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Benefits of forgiveness have been well documented, but past research has not directly addressed the crucial question of whether forgiveness deters or invites repeat transgressions. Our research indicates that expressing forgiveness typically discourages future offenses. In Study 1, participants playing a form of the prisoner’s dilemma game were more likely to repeat their transgressions against unforgiving victims than forgiving victims, especially when victims had no chance to retaliate. In response to a hypothetical scenario presented in Study 2, participants reported that they would be less likely to risk offending someone for a second time if that person had forgiven their first offense. In Study 3, participants’ autobiographical recollections of their prior transgressions revealed that receiving forgiveness predicted higher repentance motivation.
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Interpersonal consequences of forgiveness: Does forgiveness deter
or encourage repeat offenses?
Harry M. Wallace
, Julie Juola Exline
, Roy F. Baumeister
Department of Psychology, Trinity University, One Trinity place, San Antonio, TX 78212, USA
Case Western Reserve University
Florida State University
Received 16 August 2005; revised 22 January 2007
Available online 12 March 2007
Communicated by Spencer
Benefits of forgiveness have been well documented, but past research has not directly addressed the crucial question of whether for-
giveness deters or invites repeat transgressions. Our research indicates that expressing forgiveness typically discourages future offenses. In
Study 1, participants playing a form of the prisoner’s dilemma game were more likely to repeat their transgressions against unforgiving
victims than forgiving victims, especially when victims had no chance to retaliate. In response to a hypothetical scenario presented in
Study 2, participants reported that they would be less likely to risk offending someone for a second time if that person had forgiven their
first offense. In Study 3, participants’ autobiographical recollections of their prior transgressions revealed that receiving forgiveness pre-
dicted higher repentance motivation.
Published by Elsevier Inc.
Keywords: Forgiveness; Perpetrator; Recidivism; Repeat offense; Repentance; Transgression; Grudge
In recent years, the topic of forgiveness has attracted
increased attention from psychology researchers (see Wor-
thington, 2005, for a review). The implications of the rap-
idly accumulating evidence related to forgiveness are
strikingly consistent: forgiveness seems adaptive from both
intrapsychic and interpersonal perspectives. But before for-
giveness scholars shift all of their focus toward finding
ways to promote forgiveness, soft spots in our understand-
ing of the consequences of forgiveness need to be
addressed. Our research sought answers to an underex-
plored question identified as ‘‘critical’’ by forgiveness
scholars (Exline, Worthington, Hill, & McCullough,
2003; Pargament, McCullough, & Thoresen, 2000): Does
forgiveness discourage or invite future transgressions?
Forgiveness entails a willingness to let go of resentment
or desires for revenge against offenders (see Enright, Freed-
man, & Rique, 1998 for a thoughtful discussion of what
forgiveness is and is not). But complete forgiveness also
encompasses behavior, in the sense that people communi-
cate their forgiveness explicitly or implicitly to their trans-
gressors (Enright et al., 1998; Exline & Baumeister, 2000).
Many studies suggest that forgiveness yields psychological
and physical benefits for victims, whereas grudge-holding
does not. For example, forgiveness helps victims recover
from emotional pain (Coyle & Enright, 1998; McCullough,
Worthington, & Rachal, 1997), increases positive affect and
self-esteem (e.g., Al-Mabuk, Enright, & Cardis, 1995; Kar-
remans, Van Lange, Ouwerkerk, & Kluwer, 2003), and
reduces anger, grief, anxiety, and depression (e.g., Coyle
& Enright, 1997; Freedman & Enright, 1996). Forgiveness
0022-1031/$ - see front matter Published by Elsevier Inc.
The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the Templeton
Foundation for this research. We thank the John Templeton Foundation
for their financial support of parts of this research. We also thank Dolores
´n and her University of Florida Attitudes Group for their data
collection assistance.
Corresponding author. Fax: +1 210 999 8386.
E-mail address: (H.M. Wallace).
Available online at
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 44 (2008) 453–460
Author's personal copy
may even benefit the forgiver’s physical health (e.g., Witv-
liet, Ludwig, & Vander Laan, 2001; Worthington &
Scherer, 2004).
Research has also shown that communicating forgive-
ness can be beneficial from an interpersonal standpoint.
Expressions of forgiveness serve to repair and enhance rela-
tionships, as demonstrated by research linking willingness
to forgive with successful marriages (e.g., Gordon & Bau-
com, 1998) and adaptive family functioning (e.g., Sells &
Hargrave, 1998). Of course, in the wake of a transgression,
victims are likely to care about more than relationship
maintenance. They should also be concerned about avoid-
ing being hurt again in the future. This raises questions
about how transgressors behave in response to forgiveness.
Research to date has offered little more than speculation
about the answers to this important question. Our research
tested two competing hypotheses regarding transgressors’
responses to forgiveness. One hypothesis is that receiving
forgiveness makes transgressors less likely to repeat their
transgressions; the alternative hypothesis is that forgive-
ness makes repeat transgressions more likely.
Forgiveness may deter repeat offenses
There are two key reasons why people might be more
inclined to avoid repeating their transgressions against
those who forgave the initial transgression. First, even
though forgiveness and reconciliation are distinct con-
structs (e.g., Holeman, 2004; Worthington & Drinkard,
2000), they are closely related. Victims’ expressions of for-
giveness often convey willingness to maintain or build posi-
tive relationships with their offenders. Forgiveness implies
the erasure of the interpersonal debt owed by the transgres-
sor, which may help the transgressor feel comfortable
resuming normal interactions with the forgiving victim.
