Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 761–781 | Cite as

Pay It Forward: Gratitude in Social Networks

  • Yen-Ping Chang
  • Yi-Cheng Lin
  • Lung Hung ChenEmail author
Research Paper


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 



This study was supported by a grant form the National Science Council to Yen-Ping Chang (NSC 97-2815-C-002-140-H), Yi-Cheng Lin (NSC 99-2410-H-002-082), and Lung Hung Chen (NSC 100-2410-H-179 -007). We are grateful for the anonymous reviewer’s comments to improve the quality of our manuscript.


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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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