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2019 International Association for Conflict Management Conference

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When Concern for You and for Me are in Conflict: Felt Gratitude and Escalation Bias in Relational Dilemmas

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.

Dejun Tony Kong
University of Houston
United States

Liuba Belkin
Lehigh University
United States


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