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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Travel Grant Report

05.09.2016, by Sibylle Classen in grant report

Mariko Visserman (VU Amsterdam) – Visit Emily Impett (University of Toronto Mississauga)

With the help of the EASP postgraduate travel grant I was able to visit Dr. Emily Impett and her Relationships and Well-Being (RAW) lab at the University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada, between April and August 2016. By combining forces, we could test our research questions in both Dutch and North American samples of romantic couples, and therefore replicate and generalize our findings across countries.

First, using two daily diary studies and a laboratory session in which couples conversed about major partner’s sacrifice, we investigated the role of perceived partner motives in eliciting gratitude when a partner has sacrificed. Going beyond previous research looking into the role of approach and avoidance motives for sacrifice (e.g., Impett, Gordon, Kogan, Oveis, Gable, & Keltner, 2010), We distinguished perceptions of partner’s motives to be focused on the partner (i.e., to make them happy), relationship (i.e., to benefit the relationship), or the self (i.e., to feel as a good partner). As predicted, we found that only the partner-focused motives promoted gratitude, in both the diary studies (i.e., on days when perceiving these motives more so than individuals typically did, they experienced higher levels of gratitude that day), and the laboratory conversation (i.e., individuals reported higher levels of gratitude the more they perceived partner-focused motives, right after the conversation). Furthermore, this association was partly explained by people feeling more supported by their partner when perceiving their partner wanting to benefit their well-being specifically. Self-focused motives, and even relationship-focused motives, did not promote gratitude in any of the studies. In line with literature on the determinants of gratitude (see Tesser, Gatewood, & Driver, 1968; Tsang, 2006), these results indicate that individuals need to infer highly altruistic intentions to underlie a partner’s decision to sacrifice, as they need to perceive that their partner genuinely cares about them, and intends to benefit their well-being specifically. Thus, gratitude for one’s partner seems to be evoked rather selectively. The present findings provide insight into these boundary conditions, and therefore helps us understand how people come to feel grateful within romantic relationships, which is importantly linked to individual and relationship well-being (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Gordon, Impett, Kogan, Oveis, & Keltner, 2012). This work is now under review for publication.

In a next project, we took a step back and examined how accurate people actually are in detecting their partner’s sacrifices, and how this affects how grateful they feel towards their partner. Using a ‘quasi-signal detection analyses’ approach (e.g., see Gable & Reis, 2003) I have categorized both partner’s reports into individuals accurately perceiving their partner’s sacrifice (both report that the partner has sacrificed, called a “hit”), missing a partner’s sacrifice (the partner reports to have sacrificed but the participant did not report it, called a “miss”), falsely perceiving a partner’s sacrifice (the participant reports a partner to have sacrificed but the partner does not, called a “false alarm”), or correctly rejecting the partner to have sacrificed (both report “no”, called “correct reject”). This analysis technique allows us to look at frequencies of the categories (to gain general insight into the prevalence of hits, miss, false alarm, and correct reject), and when using these categories as predictors (dummy coded), with the correct reject as the reference category, we can examine the unique effects of either hits, misses, and false alarms on outcomes such as gratitude. This project is still ongoing, and I am very happy to be able to continue our collaboration in the future.

Besides the specific research output, it has been a very valuable experience for me to visit Dr. Impett’s lab (see, as I could learn so much from their theoretical, methodological, and statistical expertise in relationship research. For example, I have attended sessions on using Hierarchical Linear Modeling to analyze longitudinal multilevel data, and determining statistical power in such data. Also, the researchers in this group are extremely well skilled in presenting their research, and I was happy to participate in a presentation practice meeting that resulted in very constructive and valuable feedback. And, being part of this research group importantly helped me to orient myself towards a future in academia. Furthermore, during my stay I was also able to present our findings on perceived partner sacrifice motives and gratitude as a talk at the bi-annual meeting of the International Association for Relationship Research (IARR); and attending this conference provided me with valuable opportunities to network with relationship researchers from all over the world.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Dr. Impett for having me visit her lab and for her great supervision at this time (and before and beyond), Dr. Muise who has been very helpful and inspiring in our new lines of research, the RAWlab for taking me in as “one of the team”, and my supervisors Dr. Francesca Righetti and Prof. Paul van Lange from the VU Amsterdam, who have stimulated me to go on this adventure and have been very supporting all the way. Last but not least, I would like to express much gratitude to the EASP for making this valuable experience possible!


  • Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social psychology, 84, 377-389.
  • Gable, S. L., Reis, H. T., & Downey, G. (2003). He said, she said a quasi-signal detection analysis of daily interactions between close relationship partners. Psychological Science, 14, 100-105.
  • Gordon, A. M., Impett, E. A., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (2012). To have and to hold: Gratitude promotes relationship maintenance in intimate bonds. Journal of Personality and Social psychology, 103, 257-274.
  • Impett, E. A., Gere, J., Kogan, A., Gordon, A. M., & Keltner, D. (2014). How sacrifice impacts the giver and the recipient: Insights from approach‐avoidance motivational theory. Journal of Personality, 82, 390-401.
  • Impett, E. A., Gordon, A. M., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., Gable, S. L., & Keltner, D. (2010). Moving toward more perfect unions: Daily and long-term consequences of approach and avoidance goals in romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social psychology, 99, 948-963.
  • Tesser, A., Gatewood, R., & Driver, M. (1968). Some determinants of gratitude. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 233-236.
  • Tsang, J. A. (2006). The effects of helper intention on gratitude and indebtedness. Motivation and Emotion, 30, 198-204.