Most of us were taught that saying “thank you” is simply the polite thing to do. But recent research in social psychology suggests that saying “thank you” goes beyond good manners – it also serves to build and maintain social relationships.
This premise has its base in the find-remind-and-bind theory of gratitude, proposed by US psychologist Sara Algoe, from the University of North Carolina. According to this theory, gratitude prompts:
- the initiation of new social relationships (a find function)
- orients people to existing social relationships (a remind function)
- promotes maintenance of and investment in these relationships (a bind function)
As with all emotions, gratitude can be both felt and expressed. The evidence on how feeling gratitude functions to find, remind, and bind in social relationships is robust. From promoting helping and trust to lowering aggression, feeling grateful gives rise to a wide range of outcomes that benefit both parties in a social relationship.
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