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Effects of gratitude on intrinsic and extrinsic motivators in career decision-making

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The role of emotions in career decision-making is receiving increasing attention, but few studies have assessed the role of gratitude, especially in the context of the trade-off between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators (i.e., interest vs. salary) influencing career decisions. Therefore, in the present research we conducted four studies to test the primary hypothesis that gratitude increases the preference for vocational interest relative to salary in career decision-making, as well as the underlying mechanism. The results from Studies 1 (N = 206) and 2 (N = 202), which used a measure of dispositional gratitude, and those of Study 3 (N = 176), which manipulated gratitude, showed that gratitude led to a stronger preference for interest relative to salary in terms of influencing career decisions. Study 4 (N = 489) provided an explanation for these results, revealing that self-esteem mediated the effect of gratitude on career choices. Overall, the results demonstrated the cognitive effect of gratitude in career decision-making, and suggested a need to study how discrete positive emotions influence career decisions.

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Data Availability

The data that support the findings of this study are openly available at


  1. Using G*Power 3.1 (Faul et al., 2007), at least 68 participants were needed to have sufficient power (1–β > 0.8) to detect a medium-sized effect (f2 = 0.15), and 196 participants for a small-sized effect (f2 = 0.05).

  2. Using G*Power 3.1 (Faul et al., 2007), at least 55 participants were needed to have sufficient power (1–β > 0.8) to detect a medium-sized effect (f2 = 0.15), and 159 participants for a small-sized effect (f2 = 0.05).

  3. Using G*Power 3.1 (Faul et al., 2007), 128 participants were needed to have sufficient power (1 -β > 0.80) to detect a medium-sized effect (d = 0.5).

  4. Using G*Power 3.1 (Faul et al., 2007), at least 68 participants were needed to have sufficient power (1–β > 0.8) to detect a medium-sized effect (f2 = 0.15), and 485 participants for a small-sized effect (f2 = 0.02).


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Correspondence to Yufeng Zhang.

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This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (72,201,036).

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Zhang, Y., Wang, X. Effects of gratitude on intrinsic and extrinsic motivators in career decision-making. Motiv Emot 47, 669–678 (2023).

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