Hence, to the extent that transgressors value their relation-
ships with the people they hurt, forgiveness may give trans-
gressors hope that they can maintain their relationships by
avoiding additional transgressions. In contrast, transgres-
sors who have not received forgiveness may view their rela-
tionship with the victim as irreparably damaged and may
therefore have little incentive to treat the victim better in
the future.
A second reason why forgiveness may discourage repeat
offenses is the social norm of reciprocity. Conveying for-
giveness is fundamentally a goodwill gesture (Exline &
Baumeister, 2000) and past research has shown that people
appreciate and seek to reciprocate acts of goodwill (e.g.,
Cialdini, 1993; Komorita, Hilty, & Parks, 1991). From a
reciprocation standpoint alone, repeat offenses seem far
more likely in response to victim grudge-holding, which
obviously is not a goodwill gesture and could be perceived
as a hostile response by the transgressor.
Forgiveness may encourage repeat offenses
Although there are strong reasons to expect that
expressing forgiveness would benefit the victim, it is also
conceivable that communicating forgiveness could bring
undesirable consequences. One potential problem with
expressing forgiveness is that the transgressor may not
appreciate being forgiven. Although Hodgins, Liebeskind,
and Schwartz (1996) found that offenders feel better after
being forgiven, other evidence suggests that receiving for-
giveness does not always engender positive feelings toward
the person expressing forgiveness. For example, Kelln and
Ellard (1999) found that offenders liked their victims less
when they expressed forgiveness, apparently because
offenders perceived that receiving forgiveness increased
the perceived debt owed to the victim. In some cases, trans-
gressors may actually take offense at their victims’ expres-
sions of forgiveness. People who receive forgiveness for
actions they consider harmless may resent or feel humili-
ated by the implication that their behavior was offensive
(Exline & Baumeister, 2000)—a plausible scenario given
that victims perceive transgressions more negatively than
perpetrators (Baumeister, Stillwell, & Wotman, 1990; Still-
well & Baumeister, 1997; Zechmeister & Romero, 2002).
Such feelings might induce retaliation rather than gratitude
from recipients of forgiveness (e.g., Brown, 1968).
It may spell trouble for the victim if the transgressor is
unhappy about being forgiven, but it could also be a prob-
lem for the victim if the transgressor feels good about being
forgiven. Expressing forgiveness could cause problems for
victims if transgressors get the false impression that their
victims were relatively unharmed by the offense (e.g., Bau-
meister, Exline, & Sommer, 1998). If transgressors interpret
forgiveness as a sign that their forgiven behavior was rela-
tively inoffensive, they may not hesitate to repeat the
behavior in the future. Moreover, equating forgiveness
with condoning may reduce or eliminate transgressors’
guilt, which could reduce their motivation to atone for
their behavior (see Baumeister, Stillwell, & Heatherton,
1994; Leith & Baumeister, 1998 for evidence of how guilt
can help relationships).
Also, receiving forgiveness may
One surefire way to avoid being victimized twice is to terminate one’s
associations with the transgressor after the initial offense. Relative to
forgiveness, grudge holding is more likely to result in relationship
dissolution. In this limited sense, grudge-holding may deter repeat
transgressions more than forgiveness. However, people are often unable
to extricate themselves from undesirable relationships and even when
victims have the option of ending conflicted relationships, they may decide
to fix rather than avoid the conflict.
Although forgiveness could decrease offender guilt by minimizing the
perceived severity of the transgression, forgiveness might also increase
offenders’ guilt. True forgiveness involves canceling the interpersonal debt
owed to the forgiver by the transgressor. Ironically, transgressors
sometimes feel that they owe their victims more rather than less after
receiving forgiveness. As Kelln and Ellard (1999) noted, from an equity
theory standpoint, forgiveness increases the offender’s debt to the victim
because the offender must repay the goodwill of the victim in addition to
making amends for the offense.
454 H.M. Wallace et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 44 (2008) 453–460
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accelerate self-forgiveness, which may reduce concern
about restitution.
Holding a grudge may communicate that future offen-
sive behavior will not be tolerated and could trigger retal-
iation or retribution. For example, people who respond
to being offended with obvious, sustained anger should
be perceived by the offender as a more dangerous target
for future offenses than victims who hide their displeasure.
Victims who communicate forgiveness may be perceived as
easy marks because of their apparent willingness to absorb
abuse without retaliating (for evidence linking pacifism
with exploitation, see Deutsch, Epstein, Canavan, & Gum-
pert, 1967; Gruder & Duslak, 1973; Leng & Wheeler, 1979;
Shure, Meeker, & Hansford, 1965). Once forgiven, trans-
gressors may expect to be forgiven again and may exploit
this perceived weakness to maximum personal benefit.
Present research
In summary, whereas private feelings of forgiveness typ-
ically benefit the psychological and physical well-being of
forgivers, the interpersonal consequences of expressing for-
giveness may not always favor the forgiver. The present
three studies are the first to directly test the possibility that
forgiveness deters future offenses against the possibility
that forgiveness invites further mistreatment. The need
for such research has been recognized by forgiveness
researchers (e.g., Exline et al., 2003; Pargament et al.,
2000), but methodological challenges have undoubtedly
discouraged exploration. Most notably, taking an experi-
mental approach to systematically study how transgressors
behave toward forgiving and unforgiving individuals is dif-
ficult because the requisite transgression cannot be ethically
induced or simulated without sacrificing some ecological
validity. As McCullough (2000) observed, most studies
involving forgiveness have relied on self-report measures.
