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True and Hollow Forgiveness, Forgiveness Motives,
and Conflict Resolution
Purpose – The main aim of this study is to explore the motivational process behind 2 types of
forgiveness; true and hollow forgiveness. We predicted victims who engage in true forgiving
behavior will have stronger relationship-oriented motives than either those who engage in
hollow forgiving behavior or those who do not engage in forgiving behavior. Furthermore, we
explored the relationship between true and hollow forgiveness and conflict resolution strategy.
Design/methodology/approach - In study 1, we asked participants to recall personal
experiences of being harmed, and they rated the events in terms of forgiveness, motives of
forgiveness, resolutions strategies, and satisfaction with outcome. And, in study 2, we
presented participants with scenarios depicting individuals who were victimized, and asked
participants to read the scenarios imagining themselves as the victim. After that, we measured
forgiveness, motives of forgiveness, resolution strategies, and satisfaction with outcome.
Findings - Consistent with our predictions, participants classified as being true forgivers were
motivated by relationship-oriented motives. These individuals preferred a collaborative
conflict resolution strategy, and tended to be satisfied with the outcome of the conflict. In
contrast, participants classified as being hollow forgivers were motivated by the self-oriented
reasons, and they preferred avoidance as a conflict resolution strategy. In addition, these
individuals were less satisfied with the outcome of the conflict than were the true forgivers.
Originality/value - These findings suggest that perceptions of the conflict resolution process
depend on the type of forgiveness.
Keywords forgiveness, conflict resolution, social motive, Japanese participant
Paper type Research paper
A critical decision a victim must make in the process of conflict resolution is whether
he or she should forgive a perpetrator. Research has found that forgiveness not only promotes
victim’s personal well-being (Freedman & Enright, 1996), but also contributes to the
maintenance of the relationship with perpetrator (Kellen & Ellard, 1999). Attending to these
benefits of forgiveness, researchers have attempted to explore personal and situational
determinants of forgiveness. Although a widely accepted definition of forgiveness by
McCullough, Pargament, and Thoresen (2000) stresses intrapersonal prosocial change as an
essential component, the naïve observation of people’s behaviors in conflict situations implies
that there are other types of forgiveness than the McCullough et al.’s definition (Kearns &
Fincham, 2004). Considering that there are various facets of forgiveness, we attempted in the
present study to examine possible motives of forgiveness.
Forgiveness research has its origin in clinical psychology, in which researchers have
mainly focused on the internal processes of forgiveness in clients in order to develop
interventions for the promotion of forgiveness. In conflict resolution, however, the way in
which an individual expresses forgiveness (e.g., behavioral forgiveness) is more important than
private aspects of forgiveness. If a victim feels forgiveness internally does not communicate
forgiveness to a perpetrator, it may not bring about constructive conflict resolution. Instead, it
may lead to a conflict spiral (Rubin, Pruitt, & Kim, 1994). In a study that examined the effects
of victim’s expressed forgiveness on social interactions after conflicts, Kelley and Ellard
(1999) found that perpetrators tend to comply with demands from victims. Based on the
theoretical analysis and research findings, we conceptually distinguished internal forgiveness
(intrapersonal prosocial changes) and forgiving behavior (interpersonally expressed
Some researchers assume that internal forgiveness and forgiving behavior are
causally related with each other. Enright, Santos and Al-Mabuk (1989) discussed seven phases
through which forgiveness comes out. The first six phases explain how internal forgiveness is
shaped. And the phase in the one in which internal forgiveness is expressed; this, forgiving
behavior appears. Clearly, the theory postulates that internal forgiveness is a necessary
antecedent of forgiving behavior. However, there may be other types of forgiveness. Enright et
al. (1989; Enright 2001) discussed this possibility and termed it “pseudo-forgiveness.”
Psuedo-forgiveness is forgiveness in which individuals are engaged in forgiving behavior as a
form of self-presentation. In addition, McCullough and Worthington (1994) discussed the role
expected forgiveness in which individuals show forgiveness so as to meet expectations of
others. A common feature of these types of forgiveness is to promote forgiving behaviors
without experiencing internal forgiveness, and this provides a good rational to distinguish
between internal and behavioral forgiveness.
