Thanks for Nothing: Expressing Gratitude Invites Exploitation by Competitors

Posted: 3 Jun 2017 Last revised: 30 Jan 2018

See all articles by Jeremy Yip

Jeremy Yip

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department

Kelly Kiyeon Lee

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater - Spears School of Business

Cindy Chan

University of Toronto - Marketing

Alison Brooks

HBS Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit

Date Written: October 1, 2017

Abstract

Previous research has revealed that expressing gratitude motivates prosocial behavior in cooperative relationships. However, expressing gratitude in competitive interactions may operate differently. Across five studies, we demonstrate that individuals interacting with grateful counterparts become more likely to engage in selfish behavior during competitive interactions. In Studies 1a and 1b, participants who interacted with counterparts expressing gratitude were more likely to make aggressive offers in distributive negotiations than those who interacted with counterparts expressing neutral emotion. In Study 2, we find that inferences of the tendency to forgive mediates the relationship between gratitude expression and selfish behavior. In Study 3, we contrast expressions of gratitude with another positive-valence emotion: excitement. We show that expressing gratitude promotes self-interested behavior compared to expressing excitement or neutral emotion. In Study 4, we find that gratitude expression triggers self-serving deception. Taken together, our findings suggest that expressing gratitude can be costly in competitive interactions: people infer that grateful counterparts are forgiving and, therefore, they are more likely to exploit their counterparts for selfish gain.

Keywords: Gratitude, Forgiveness, Negotiations, Ethics, Emotion

Suggested Citation

Yip, Jeremy and Lee, Kelly Kiyeon and Chan, Cindy and Brooks, Alison, Thanks for Nothing: Expressing Gratitude Invites Exploitation by Competitors (October 1, 2017). Harvard PON Working Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2978836

Jeremy Yip (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-573-0501 (Phone)

Kelly Kiyeon Lee

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater - Spears School of Business ( email )

201 Business
Stillwater, OK 74078-0555
United States

Cindy Chan

University of Toronto - Marketing ( email )

United States

Alison Brooks

HBS Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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