Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 761–781

Pay It Forward: Gratitude in Social Networks

Research Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10902-011-9289-z

Cite this article as:
Chang, YP., Lin, YC. & Chen, L.H. J Happiness Stud (2012) 13: 761. doi:10.1007/s10902-011-9289-z


Based on the framework of the broaden-and-build theory (Fredrickson in Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci 359(1449):1367, 2004a, b), we proposed that the emotion of gratitude generates upstream reciprocity (UR, which is helping an unrelated third party after being helped) by broadening the beneficiary’s perspective toward others and thus making the beneficiary represent the benefactor and newly encountered strangers in the same social category. Furthermore, by inducing one UR after another, gratitude may lead to a chain/network of UR and strengthen the structure of organization. We named the effect the integration function of gratitude and demonstrated it by applying the social network analysis technique to eighteen small groups. Implications of the integration function are discussed in terms of self-identity, social exchange theory, and quality of life.


Positive psychology Prosocial behavior Well-being Broaden-and-build theory Reciprocity Adaptation Social integration Social exchange 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  2. 2.Department of Recreation and Leisure Industry ManagementNational Taiwan Sport UniversityTaipeiTaiwan

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