Our studies used three distinct methods involving both
behavioral and self-report measures to examine how for-
giving individuals are treated by the people they forgive.
Each of the methods has drawbacks, but the drawbacks
were not shared between studies. In Study 1, participants
were induced to commit a transgression and then had to
choose whether to repeat their transgression against forgiv-
ing or unforgiving victims. Participants were confronted
with a similar choice in Study 2, except in this case partic-
ipants reported what they would have done in response to a
hypothetical (but realistic) scenario. We used a naturalistic
approach in Study 3 by asking participants to recall their
repentance motivation in response to being forgiven (or
not forgiven) for a real-life transgression they committed.
Study 1
Study 1 cast the participant in the role of a transgressor
against two other people (ostensibly fellow participants).
One forgave the participant and the other did not. We then
required the participant to repeat his or her transgression
against one (and only one) of these two people. Using this
procedure, we examined whether people preferred to trans-
gress against someone who had forgiven them for a previ-
ous transgression or against someone who had not
conveyed forgiveness. Participants might reciprocate the
goodwill conveyed by forgiveness by treating the forgiving
person better than the unforgiving person—as long as no
threat of retaliation existed. However, when participants
had to consider the possibility of retaliation, we reasoned
that participants would be less willing to risk offending
the person who held a grudge.
Fifty-eight introductory psychology students partici-
pated in same-sex groups (three to six people per group)
for course credit. Data from eight participants who did
not follow instructions were excluded. The remaining sam-
ple included 38 female and 12 male participants.
Participants were told that they would be playing an
interaction game with other participants and that cash pay-
outs would be made based on the outcome. Players were
separated by partitions so they could not see each other
during the game. Participants were told that they would
not learn each other’s identities until the end of the game.
The procedure, a variation of the prisoner’s dilemma
game (PDG; Rapoport & Chammah, 1965), required play-
ers to choose between cooperative and competitive strate-
gies during each round of the game. Each player was
offered a ‘‘great’’ cash payout in a given round for compet-
ing against an opponent who chose to cooperate. A ‘‘good’’
payout was offered for cooperating with an opponent who
also chose to cooperate. A ‘‘poor’’ payout was offered for
competing with an opponent who also chose to compete.
No payout at all was offered for cooperating with an oppo-
nent who chose to compete. The experimenter explained
that the calculation of the per-round payout depended on
several factors, and that participants made approximately
$5.00 on average.
Participants were also told to write messages to their
opponents on comment cards during each round. Each
game lasted two rounds but each participant group was ran-
domly assigned to receive one of two different sets of instruc-
tions. Some participant groups were told that the game
would last two rounds, whereas other groups were told that
the game would last five rounds. Thus, only players in the 5-
round instruction condition believed that their Round 2
compete/cooperate decisions could invite retaliation.
To start the game, the experimenter gave each player a
folder containing cards for indicating compete/cooperate
decisions and a list of instructions. The contents of each
folder were identical. Each player was told that he or she
was ‘‘player A’’ and would be playing with ‘‘player B’’
and ‘‘player C.’’ The instructions informed each participant
H.M. Wallace et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 44 (2008) 453–460 455
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that he or she had been singled out to assist the experimenter
by competing with players B and C in Round 1 and with
either player B or player C in Round 2. Participants in the
5-round game condition were told that they could compete
or cooperate with whomever they chose in Round 3 through
5. The instructions stated that none of the other players had
received any strategy directives. Participants were asked to
not mention on the comment cards that they were acting
according to experimenter instructions.
After participants read the instructions and completed
the Round 1 compete/cooperate cards, the experimenter
collected the compete/cooperate cards and pretended to
organize them for distribution to their intended targets.
During this sorting process, the experimenter substituted
prefabricated cards indicating cooperative strategies. The
experimenter then handed each player comment cards
and the cards that indicated that players B and C had cho-
sen to cooperate. Thus, each participant believed that he or
she had received a ‘‘great’’ Round 1 payout at the expense
of players B and C, who received no payouts.
After participants completed the comment cards, the
experimenter collected the comments and again pretended
to sort them while substituting prefabricated cards. The
experimenter then distributed two comment cards (ostensi-
bly from players B and C) to each participant. The forgiv-
ing comment card message stated: ‘‘Ouch. OK, I forgive
you for competing against me, but let’s cooperate so we
can both get some money.’’ The unforgiving message sta-
ted: ‘‘What’s your problem?! You really screwed me.
Remember—we’ll both get more money if we cooperate.’’
After reading the comment cards, participants ended the
game by making their Round 2 compete/cooperate deci-
sions (after making their decisions, participants in the 5-
round condition were told their game had been shortened
due to time constraints). Finally, participants completed
a manipulation check questionnaire and then were
debriefed. All participants received $5.00.
The post-experiment manipulation check confirmed that
the comment card messages effectively conveyed forgive-
ness and unforgiveness. Using an 11-point (0–10) scale,
participants rated forgiving players as more forgiving
(M= 8.40, SD = 1.77) than unforgiving players
(M= 3.34, SD = 2.32), t(49) = 11.52, p< .001.