On this perspective, Baumeister, Exline, and Sommer (1998) discussed two types of
forgiveness: hollow forgiveness, which is exhibiting forgiveness behavior without feeling
forgiveness internally, and true forgiveness, which is exhibiting forgiveness behaviors as well
as feeling internal forgiveness. A logical question to ask is, why might a victim show overt
(behavioral) forgiveness toward a perpetrator even though he or she does not feel forgiveness
internally? It is likely that there are other motives for hollow forgiveness besides prosocial
motives. In the present study, therefore, we attempted to explore the motives underlying these
two types of forgiveness (true and hollow forgiveness) and to examine if these differentially
influence conflict resolution.
1-1. Motives for forgiveness
Although the body of research forgiveness motives is not particularly extensive, there
are several interesting studies. In examining why people become forgiving, Exline and
Baumeister (2000) found motives related to relationship maintenance, self-presentation, and
moral obligation. Cloke (1993) listed 60 cognitive strategies, including activation of motives
for forgiveness, to induce victims to forgive perpetrators in a marital counseling setting. Based
on these studies, Takada and Ohbuchi (2004) developed items to measure motives for
forgiveness in interpersonal conflicts, as table 1 illustrates. They identified 7 motives positively
associated with forgiveness (sympathy, generosity, maintenance of relationship, maintenance
of social harmony, stress reduction, need for acceptance, and protection of identity).
We theoretically categorized these motives into relationship-oriented motives and
self-oriented motives. Relationship-oriented motives include maintenance of relationship and
social harmony, sympathy, and generosity. Self-oriented motives include stress reduction,
protection of identity, and a need for acceptance. Because relationship-oriented motives reflect
positive concerns for others and one’s social relationships, we assumed that these motives
encourage a victim’s willingness to forgive perpetrators and should lead to true forgiveness.
Therefore, we predicted the following regarding the relationship-oriented motives: Victims
who engage in true forgiving behavior will have stronger relationship-oriented motives
(sympathy, generosity, and maintenance of relationship and social harmony) than either those
who engage in hollow forgiving behavior or those who do not engage in forgiving behavior
In contrast, self-oriented motives may lead to victim seek to achieve personal needs
or to evade aversive states. A victim who is concerned with these matters would be likely to
show forgiveness toward a perpetrator without internal prosocial change. If this victim forgives
a perpetrator, it may be hollow forgiveness, which is not accompanied by a willingness to
forgive. Therefore, we made the following hypothesis regarding the motives for hollow
forgiveness: Victims who engage in hollow forgiving behavior will have more self-oriented
motives (stress reduction, need for acceptance, and protection of identity) than
relationship-oriented motives (Hypothesis 2).
1-2. The relationship between true and hollow forgiveness and conflict resolution
Interpersonal conflicts sometimes escalate can damage both individual’s personal
well-being and social relationships. Escalation of conflicts typically occurs in a situation in
which both parties take aggressive actions that intensify their hostility against each other. If
forgiveness reduces an individual’s aggressive tendencies, it is expected that forgiveness can
lead to constructive and peaceful conflict resolution. Research on interpersonal conflicts has
demonstrated that forgiveness actually prompts participants’ constructive conflict coping
strategies, such as problem solving or rational negotiation (Kellen & Ellard, 1999; Rose &
Asher, 1999). Forgiveness also contributes to participants’ psychological well-being through,
for example, an alleviation of negative emotions or an acceptance of the outcomes of conflict
resolution (Freedman & Enright, 1996; Hebel & Enright, 1993). However, these findings raise
a question. Are these positive effects only produced by true forgiveness? Or, are they also
produced by hollow forgiveness?
To be satisfied with outcomes produced by forgiveness (reconciliation or concession), a
victim must voluntarily make a decision to sincerely forgive the perpetrator. However, if the
victim only reluctantly forgives the perpetrator, he/she may not have a sense of strong
satisfaction with the consequences. Therefore, we made the following hypothesis regarding
forgiveness and conflict resolution: Victims who engage in true forgiving behavior will be
more satisfied with outcomes of conflict resolution than either those who engage in hollow
forgiving behavior or those who do not engage in forgiving behavior (Hypothesis 3).
