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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Preliminary EASP Seedcorn Grant Report by Kunalan Manokara et al.

03.09.2021, by Tina Keil in grant report

Kunalan Manokara (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands); Jasmine Norman (University of Utah, USA); Joanna Lindstrom (Stockholm University, Sweden); Ana Leal (University of Groningen, Netherlands); Sophie Russell (University of Surrey, UK); Smadar Cohen-Chen (University of Sussex, UK)

From top left: Kunalan Manokara, Jasmine Norman, Joanna Lindstrom, Ana Leal, Sophie Russell and Smadar Cohen-Chen
From top left: Kunalan Manokara, Jasmine Norman, Joanna Lindstrom, Ana Leal, Sophie Russell and Smadar Cohen-Chen

A tale of two emotions: Why gratitude and pride may differentially shape helping towards immigrants

A growing body of work has shown that emotions play a key role in intergroup relations (Mackie et al., 2008). Most research has focused primarily on the role of negative emotions in exacerbating intergroup tensions, such as the influence of anger (Crisp et al., 2007) and fear (Cottrell et al., 2010) in driving anti-immigrant sentiment. In comparison, a much smaller literature has unpacked the role of positive emotions in alleviating intergroup tensions (Miller et al., 2004), even though positive emotional states have been shown to have a longer lasting impact on prosocial intentions and behaviours than negative emotional states (Kushlev et al., 2019; Liang et al., 2016; Erlandsson et al., 2018; Ford & Merchant, 2010). In an era of rising anti-immigrant sentiment (Harell et al., 2017), it becomes especially important to examine the role of positive emotions in enabling intergroup helping.

By drawing inspiration from an emerging line of research (Pittinsky & Montoya, 2016), in the current project we evaluate the roles of two specific positive emotions in shaping prosocial intentions towards immigrants: gratitude and pride. While the experience of gratitude should trigger communal orientations and hence lead to greater helping towards the outgroup (Emmons & McCullough, 2004), the experience of pride may instead facilitate social comparisons and thus hamper intergroup relations (Lewis, 2008). In two experiments, we empirically test emerging insights, that postulate not all pleasant feelings may have pleasant social consequences (Zhu et al., 2020; Gruber et al., 2011).

On the (differing) roles of Gratitude and Pride

Gratitude has been defined as a positive moral emotion that people experience when they receive benefits or gestures of support from others (Bartlett & De Steno, 2006). A key pillar of gratitude is an appreciation of others, that stems from feeling thankful for all that one has attained in life (Watkins et al., 2009). Gratitude is hence thought of as a socially engaging and other-focused emotion (Kitayama et al., 2006), and given that gratitude expressions are built on norms of reciprocity (Algoe, cite), experiencing and communicating gratitude should in theory bring people closer together (App et al., 2011). From an evolutionary standpoint, feelings of gratitude hence trigger an affiliative motive, prompting individuals to develop and strengthen their connections with others (Hauser, Preston, & Stansfield, 2014).

In contrast, pride is defined as a positive emotional experience which arises in response to mastery or success (Lazarus, 1991). The experience of pride draws attention to one’s achievements, that are often based on social comparisons (Cheng et al., 2010). Pride is hence theorised to be a socially disengaging and self-focused emotion (Kitayama et al., 1995), and because pride expressions are often perceived to be dominance signals (Shariff & Tracy, 2009), feeling and displaying pride may draw people away from one another by promoting an inward-centric orientation (Simon-Thomas et al., 2012). Based on evolutionary theorising, pride is an agency emotion that is driven by dominance motives, which draws attention towards the self rather than others (Sauter, 2017).

When viewed in concert, theorising around gratitude and pride paint a picture of two contradicting emotions: while other-oriented gratitude should encourage prosocial inclinations, self-focused pride may instead hinder helping intentions. Indeed, empirical research has clearly shown that gratitude motivates individuals to help strangers (Bartlett & De Steno, 2006), donate to charities (Paramita, Septianto, & Tjiptono, 2020), and be more forgiving towards others who have harmed them (McCullough, Emmons & Tsang, 2002). Contrarily, the relationship between pride and prosocial tendencies remains inconclusive to date (see Ashton-James & Tracy, 2012, but also Wubben et al., 2012).

The Present Research

We hence empirically test the degree to which specific positive emotions have an effect in shaping intergroup helping. In two experiments, we evaluate whether inducing group-based emotions could have causal consequences for helping immigrants. In Study 1, we initially we postulated that feeling thankful from gratitude should lead to greater aid for immigrants, as compared to feeling accomplished from pride. In addition, we explored the underlying rationale for why these ‘feel good’ emotions may have differential effects for intergroup relations: the extent to which an emotion shifts ones’ cognitive focus away from self-related concepts, and towards the welfare of others.