The main dependent measure was the forced-choice
Round 2 compete/cooperate decision. Overall, most partic-
ipants competed against the unforgiving player (36 of 50:
72%), v
(1, N= 50) = 9.68, p< .01. However, the number
of participants who chose to compete against the forgiver
differed according to the anticipated number of game
rounds (i.e., according to whether retaliation was possible),
(1, N= 50) = 4.28, p< .05. In the 2-round instruction
(no retaliation threat) condition, a strong majority of par-
ticipants competed against the unforgiving player (22 of 26:
85%), v
(1, N= 26) = 12.46, p< .001. In the 5-round
instruction (retaliation threat) condition, the number of
participants who competed against the unforgiving player
(14 of 24: 58%) did not differ significantly from the number
of participants who competed against the forgiving player,
(1, N= 24) = 0.67, ns. In summary, participants who
had to consider the possibility of retaliation were more
likely to cooperate with the nonforgiver than participants
who believed that no retaliation could occur—though for-
giveness elicited the majority of cooperative responses in
both experiment conditions.
The results of Study 1 imply that people would rather
transgress against unforgiving others than forgivers, espe-
cially if the offended others cannot retaliate. This outcome
suggests that people appreciate being forgiven and will
avoid jeopardizing this forgiveness. However, when the
possibility of retaliation exists, people may become more
willing to offend people who express forgiveness and less
willing to offend grudge-holders. This finding suggests that
forgiving persons are perceived as less likely to seek
revenge than persons who hold grudges.
One question that remained after Study 1 was whether
participants were more influenced by the forgiving or
unforgiving messages. Did participants reward forgiveness
or punish unforgiveness? One could argue that the results
primarily reflected hostile reactance in response to the
anger communicated by the unforgiving player (e.g., Leng
& Wheeler, 1979; Nezlek & Brehm, 1975). To clarify
whether participants were responding positively toward
forgiveness, we replicated Study 1 with one change. The
replication replaced the angry unforgiving message with
the more neutral message ‘‘We should cooperate.’’ As in
Study 1, participants were less willing to repeat their trans-
gression when the victim expressed forgiveness for the ini-
tial offense: a great majority of participants competed
against the unforgiving player (28 of 32: 88%), v
N= 32) = 18.00, p< .001. This suggests that Study 1 par-
ticipants were indeed responding favorably to forgiveness,
and not just punishing the angry player. The opportunity
for retaliation manipulation (two vs. five game rounds)
had no impact, v
(1, N=32) = 1.81, ns, which is not sur-
prising considering the relatively mild tone of the unforgiv-
ing message.
It is important to note that comparisons between Study 1 and prior
PDG research are strained by crucial differences. Most importantly,
participants in traditional PDG games are free to compete or cooperate in
multiple game rounds, whereas the two rounds in Study 1 allowed
participants only one highly restrictive choice. Many studies have isolated
predictors of PDG compete/cooperate decisions (e.g., Miller & Holmes,
1975), but their application to the unique dilemma faced by Study 1
participants is unclear. However, evidence that communication, requests
for cooperation, and anticipation of future interaction predict PDG
cooperation (see reviews by Pruitt & Kimmel, 1977; Weber, Kopelman, &
Messick, 2004) does emphasize that Study 1 participants had reason to
believe that competing might cause offense.
456 H.M. Wallace et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 44 (2008) 453–460
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Study 2
Study 2 used the basic design of Study 1 without using a
game or written messages of forgiveness. Participants were
again placed in a situation that required them to choose the
target of their repeat transgression, but this time the situa-
tion was hypothetical. Participants were told to imagine
that they had harmed other people, and then they were
asked whether they would prefer to repeat their transgres-
sion against forgiving or unforgiving victims if a repeat
transgression was unavoidable. Study 2 also assessed how
the victims’ willingness to forgive the initial transgression
affected participants’ expected level of remorse and their
expectations of victim retaliation following a repeat offense.
One hundred fifty-three introductory psychology stu-
dents (115 female and 38 male) participated for course
Study 2 was administered by questionnaire. Each partic-
ipant was told to imagine that he or she was a college stu-
dent who had committed a ‘‘fairly serious transgression’’
against other fellow students. No harm was intended by
the transgression, but they were ‘‘too focused on personal
goals to consider how their actions would affect others.’’
Participants were asked to imagine that they had written
a letter of apology to the students but had not spoken
directly to the students since the transgression.
At the end of the scenario description, participants were
told that now, two weeks following their transgression,
‘‘due to an unfortunate twist of fate,’’ they had to take
actions that could offend one of the previously victimized
students. Participants were told they had heard ‘‘rumors
through the grapevine’’ that some of the victimized stu-
dents had forgiven their offense but that others had not.
Participants had to choose whether to risk repeating their
offense against a forgiving student or an unforgiving
After making their decision about whether to target a
forgiving or unforgiving student for the second transgres-
sion, participants used a 5-point scale to rate how likely
forgiving vs. unforgiving victims would be to retaliate for
being victimized for a second time. (1 = no possibility;
5 = very strong possibility).
Participants also used a 5-
point scale to estimate the amount of remorse they would
feel depending on whether they had repeated their trans-
gression against a forgiving or unforgiving student
(1 = no feeling of remorse; 5 = very strong feeling of
Results and discussion
The majority of participants (132 of 153: 86%) reported
that, if forced to commit a second transgression, they
would choose to repeat their transgression against a person
who was unforgiving, v
(1, N= 153) = 80.53, p< .001.