In order to resolve conflicts, participants employ different sets of conflict coping
styles. Researchers have examined three broad categories of conflict coping styles:
confrontation, collaboration, and avoidance (Ohbuchi, Fukushima, & Tedeschi, 1999). It is
possible that hollow forgiveness may also positively influence the use of coping styles.
Refraining from seeking punishment induces positive interactions between participants, and in
this context, individuals are likely to use collaborative coping styles such as rational
negotiation or problem solving. Therefore, we made the following hypothesis regarding
forgiveness and conflict coping style: Victims who engage in true or hollow forgiving
behaviors will tend to use collaborative coping styles more than those who do not engage in
forgiving behavior (Hypothesis 4).
2. Study 1
We conducted a study in order to examine the above hypotheses. We asked
participants to recall personal experiences of being harmed, and they rated the events in terms
of forgiveness, motives of forgiveness, resolutions strategies, and satisfaction with outcome.
Participants. The participants in the present study consisted of two samples. One
sample was composed of 154 students (85 males and 69 females) from a public university in
Japan who were recruited in an introductory psychology class. The other sample was
composed of 132 students (55 males, 76 females, and 1 unidentified) from an open university
in Japan who were recruited in a psychology workshop. The first sample was significantly
younger than the second (the mean ages were 20.31 and 38.91). Because an examination of age
differences was not a main research focus, we combined the two samples.
Procedures. We asked participants to recall experiences in which they were
personally harmed by another person. We asked them to select the most serious episode among
their experiences and to rate it in terms of conflict resolution, forgiveness, and motives for
To measure coping styles, we showed the participants three items representing
confrontation (“I reproached the perpetrator”, “I revenged the perpetrator”, and “I expressed
anger to the perpetrator”; alpha = .67), collaboration (“I calmly talked with the perpetrator”, “I
demanded the perpetrator account”, and “I expressed distress to the perpetrator”; alpha = .70),
and avoidance (“I avoided contact with the perpetrator”, “I pretended ignorance”, and “I
avoided being involved with the perpetrator”; alpha = .52). They rated how strongly they used
these strategies in the conflict situations by choosing a response on a 7-point scale ranging
from 0 (“Not at all”) to 6 (“Strongly”). To measure satisfaction, we asked the participants how
much satisfied they were with the outcomes of conflict resolution by choosing a response on a
7-point scale ranging from 0 (“Not at all”) to 6 (“Strongly”). The alphas were .666.
With regards to the measurement of forgiving behaviors, we asked the participants
how they treated the perpetrators by choosing a response on a 7-point scale ranging from 0
(“Did not forgive at all”) to 6 (“Completely forgave”). In the measurement of a willingness to
forgive, we asked the participants how sincerely they decided to forgive the perpetrators by
choosing a response on a 7-point scale ranging from 0 (“Not at all”) to 6 (“Definitely”).
To measure the 7 motives for forgiveness (sympathy, generosity, maintenance of
relationship, maintenance of social harmony, stress reduction, need for acceptance, and
protection of identity), we used the 16 items from Takada and Ohbuchi’s (2004) scale. The 16
items are listed in Table 1. We asked participants why they forgave or did not forgive the
perpetrators by choosing a response on a 7-point scale ranging from 0 (“Did not feel at all”) to
6 (“Strongly felt”).
The dimensions of forgiveness motives. In a factor analysis of the motive items, we
obtained five dimensions. They are generally consistent with the categories we theoretically
construed, but some are not (Table 2).
Items that loaded highly on the first dimension were “I wanted to be understood and
sympathized by the others,” “I did not want to be isolated,” and “I wanted to be regarded as a
generous person”. We regarded this dimension as the need for acceptance. However, this
dimension also included the items “I wanted to evade from stress” and “I wanted to protect my
self-ideal,” which seemingly do not reflect the need for acceptance. We interpreted that these
desires are closely related with or derived from this basic need - that is, victims were afraid of
social isolation or exclusion as serious stress and they needed social support in order to
establish a high level of self-esteem.
