What is Gratitude?

Gratitude is an expression of thanks and appreciation. Those with gratitude show the readiness to show appreciation and return the kindness. Gratitude is contagious. For instance when receiving a gift, the temporal and frontal lobe of the brain associated with emotion and decision making light up and cause an urge to return the favor. This is considered the Norm of Reciprocity, a concept coined by the evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers.

The Reciprocity Principle

The Reciprocity Principle is a fundamental law of psychology. According to the sociologist Alvin Gouldner, a professor of sociology at Washington University, this norm is nearly universal, and only a few members of society—the very young, the sick, or the old—are exempt from it. Hardwired in our brains, in almost all social situations, we have a desire to pay back what we have received. Within the psychology of selling, reciprocity matters.

The Coca-Cola Experiment


The coca cola experiment is one of the most well-known studies about reciprocity. It was published in 1971 by Dennis Regan, a professor at Cornell University. The results of the study prove the power of giving returns. In this experiment, Regan’s assistant, “Joe,” would leave at the room at the same time for each subject, but in some cases, he returned with a can of Coke. At the end of the experiment, Joe asked the subjects if they would buy a raffle ticket from him to help him win a prize. In the condition where Joe did not give the participant a soda, the degree to which they liked Joe influenced how many raffle tickets they would buy. But, in the condition where Joe did give a soda, participants bought twice as many tickets as the no soda condition, regardless of the degree to which they liked Joe. So not only did people that liked Joe buy twice as many tickets, the value of the tickets they bought surpassed the value of the soda. In support of the Reciprocity Principle, it’s evident throughout this experiment that it pays to give.

Reciprocity and Persuasion

Reciprocity has a powerful influence on human behavior. Many techniques of persuasion use reciprocity as their secret weapon. The “that’s not all” technique is a sales technique in which the persuader makes an offer and then adds an extra hook to make the proposal look more appealing before the target person can make a decision. Suddenly, the offer appears like a fantastic deal and makes the seller appear extremely generous. In return, the buyer feels the need to spend even more or at least as much as you have gifted to them.

Written by: Lauren Reimer, Marketing at Thnks

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