Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marketing (Business Administration)

Document Type



Although gratitude has been termed the second most frequently experienced positive emotion (Fredrickson 2009), marketing research has only recently started to explore the role of gratitude in customer relationships. As a result, many deficiencies exist in the literature, including the distinction between this emotion and indebtedness. Further and related to this issue, little is known about gratitude’s conceptualization, antecedents and consequences. This dissertation was conducted to address these deficiencies and extend knowledge concerning customer felt gratitude and indebtedness. Essay one was conducted to offer in-depth insight to the conceptualizations of customer felt gratitude and indebtedness. A hermeneutical interpretive approach was used to interpret the data. The results revealed themes pertinent to understanding the unique conceptualizations, antecedents and consequences of gratitude and indebtedness. Gratitude and indebtedness were found to differ across four dimensions, including affect, behavior, cognition and duration. Different antecedents and consequences also emerged for these two emotions, as well. Essay two was conducted to develop comprehensive measures of gratitude and indebtedness and to use these measures to identify the causes of each construct. The results revealed that gratitude is a multidimensional construct consisting of affect, behavior and cognitive dimensions. Indebtedness is also a multidimensional construct consisting of affect, behavior and cognitive dimensions, but also includes a duration dimension. Moreover, four studies led to the creation of a fifteen item measure of gratitude and a nineteen item measure of indebtedness. In addition, different antecedents of gratitude and indebtedness were identified. Essay three was conducted to further our understanding of the consequences of gratitude and indebtedness and to position these concepts into a nomological model of relationship marketing through applying the threat to self-esteem theory. The results indicated that gratitude and indebtedness have different effects on customer loyalty, positive word-of-mouth and preferential treatment. This research offers theoretical contributions by demonstrating the difference between gratitude and indebtedness, offering comprehensive scales of each emotion and applying the threat to self-esteem theory to marketing constructs. This research offers managers an understanding of the employee behaviors that generate these emotions and demonstrates how customer gratitude produces positive and indebtedness produces negative effects on valuable outcomes.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Folse, Judith Anne Garretson



Included in

Marketing Commons