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When Concern for You and for Me are in Conflict: Felt Gratitude and Escalation Bias in Relational Dilemmas
Keywords: gratitude, escalation bias, relational dilemma, interpersonal negotiations
Abstract: Despite the documented socio-relational benefits of gratitude, this emotion can be a liability in certain interpersonal encounters. We examine whether experiencing gratitude in a relational dilemma, wherein individual relational concern and personal concern are in conflict with one another, will lead to escalation bias. Across four experiments (N = 815), we find that, in a relational dilemma, when feeling grateful (vs. neutral) toward a friend, individuals exhibit escalation bias because their high relational concern precedes and trumps their personal concern. This identified psychological mechanism is robust when we control for a range of dispositional, relational, motivational, emotional, and situational factors. The implications for the study of gratitude, escalation bias and interpersonal negotiations are discussed.