The purpose of this study was to test the effect of verbal expression of gratitude on relationship satisfaction. It was hypothesized that participants who expressed gratitude in a close relationship would have greater relationship satisfaction than those who did not express gratitude. At the end of the study, the experimental condition had a higher relationship satisfaction after gratitude expression, than the control condition after expression.
For the experimental condition, relationship satisfaction after gratitude expression was significantly higher than before expression, while for the control, relationship satisfaction after expression was not significantly different than before expression. Thus, the hypothesis was supported. The current study indicates broader implications of gratitude expression that lie beyond relationship satisfaction. Since displays of appreciation suggest an increase in relationship satisfaction, gratitude can lead to longer lasting relationships between partners, and thus produce an overall decrease in divorce rates in society.
Gratitude expression can also serve as positive reinforcement, with appreciation promoting re-occurrences of certain desirable acts. Specifically, following gratitude expression, recipients may be more likely to repeat a favor, or go along with an unfavorable idea a second time, and this can apply to business environments. Showing appreciation to buyers after purchases, in form of gift certificates or discounts, may strengthen bonds between customers and marketers, and encourage buyers to make future purchases. In fact, Carey et al. reported a 2% increase in store sales after customers were thanked over the phone for their purchases (1976).
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