The Gratitude of Disadvantaged Groups: A Missing Piece in Research on Intergroup Power Relations

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Title: The Gratitude of Disadvantaged Groups: A Missing Piece in Research on Intergroup Power Relations
Authors: Ksenofontov, Inna
ORCID of the author: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3695-4725
Thesis advisor: Prof. Dr. Julia C. Becker
Thesis referee: Prof. Dr. Frank Asbrock
Abstract: While a large body of social psychological literature is devoted to studying helping behavior between social groups, the study of gratitude as the most common reaction to help is virtually absent from the intergroup literature. However, gratitude has been a constant theme in the history of intergroup relations, particularly in the history of the systematic oppression of socially disadvantaged groups by socially advantaged groups. The “grateful slave” trope that justified the oppression of Black people in North America or modern narratives of “ungrateful” immigrants in Europe exemplify advantaged groups’ attempts to evoke gratitude among disadvantaged groups to secure their conformity and loyalty, or to receive recognition for apparent benefits they provide - even for equal rights. Not only do these examples question the undisputed positivity of gratitude, but they also suggest that disadvantaged groups’ gratitude expressions might be involved in the regulation of power relations between social groups. The present research introduces the empirical study of gratitude to intergroup relations. The specific aim of this dissertation was to examine how disadvantaged groups’ gratitude expressions in response to advantaged group help might function to promote social inequality. At the same time, the present work addresses gaps within previous research that studies how advantaged group help itself affects status relations. Based on a synthesis of the literature on gratitude and intergroup relations, across three manuscripts, it was examined whether disadvantaged groups’ gratitude expressions, alongside advantaged group help, affect intergroup power relations through a) influencing psychological pathways to social change, b) regulating group-specific needs, and c) enacting and transmitting paternalistic ideology. In Manuscript #1, the novel idea of a potentially harmful side of gratitude expressions for low power groups was tested. Using correlational, experimental, between- and within-subjects designs, the results from five studies showed across different contexts that when low-power group members expressed gratitude for a high-power group member’s help, they were less willing and less likely to protest against the high power group members’ previous transgression. Forgiveness and system justification mediated this pacifying effect, providing insights into the underlying psychological process. In Manuscript #2, results from two correlational studies demonstrate that ideological beliefs can guide advantaged groups to provide help that differs in its potential to bring about social change. Paternalistic beliefs parsimoniously distinguished whether members of the receiving society provide dependency- or autonomy-oriented help to refugees. Both groups indicated that autonomy-oriented help has a higher potential for social change than dependency-oriented help. Reflecting group-specific needs and convictions that underlie paternalism, receiving society members’ concern for a positive moral image of the ingroup was positively related to their willingness to provide dependency-oriented help, and beliefs about refugees’ competence were positively related to their willingness to provide autonomy-oriented help. In Manuscript #3, it was investigated why advantaged group members react negatively to refugee protests and demand more gratitude from the refugees. The results of two experiments showed that refugees’ protest decreased perceptions among receiving society members that they are socially valued, but expressions of gratitude from refugees increased perceptions of being socially valued. Refugees were perceived as more agentic when they protested, however, not when they expressed gratitude. Perceptions of social worth determined receiving society members’ attitudes toward refugees on other dimensions. In a third experiment, the underpinnings of gratitude demands were examined. The results of a third experiment showed that receiving society members, who endorsed paternalistic beliefs, labeled protesting refugees as ungrateful and demanded gratitude from them. In sum, besides theoretically and empirically advancing several areas of intergroup relations (e.g., intergroup helping, intergroup contact, intergroup reconciliation, and paternalism), the present research suggests that gratitude expressions, which occur in intergroup contexts that are characterized by social injustice, can have negative consequences for disadvantaged groups. Implications for theory and social change are discussed, and promising avenues for future research are suggested.
URL: https://repositorium.ub.uni-osnabrueck.de/handle/urn:nbn:de:gbv:700-202007133285
Subject Keywords: Gratitude; Intergroup helping; Social change; Group needs; Paternalism
Issue Date: 13-Jul-2020
License name: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Germany
License url: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/de/
Type of publication: Dissertation oder Habilitation [doctoralThesis]
Appears in Collections:FB08 - E-Dissertationen

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