The roles of obligation and gratitude in explaining the effect of favors on compliance

Ryan Goei, Franklin J. Boster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Several studies suggest that providing a favor to a target before making a direct request for compliance is more effective than making a direct request alone. The most widely accepted explanation for this effect is that receiving favors causes beneficiaries to feel obligated to repay. Another potential explanation is that beneficiaries comply out of gratitude to the benefactor. Past conceptualizations frequently confound obligation and gratitude and no research tests these alternative explanations. We advance the study of reciprocal behavior by making conceptual distinctions between obligation and gratitude, and testing these two presumed mediating states in two experiments. Results demonstrate that obligation and gratitude can be empirically distinguished, supporting the gratitude explanation, but not the obligation explanation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)284-300
Number of pages17
JournalCommunication Monographs
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • Compliance
  • Favors
  • Gratitude
  • Obligation
  • Reciprocity


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