This preference was apparently not strongly influenced by
concerns about avoiding retribution, because participants
expected that unforgiving victims would be more likely to
retaliate in response to a repeat offense (M= 3.39,
SD = 0.69) than forgiving victims (M= 2.57, SD = 0.64),
F(1, 152) = 218.01, p< .001. Instead, participants’ repeat
offense choices were more consistent with their anticipated
levels of remorse: Participants expected to feel more
remorse if the person they repeated their transgression
against was forgiving (M= 3.97, SD = 0.67), rather than
unforgiving (M= 3.15, SD = 0.94), F(1, 152) = 222.98,
p< .001.
In sum, Study 2 confirmed that the outcome of
Study 1 was not merely an artifact of the prisoner’s
dilemma game: Participants were again less willing to com-
mit a second transgression against victims who forgave the
initial transgression (see summary of results in Table 1).
Study 3
Studies 1 and 2 found that communications of forgive-
ness generally discourage repeat offenses. However, the
ecological validity of these studies could be challenged,
given their use of forced-choice options in controlled exper-
imental contexts. To address this issue, we used a more nat-
uralistic approach in Study 3 to examine the effects of
Study 2 also included a between-subjects manipulation of opportunity
for retaliation (fully crossed with the forgiveness manipulation). The
scenario description stated that the participant would be living in the same
building as the victimized students for either two days (low retaliation
opportunity) or six months (high retaliation opportunity). This manipu-
lation was apparently too subtle because there was virtually no difference
in retaliation likelihood ratings between the two retaliation opportunity
conditions. Hence, it was not surprising that the retaliation opportunity
failed to influence repeat transgression decisions or reported remorse.
Study 2 manipulated victim friendliness in addition to manipulating
victim forgiveness. If recipients of forgiveness perceive that the forgiver is
sincere, it is difficult to imagine how communicating forgiveness could be
interpreted as anything but a friendly gesture. Of course, the forgiving
person could seem unfriendly for behavior aside from a single event of
communicating forgiveness. Study 2 participants were told that their
initial ‘‘fairly serious transgression’’ was committed against four students,
including two who always seemed friendly and two who always seemed
somewhat unfriendly. The within-subjects factors of forgiveness and
dispositional friendliness were crossed so that each victim was either
forgiving and friendly, forgiving, and unfriendly, unforgiving and friendly,
or unforgiving and unfriendly. The friendliness manipulation proved
indistinguishable from the effects of forgiveness. Most participants
preferred to repeat their transgression against the unforgiving/unfriendly
student (125 of 153: 82%). Of the remaining 28 participants, most (18)
chose to target the forgiving/friendly student. Moreover, 2 (forgive-
ness) ·2 (friendliness) repeated measures ANOVA found strong forgive-
ness and friendliness main effects of nearly equal magnitude with no
interactions when either retaliation likelihood or anticipated remorse was
the dependent variable. (Participants viewed unfriendly students as more
likely to retaliate, and anticipated more remorse for harming friendly
H.M. Wallace et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 44 (2008) 453–460 457
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communicated forgiveness. Participants were asked to
recall a time when they had hurt or offended another per-
son, and then they described their response after receiving
(or failing to receive) forgiveness. We wanted to examine
how receiving forgiveness influenced participants’ behavior
and their motivation to mend the relationship and avoid
repeating their offenses.
Ninety-one introductory psychology students partici-
pated for course credit. Data from three who failed to fol-
low instructions were excluded from analyses. The
remaining sample included 60 female and 28 male
All participants completed a questionnaire that
instructed them to ‘‘recall a specific event from your life,
one in which you did something that offended, harmed,
or hurt another person.’’ Participants were randomly
assigned to one of two experiment conditions: half were
instructed to describe a forgiven transgression; the other
half described an unforgiven transgression. The question-
naire clarified that forgiveness ‘‘involves letting the other
person know, either directly or through behavior, that he
or she is forgiven. It also implies not behaving in an angry
or vengeful way toward the other person.’’
After providing a brief description of the incident,
participants used 11-point (0–10) scales to rate the level
of their victims’ forgiveness, and also to rate their repen-
tance motivation. Repentance motivation was defined by
participants’ ratings of the importance of four goals fol-
lowing the transgression: ‘‘preserve (mend) your relation-
ship with the other person,’’ ‘‘treat the other person
better than you did before,’’ ‘‘do everything possible to
avoid repeating your offensive behavior’’ and ‘‘do some-
thing positive to make up for the offense’’ (a= .82). Par-
ticipants reported repeat offenses by estimating how
many times since their described offense they had hurt
the other person in a manner similar to the offense. Par-
ticipants also responded to a series of questions about
their pre-offense relationship with the victim and the spe-
cific nature of the transgression.
Results and discussion
A manipulation check showed that participants in the
forgiveness condition reported receiving more forgiveness
(M= 8.13, SD = 2.27) than participants in the unforgive-
ness condition (M= 2.56, SD = 3.22), F(1, 85) = 87.44,
p< .001.
Relatively few participants reported committing repeat
offenses, whether they were forgiven (9 of 45: 20%) or
not (7 of 43: 16%), v
(1, N= 88) = 0.21, ns. This outcome
may accurately reflect the prevalence of repeat offenses in
normal relationships but supporting evidence is lacking,
given the paucity of research on this issue. It is also possible
that participants underreported their repeat offenses, con-
sidering that past research has shown that transgressors
tend to have difficulty recalling their offenses (e.g., Stillwell
& Baumeister, 1997). In any case, although the effect of for-
giveness on reported repeat offenses did not fit the pattern
observed in the first two studies, the results for reported
repentance motivation did. Forgiven participants reported
more repentance motivation (M= 7.48, SD = 2.26) than
unforgiven participants (M= 6.32, SD = 2.61), F(1,
86) = 4.97, p< .05. To be sure, actions do not necessarily
follow intentions, but these data nonetheless suggest that
expressing forgiveness is more likely to elicit positive
behavior from offenders than grudge-holding.
