might misinterpret a well-meaning gesture by her partner. A compassionate action could be seen as intrusive instead of supportive," Ahrens said. "Other research has shown autonomy could lead to an aversion to any form of reliance on others, making individuals vulnerable to depression."