In lieu of the COVID-19 situation, both experiments were conducted wholly online, and responses were obtained through a service provider: Prolific. We recruited participants from a society where anti-immigrant sentiment has risen – the U.S. (Major et al., 2018) – and only included respondents who self-identify as part of the majority group (White U.S. Nationals). In keeping with open science practices, both experiments were pre-registered. Sample sizes were calculated based on a-priori power analyses, where small effects of emotion were expected on outcome measures.

Experiment 1: Differential effects for Gratitude and Pride?

450 participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions, where a specific concept was made salient using an established recollection and listing task (for similar methods, see Bartlett & DeSteno, 2006; Tracy & Robins, 2007), worded to elicit group-based emotions (e.g., as an American, think about…”). The gratitude condition was centred around thankfulness, the pride condition focused attention on accomplishments, and the control condition made people think about everyday routines in their life.

Immediately after the recollection task, we included a manipulation check to measure self-reported emotional experience (e.g., how proud / grateful do you feel). Thereafter, participants were presented with items that measured connectedness with immigrant groups (adapted from McFarland et al., 2013), our theorised mechanism.

Outgroup helping was measured with items targeted specifically at perceptions towards immigrants. By drawing inspiration from existing scales (Wright & Tropp, 2002), we included items that reflected prosocial behavioural intentions towards immigrants (e.g., donating time and money), and support for collective action that aids immigrants (e.g., signing a petition and advocating for policy level changes). Our outcome variable hence tapped into both proximal and systemic aid. Figure 1 provides an overview of our procedure.


Contrary to our expectations, we found that group-based pride (relative to group-based gratitude and a neutral control) led to greater support for majority integration policies and helping intentions towards immigrants. This effect was statistically mediated by connectedness with migrant groups. However, we also found that our group-based emotion induction procedures elicited mixed emotions – such that even in the pride condition, participants reported experiencing gratitude.

Experiment 2: Disentangling Gratitude from Pride

In Experiment 2, we aimed to tease apart the unique effects of gratitude and pride in predicting helping intentions towards immigrants (for both direct helping and support for policies). To this end, we refined our experiment materials (e.g., the interventions applied to regulate participants’ emotions) and added a mixed-emotion condition to our design.

704 participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: only pride induced, only gratitude induced, both pride and gratitude induced, control condition where no mention of emotion was made. We expected the mixed-emotion condition, where both group-based pride and gratitude were induced, to be most efficacious in shaping helping towards immigrants. Moreover, we expected to replicate our mediation effects from Experiment 1, where connectedness to immigrant groups would account for why feeling good leads to doing good.

Data collection has been completed, and we are in the process of analysing this dataset (as per stated in the original project timeline, attached below). In combination with Experiment 1, we expect our findings to shed light on the role of specific positive emotions in predicting helping intentions towards immigrant groups. Furthermore, we highlight the cognitive mechanisms that potentially underpin these observed effects.

Interim Conclusions and Acknowledgments

Researchers have begun to systematically evaluate the roles of specific positive emotions in spurring prosocial attitudes and behaviours (Moeschberger, et al., 2005; Halperin & Gross, 2011; Lai et al., 2014; Oliver at al., 2015; Oliver at al., 2015). Building upon this emerging evidence, we address three key considerations this growing literature has yet to satisfactorily answer. First, we examine whether effects found at the interpersonal level would directly translate to the intergroup level. Based on our interim findings, pride (rather than gratitude) was found to be a more cogent predictor of helping towards immigrants.

Second, even when examined at the intergroup level, positive emotions are often studied in silos. It remains a meaningful endeavour to integrate these scattered findings within a unified framework (e.g., Stellar et al., 2017), and empirically compare between distinct positive emotions. We speak to this point in our work, where we attempt to disentangle between multiple positive emotions in a methodical manner, that involves the elicitation of mixed-emotions where necessary.

Third, moving beyond mapping out main effects of emotions on outcomes, we empirically examine the mechanisms that potentially drive these relationships. We here point to the role of connectedness, as a bridge that allows positive emotion to translate into helping intentions. It is our hope that such findings would not only contribute to theory building in affective science (Keltner, 2019) and intergroup relations (Mackie et al., 2016), but also provide applied insights for the amelioration of anti-immigrant sentiments in a globalised world.

In closing, we would like to take this opportunity to thank the European Association of Social Psychology (EASP). Their generous funding has allowed us to pursue this project, which is expected to lead to a peer-reviewed publication and at least one conference presentation. Consistent with the core values of EASP, that include scientific integrity and access, a preprint of our paper will be made publicly available upon submission to a journal, together with all experiment materials, anonymised datasets, and analytic code.


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