The second dimension was the motives for maintenance of relationship because three
items to measure it had high loadings.
The theme of the items that loaded highly on the third dimension was unclear.
Items measured sympathy, “I wanted to be a generous person”. The protection of identity, and
“I did not want to escalate the conflict” measured the reduction of stress. We interpreted this to
mean that victims perceive mitigating circumstances in perpetrator sympathy and
The fourth dimension clearly represents the motives for maintenance of social
harmony and the fifth is the motives for generosity.
The fifth dimension is the motives for generosity because two items to measure it had
high loadings consistent with our prediction.
In addition, we conducted a second-order factor analysis of the five motive scores in
which we computed the average of the items that loaded highly on each motive dimension
(Table 3). This analysis generated two dimensions: the need for acceptance and the motive for
social harmony loaded highly on the first dimension, while the motives for maintenance of
relationship, sympathy, and generosity loaded highly on the second dimension. We interpreted
the first dimension as the self-oriented motives of forgiveness and the second as
relationship-oriented motives of forgiveness. We calculated scores for each motive by
averaging the scores of the items loading on each dimension, and used this average score for
The correlation between motives for forgiveness, willingness to forgive, and
forgiving behavior. Table 4 shows the correlations of the dimensions with the willingness to
forgive and forgiving behavior. Analyses reveal that the relationship-oriented motive is
positively correlated with both willingness to forgive and forgiving behavior, whereas the
self-oriented motive is only correlated with forgiving behavior. Finally, willingness to forgive
positively correlated with forgiving behavior (r = .518, p < .01).
True and hollow forgiveness and motives for forgiveness. The mean rating score of
forgiving behavior was 1.95 and the median was 1. We divided the participants into forgiving
and non-forgiving groups: the forgiving participants were those whose rating scores for
forgiving behavior were 2 or higher (N = 150) and the non-forgiving participants were whose
rating scores were 0 or 1 (N = 136). Then, we further divided the forgiving participants into
true and hollow forgiving groups. Considering the mean (2.15) and median (2) of willingness
to forgive, we regarded participants whose rating scores of willingness to forgive were 3 or
higher as true forgiving participants (N = 95), while those with rating scores of 2 or lower were
regarded as hollow forgiving participants (N = 55).
Figure 1 represents the mean scores of the two motive dimensions in the three groups.
In a two-way ANOVA using the groups and the motive dimensions as independent variables, a
main effect of the groups was significant, F(2, 277) = 20.22, p < .01, η2 = .127. The
participants in true forgiving group reported a higher level of motives for forgiveness than the
participants in other groups, with the hollow forgiving group higher than the non-forgiving
group. An interaction of groups x motive dimensions was also significant, F(2, 277) = 12.09, p
< .01, η2 = .08, meaning that, as Figure 1 illustrates, the participants in the true forgiving group
reported higher level of relationship-oriented motives than self-oriented motives, F(1, 277) =
10.53, p < .01, η2 = .037, while the reverse pattern was found in the hollow-forgiving group,
F(1, 277) =5.87, p < .05, η2 = .021, and the non-forgiving group, F(1, 277) =9.45, p < .01, η2
= .033. In these groups, the participants rated higher score of the self-oriented motive than that
of relationship-oriented motive.
True and hollow forgiveness and conflict resolution. Figure 2 represents the mean
scores of satisfaction with outcomes of conflict resolution in the three groups. The participants in
the true forgiving group reported being more satisfied with the outcomes of conflict resolution than
the participants in other two groups, with the hollow forgiving group higher than the non-forgiving
group, F(2, 281) = 18.57, p < .01.
Figure 3 shows the conflict coping styles of the three groups. A significant main effect of
the group, F(2, 552) = 7.66, p < .01, η2 = .027, indicates that the participants generally preferred
avoidance in conflict situations, and they preferred collaboration more than confrontation. An
interaction of groups x coping styles was also significant, F(2, 552) = 14.80, p < .01, η2 = .097.
As Figure 3 shows, the participants in the true forgiving group reported that they were more
frequently engaged in collaboration than the participants in other groups (p < .05), whereas the
hollow forgiving group’s most preferred coping style was avoidance (p < .05).
