Benefactor intention, perceived helpfulness, and personal responsibility influence gratitude and indebtedness

Yulan Li1, Li Luo2, Jin Fu3
1School of Education Science, Guangxi Teachers Education University
2College of Educational Science, Yulin Normal University
3Personnel Office, Guangxi Teachers Education University
Cite this article:  Li, Y., Luo, L., & Fu, J. (2019). Benefactor intention, perceived helpfulness, and personal responsibility influence gratitude and indebtedness. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 47, e7481.

Volume 47 Issue 2 | e7481 | Published: February 2019 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.7481

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We examined the effects of benefactor intention and beneficiaries’ perceived helpfulness and personal responsibility in the context of charitable giving on the gratitude and indebtedness of Chinese college students facing financial hardship. Results of the 2 studies we conducted using a scenario methodology indicated that personal responsibility moderated the effect of benefactor intention on gratitude via the mediator of perceived helpfulness. Specifically, when beneficiaries felt less responsible for receiving help, perceiving the benefactor’s intention as benevolent rather than utilitarian led them to perceive the donation as being more helpful, thereby evoking greater gratitude. In contrast, when beneficiaries felt more responsible for receiving the donation, their perceived helpfulness and gratitude did not vary, regardless of the nature of the benefactor’s intention. However, there was no significant moderating effect on indebtedness. Implications for higher education and charitable-giving practices are discussed.

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