Does Dyadic Gratitude Make Sense? The Lived Experience and Conceptual Delineation of Gratitude in Absence of a Benefactor

Nick Hebbink, Anders Schinkel, Doret de Ruyter

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In this paper we defend the idea that dyadic gratitude — i.e. gratitude in absence of a benefactor — is a coherent concept. Some authors claim that ‘gratitude’ is by definition a triadic concept involving a beneficiary who is grateful for a benefit to a benefactor. These authors state that people who use the term gratitude in absence of a benefactor do so inappropriately, e.g. by using it as an interchangeable term for ‘appreciation’ or ‘being glad’. We believe that the conceptual analyses which underlie such statements are too strongly focused on language and pay insufficient attention to the lived experience of gratitude. Thus, we have conducted a phenomenological analysis of several experiences in which people report feeling gratitude in absence of a benefactor. Informed by our phenomenological findings, we argue that dyadic gratitude is a coherent concept that shares certain core experiential elements with triadic gratitude. Gratitude is an appreciative response that construes its object as a gratuitous good and as a (metaphorical) gift; it is characterised by a receptive-appreciative attitude, an awareness that we are in some sense dependent on something other than ourselves, and a motivational impetus to promote, celebrate and/or radiate goodness. Finally, we argue that dyadic gratitude is a useful concept because it enables us to think and communicate effectively about a set of experiences. Moreover, it is also a scientifically and philosophically relevant concept, since it seems to be associated with various positive psychosocial effects and might even be developed as a virtuous disposition.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Value Inquiry
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Aug 2023

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