General discussion
We initiated this research to examine how people
respond when their offenses are forgiven. Prior studies have
not directly tested whether offenders are more or less likely
to repeat their transgressions after receiving forgiveness. A
priori, one could argue that receiving forgiveness leads
transgressors to feel gratitude and to avoid harming the
forgiver in the future. Then again, one might also make
the opposite prediction (that forgiveness invites repeat
transgressions) insofar as forgiven transgressors infer they
can transgress without fear of consequences.
Overall, our research indicates that expressions of for-
giveness generally serve to deter rather than invite repeat
Study 3 examined whether the positive outcomes associated with
communicated forgiveness in controlled experimental contexts apply to
real life. Of course, prioritizing ecological validity usually compromises
internal validity to some degree, and this was the case in Study 3.
Specifically, the differences in repentance motivation following forgiveness
and unforgiveness could conceivably have been confounded by differences
between experiment conditions in the nature of the transgressions or the
victim-perpetrator relationships. We found little evidence of this potential
third variable problem. The only factor aside from the forgiveness
manipulation that correlated with repentance motivation and differed
between experiment conditions was reported pre-offense relationship
closeness, which was significantly higher in the forgiveness condition than
in the no forgiveness condition. Not surprisingly, pre-offense closeness was
significantly correlated with repentance motivation, r= .32, but the effect
of forgiveness condition on repentance motivation was not dramatically
changed when pre-offense relationship closeness was covaried (rchanged
from .23 to .18).
Table 1
Targets of repeat offenses
Study 1: No retaliation
22 (85%) 4 (15%)
Study 1: Retaliation opportunity 14 (58%) 10 (42%)
Study 1 Replication 28 (88%) 4 (13%)
Study 2 128 (84%) 25 (16%)
Totals 192 (82%) 43 (18%)
458 H.M. Wallace et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 44 (2008) 453–460
Author's personal copy
offenses. Studies 1 and 2 showed that when participants
were required to repeat a previous offense and had to choose
their target, they preferred to transgress against someone
who had not forgiven them for the first offense. In Study
3, people reported being more motivated to behave posi-
tively toward a person they harmed previously if that per-
son had communicated forgiveness for the prior offense.
There were some exceptions to the observed advantages
of forgiveness. Therefore, our answer to the question of
whether forgiveness invites repeat transgressions is closer
to ‘‘usually not’’ rather than ‘‘never.’’ One qualification
emerged in Study 1. When further trials were expected
and thus retaliation was possible, almost half the partici-
pants chose to transgress against the forgiver rather than
the person who expressed anger. Thus, apparently some
transgressors would prefer to risk re-offending forgiving
people than to risk repeating their offense against people
who held a grudge from the initial transgression. Further-
more, in Study 1 and in a replication of this study, as well
as in Study 2, a consistent minority (12–15%) of partici-
pants chose to repeat their transgression against those
who forgave even when threat of retaliation was minimal.
Also, although Study 3 participants reported more repen-
tance motivation after receiving forgiveness, their reported
rate of repeat offenses did not differ from those who were
not forgiven.
Our research answers some basic questions about how
offenders respond to being forgiven, and it sets the stage
for further research on unresolved issues such as the role
of individual differences, the importance of the specific
manner by which forgiveness or unforgiveness is communi-
cated, the long-term effects of forgiveness on transgressor
behavior, and the precise underlying mechanisms that lead
people to avoid re-offending those who have forgiven them.
Such investigations of the perpetrator’s perspective are rare
in the burgeoning literature on forgiveness and until they
happen, unconditional endorsements of forgiveness would
be premature. Still, considering the many demonstrated
benefits of forgiveness, it is encouraging that communicat-
ing forgiveness appears to be a safer response to transgres-
sions than holding a grudge.
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... Apologizing is one of the most ubiquitous reactions after having transgressed, and the extant literature has largely demonstrated the effectiveness of an apology in resolving interpersonal conflicts (e.g., Frantz & Bennigson, 2005;Utikal & Fischbacher, 2010). In particular, a transgressor's apology has been found to be a strong tool to elicit victim forgiveness and foster reconciliation between two parties (e.g., Kelln & Ellard, 1999;Wallace et al., 2008). ...
