The Difference between Gratitude and Indebtedness
Shueh-Chin Ting

Previous research has yet to explore in detail what kind of emotions, gratitude or indebtedness, the beneficiary feels after receiving help. The differences between the two emotions need to be clarified. Based on literature reviews and our arguments, the present research indicated that gratitude and indebtedness are indeed two different concepts. Though both gratitude and indebtedness are emotions generated from helping others, the beneficiary’s gratitude feelings can be easily produced when the benefactor has no purposes, has low expectations of returns, is selfless, sincere, and voluntary. Conversely, indebtedness may be produced. This kind of indebtedness influenced by external factors (benefactor factor) we termed external indebtedness. Those with gratitude tend to feel more positive emotions. On the contrary, those with external indebtedness tend to feel more negative emotions. Furthermore, we also found the other kind of indebtedness we termed internal indebtedness. Internal indebtedness occurs when the beneficiary wants to return the favor but is unable to return it. So, internal indebtedness may follow gratitude.

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