Think You Always Say Thank You? Oh, Please 你可以再多說些謝謝
It is a staple of language classes and parental lectures: Say thank you.
But as it turns out, human beings say thank you far less often than we might think.
A new study of everyday language use around the world has found that, in informal settings, people almost always complied with requests for an object, service or help. For their efforts, they received expressions of gratitude only rarely — in about 1 of 20 occasions.
This might seem like a damning verdict on human nature, or evidence of a global pandemic of rudeness. But to the researchers, it is good news.
“Our basic stance is one of reciprocity,” said Nick Enfield, a linguist at the University of Sydney, who led the study. “When we ask people to help us, the default is that they will.”
The study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, is part of a broader effort to look at language as a tool grounded primarily in social interaction, rather than as a vehicle for the expression of ideas.
In the new paper, called “Universals and Cultural Diversity in the Expression of Gratitude,” a team looked at interactions in eight languages on five continents: English, Italian, Polish, Russian, Lao, Cha’palaa (spoken in Ecuador), Murrinhpatha (an aboriginal language in Australia) and Siwu (spoken in Ghana).
The researchers did not examine institutional or business settings, where expressions of thanks might be more common, but focused on casual daily interactions among people who knew one another, as captured by unattended cameras set up in homes or community areas. Any verbal expressions of gratitude (including, in English, phrases like “good job” or “sweet”) were counted as expressions of thanks.
People signal the need for assistance frequently: about every minute and a half, according to the researchers’ samples. And they usually get it: Requests were complied with about seven times more often than not.
But those who cooperated were very rarely thanked, nor did they seem to expect it. When no thanks were given, the omission was very rarely commented on.