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Apologizing is important for conflict resolution and relationship reconciliation, yet apologies often fail to restore the damaged relationship. While much research has been devoted to investigating the victims’ reactions upon receiving an apology, in this paper we adopt an apologizer‐centric approach and explore the phenomenon of apologizing with no felt transgression (vis‐à‐vis when there is felt transgression) along with its affective and reconciliation outcomes for the apologizer. Based on Appraisal Tendency Framework, we predict that apologizing with no felt transgression will lead to reduced guilt and increased anger in the apologizer which will result in a decreased level of their restoration efforts towards the victim. In addition, we further hypothesize about the role of organizational conflict cultures in influencing the relationship between apologizing and restoration efforts via guilt and anger. Study 1 uses a micro‐narrative procedure and an inductive data analysis approach to demonstrate the varied situations and motivations of employees apologizing with (no) felt transgression, Study 2 utilizes an experimental design to examine the mediation effect, and Study 3 employs the critical incident technique to test our whole research model. Our hypotheses were largely supported across our studies. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
... Memaafkan ternyata memiliki pengaruh terhadap kesehatan jiwa, raga, maupun hubungan antar-manusia (Soleh, 2015). Pemaafan dapat meningkatkan kesejahteraan psikologis (Bono et al, 2007;Akbar et al, 2021), kesejahteraan subjektif (Gao et al, 2022), penerimaan diri (Nashori et al, 2015), mempercepat proses adaptasi dan bangkit dari permasalahan hidup (Kumar & Dixit, 2014), rehumanisasi diri (Schumann & Walton, 2022), menjadikan orang yang menzalimi tidak melakukan tindak kezaliman di masa yang akan datang (Wallace, Exline, & Baumeister, 2008), peningkatan welas asih diri (Booker & Perlin, 2021;Chung, 2016). Pemaafan juga dapat menurunkan perundungan (Nashori et al, 2017), stres (Toussaint et al, 2016), dan perilaku agresi remaja (Gratia, 2014). ...
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JPT Fakultas Psikologi Universitas Negeri Makassar. Ini adalah artikel dengan akses terbuka di bawah licenci CC BY-NC-4.0 ( ABSTRACT This research aimed to determine the effectiveness of Smart Empowerment Technique (SET) on forgiveness. Subject in this research were 12 university students, Yogyakarta, which are divided into two groups the experimental group and the control group. The data was collected using a scale of forgiveness. The research design used was pre-post control group design. Analysis of the study were quantitative analysis. Quantitative analysis using Independent Sample T-test to determine forgiveness after the Smart Empowerment Technique given. The result of this research was Smart Empowerment Technique increased forgiveness university students. ABSTRAK Penelitian ini bermaksud untuk mengetahui efektivitas Smart Empowerment Technique (SET) dalam meningkatkan pemaafan pada mahasiswa. Subjek penelitian yang terlibat adalah 12 mahasiswa Universitas Islam Indonesia, Yogyakarta yang dimasukkan dalam kelompok eksperimen dan kelompok kontrol. Data dikumpulkan dengan menggunakan skala pemaafan. Desain riset ini adalah desain kelompok control prates dan pascates. Data dianalisis dengan menggunakan analisis kuantitatif. Analisis yang digunakan adalah Independent Sample T-Test. Hasil penelitian menunjukkan bahwa Smart Empowerment Tchnique dapat meningkatkan pemaafan mahasiswa. Keyword: Smart Empowerment Technique (SET), pemaafan, mahasiswa PENDAHULUAN Memaafkan (Arab: al-'afwu, English: forgiveness) adalah salah satu akhlak atau perilaku yang mulia. Agama dan budaya meletakkannya sebagai salah satu perilaku penting
... While not identical to benevolence, research on the related concept of forgiveness suggests that forgiving someone for a perceived transgression can have positive outcomes for victim well-being (e.g., Wade, Hoyt, Kidwell and Worthington, 2014) and empowerment (Strelan, Van Prooijen and Gollwitzer, 2019) and can reduce the likelihood of future transgressions on the part of the perpetrator (Wallace, Exline, and Baumeister, 2008). Whether benevolent responses to online toxicity have similar beneficial outcomes is an open question, but an important first stepand the focus of the current researchis to investigate how common benevolent replies to toxic comments actually are. ...
Previous researchers have demonstrated that learning to forgive may reduce the likelihood of offending/reoffending. Forgiveness therapy may be useful for rehabilitation by assisting traumatized individuals to release revengeful emotions. The current study is a follow up to a previous study that examined the effects of a 6-week forgiveness psychoeducational intervention for offenders with mental disorders. The aim of the current study was to determine any differences for participants who received a forgiveness intervention versus a control group for rates of recidivism (likelihood of reoffending and length of time to reoffend) and type of institutional offense. Recidivism data was collected through the Canadian Police Information Center. Both the control and treatment group in this study were selected from offenders with mental disorder at the Regional Psychiatric Centre, a multilevel forensic psychiatry hospital in Saskatoon, Canada. Results indicated that participants who received the forgiveness intervention took significantly longer than the control group to both commit non-violent offenses, and to be convicted of any offense. Results suggest that forgiveness therapy for offender populations may improve behavior and reduce recidivism.
Previous studies found an association between mindfulness and forgiveness. However, the effects of self-construal on this association are still unclear. In the present study, self-reported forgiveness and a behavioral measure of forgiveness were used to explore the moderating effect of self-construal plays between mindfulness and forgiveness among 126 participants recruited based on their mindfulness scores. Results showed that participants with high level of mindfulness in the interdependent self-construal condition reported greater forgiveness and gave more money donations towards transgressors than those in the independent self-construal condition, while there is no significant difference between interdependent and independent self-construal groups among participants with low level of mindfulness. These findings suggest that self-construal moderates the relationship between mindfulness and interpersonal forgiveness.
