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Reminders Undermine Impressions of Genuine Gratitude
We propose that reminders can hurt. When people are reminded subtly (Studies 1a-2) or blatantly (Study 3) to express gratitude, the reminder is perceived to put social pressure on the potential thanker, making reminded thankers seem less genuine and less likable than spontaneous thankers. This is true from the perspective of both a third-party observer (Studies 1-3) and receiver of thanks (Study 3). We find that receivers of gratitude expressions allocated a larger proportion of bonus money to a spontaneous thanker compared to a reminded thanker (Study 4). We also find that to overcome the decrement in their perceived genuineness, reminded thankers must engage in costly signaling by thanking more elaborately (Study 5), and reminded thankers spontaneously do this (Study 6). Overall, reminding people to behave prosocially may undermine the actor’s perceived genuineness, leading to material consequences and raising the bar for what is required to signal sincerity.