Despite the prevalence of beliefs across religions regarding repentance and divine forgiveness and their recognition in theoretical and religious studies, these constructs are relatively understudied phenomena in the social sciences. Furthermore, in recent years, multiple scholars have argued for the need for research to systematically study and highlight the experience and processes of repentance and divine forgiveness. Subsequently, this study explored processes of repentance, antecedents and motivations of repentance, resources to aid in repentance, and outcomes of repentance that should be further examined. This analysis was done using in-depth qualitative interviews with 15 emerging adult religious exemplars identifying with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The authors used NVivo 12 and team-based qualitative coding processes to identify themes. Repentance processes included personal change, took various lengths of time, were a part of participants’ religious identity, were recurrent processes, and were influenced by participants’ view of God. Antecedents and motivations included religious practices and rituals, emotions, interpersonal interactions, and their relationship with God. Resources that aided in repentance included religious practices and rituals, interpersonal relationships, and a relationship with God. Finally, participants reported experiencing personal changes in their behavior and character, positive emotions (including feelings of divine forgiveness), improved interpersonal relationships, and a better relationship with God. These processes align with some previously discovered and theorized findings on repentance, contribute a number of novel findings, and offer future direction regarding the motivations, resources, and transformative experiences that participants reported in their personal repentance and experience of forgiveness.
We study the role of alliance governance in the behavior of partners in alliances with different degrees of competition. Using data from a lab experiment on 1,009 alliances and 31,662 partners' choices, we explore whether and how alliances succeed in different competitive scenarios, contingent on the use of formal governance mechanisms (termination clauses) and the number of partners in the alliance. We find that trust, an informal governance mechanism, emerges as a complement to formal governance in order to establish success in our experimental alliances, especially when competition is high. In particular, we document the significance of “trust-building” in initial stages and “trust repair” in later stages of our experimental alliances.
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Abstract Discusses interpersonal forgiveness, examining the questions: 1) What is interpersonal forgiveness; 2) Can we devise a model to help people forgive; and 3) What are the psychological outcomes for those who forgive. The authors express some concerns about the direction the field of forgiveness studies seems to be taking regarding each question.
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An intervention, with forgiveness toward their abuser as the goal, was implemented with 12 female incest survivors. The women, from a midwestern city, were 24 to 54 years old, and all were Caucasian. A yoked, randomized experimental and control group design was used. The participants were randomly assigned to an experimental group (receiving the forgiveness intervention immediately) or a waiting-list control group (receiving the intervention when their matched experimental counterpart finished the intervention). Each participant met individually with the intervener once per week. The average length of the intervention for the 12 participants was 14.3 months. A process model of forgiveness was used as the focus of intervention. Dependent variables included forgiveness, self-esteem, hope, psychological depression, and state-trait anxiety scales. After the intervention, the experimental group gained more than the control group in forgiveness and hope and decreased significantly more than the control group in anxiety and depression. When the control group then began the program they showed similar change patterns to the above, as well as in self-esteem improvement.
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: Ss played a two-person laboratory game in which they could act altruistically, individualistically, defensively, or aggressively. Ss did not interact with a real person, but 5 programmed strategies were employed to see which was most effective in eliciting cooperation from a non-cooperative S. The strategies were: Turn The Other Cheek - the program responded to a threat or an attack by an altruistic choice and with a cooperative choice otherwise; Nonpunitive - the program responded defensively rather than with counter-threats or counter attacks when the S threatened or attacked, and reciprocated the rest of the S's behavior; Deterrent - the program responded with a threat to any noncooperative act of the S, counter attacked when the S attacked and responded cooperatively to any cooperative behavior from the S; two types of Reformed Sinner strategy - in both the program responded with threats and aggression for the first 15 trials of the game and then changed dramatically on the 16th trial by disarming. In one form of the Reformed Sinner the program followed the Turn The Other Cheek strategy, and in the other the program became Nonpunitive. Results are consistent with findings of other investigators. Ss behaved most competitively during the 15 trials of the Reformed Sinner condition when the program was threatening and aggressive; Ss tended to exploit in the Turn The Other Cheek condition; Ss behaved most cooperatively in the Nonpunitive condition. (Author)
Both guilt and empathic perspective taking have been linked to prosocial, relationship-enhancing effects. Study 1 found that shame was linked to personal distress, whereas guilt was linked to perspective taking. In Studies 2 and 3, subjects were asked to describe a recent experience of interpersonal conflict, once from their own perspective, and once from the perspective of the other person. Guilt-prone people and guilt-dominated stories were linked to better perspective taking (measured by changes between the two versions of the story) than others. Shame had no effect. Guilt improved relationship outcomes but shame harmed them. Path analysis suggested that trait guilt-proneness leads to perspective taking, which leads to actual guilt feelings, which produces beneficial relationship outcomes. Guilt feelings may mediate the relationship-enhancing effects of empathy.
Forgiving promotes continuity in interpersonal relationships by mending the inevitable injuries and transgressions that occur in social interaction. This article presents a conceptual model positing that forgiveness is prosocial change in the motivations to avoid or to seek revenge against a transgressor. Social-psychological factors that are correlates and determinants of forgiving are reviewed. Also reviewed is the current measurement technology for assessing forgiveness constructs at the offense-specific level, the relationship-specific level, and the dispositional level. The links between forgiveness and human health and well-being are also explored. The article concludes with recommendations for future research on forgiving.
The relative effectiveness of pacifistic and retaliatory strategies in eliciting cooperating in a mixed-motive game is unclear due to confounded manipulations of these strategies and inadequate experimental designs in earlier research. In an attempt at clarification, subjects in the present studies were exposed to opponents programmed with one of three strategies: nonretaliatory (pacifist), low retaliatory, or high retaliatory. A multivariate analysis of repeated measures in experiment 1 revealed an effect of strategies and an interaction of strategies by trial blocks. The low retaliatory strategy elicited the most cooperative behavior, the high retaliatory next, and the nonretaliatory least, these differences increasing over trials.