Using the retrospective episode method, we analyzed participants’ forgiveness
experiences terms of internal forgiveness, forgiving behavior, motives of forgiveness,
preference of resolution strategies, and satisfaction with outcomes.
Internal forgiveness and forgiving behavior were only moderately correlated with
each other, suggesting that these phases of forgiveness are not caused by the same mechanism.
Unexpectedly, the second-order factor analysis revealed that the motive for
maintenance of social harmony loaded highly with the self-oriented dimension. This suggests
that the motive for social harmony includes a personal concern for social acceptance. Though it
was not fully supported, our prediction regarding the structure of motives (the self-oriented and
relationship-oriented motives) was generally supported by the factor analysis.
The main purpose of Study 1 was to examine differences in motives between true and
hollow forgiveness. Consistent with Hypothesis 1, the true forgiveness group reported greater
relationship-oriented motives than either the hollow forgiveness or the non-forgiveness groups.
This suggests that, for individuals classified as true forgivers, relationship-oriented motives
promoted internal forgiveness, which in turn encouraged their forgiving behavior. In the
hollow forgiveness group, in contrast, the self-oriented motive was stronger than the
relationship-oriented motive, supporting Hypothesis 2. This suggests that those who were
engaged in forgiving behavior without internal forgiveness may be motivated by the
expectation that the expression of forgiveness would elicit favorable interpersonal
In Hypothesis 3, we predicted that the true forgiveness group would be more satisfied
with conflict resolution outcomes than the other groups. The results supported the hypothesis,
as shown in Figure 2. Hypothesis 4 predicted that participants who engaged in true forgiveness
would more frequently take collaborative strategies for conflict resolution than either those
who were engaged in the hollow forgiveness or who were not engaged in forgiveness was also
supported (Figure 3). These results suggest that forgiving behavior that is accompanied by
internal feelings of forgiveness may encourage constructive behaviors for conflict resolution. It
is interesting to see that those who were engaged in hollow forgiveness preferred avoidance in
conflict situations. It is a passive strategy in which participants do not take any active behavior
for conflict resolution. As this strategy was correlated with the self-oriented motives, it seems
that the preference of avoidance by participants classified as hollow forgivers may have been
prompted by their concern for acceptance. However, avoidance generally does not bring about
substantial conflict resolution, leaving participants with frustration and anger (Ohbuchi & Saito,
2007). It seems to be a reason why they were not satisfied with the outcomes. Although these
results supported our hypotheses, some limitations remain because of our method. In order to
resolve the limitations, we conducted study 2.
3. Study 2
The results of Study 1 were generally consistent with our predictions. Although the
retrospective method used in Study 1 has a merit of analyzing participants’ real experiences of
being victimized, it has several disadvantages, such as a lack of control of severity and types of
harms, as well as the possibility of memory distortion. In addition, with the use of this method,
forgiveness is likely to be rated as higher than what the participant initially experienced
because distress becomes weaker as time passes (McCullough, Fincham, and Tsang, 2003).
Another problem of Study 1 is low reliability of the measurement of forgiveness because of the
use of a single item. In order to improve upon the weaknesses of Study 1, we re-examined the
same set of hypotheses in Study 2 by adopting a different method and by using a more reliable
measure of forgiveness.
Participants. They were 160 students in a private university in Japan. All were
Japanese (107 males, 52 females, and 1 unidentified) and the mean age of the sample was
18.91 (SD = .93). Participants were recruited in psychology classes, and received 500 yen as
reward for participation.
Procedures. We presented participants with scenarios depicting individuals who were
victimized, and asked participants to read the scenarios imagining themselves as the victim.
We selected two scenarios from the 12 situations in Transgression Narrative Test of
Forgiveness (TNTF; Berry, Worthington, Parrott, O’Connor, and Wade, 2001) to measure
forgiveness. In one scenario, a student’s assignment was copied by other student and thereby
was punished by his or her supervisor. In the other scenario, a student had a malicious rumor
spread about him or her by a circle of friends. We adopted these scenarios because they were
appropriate for the measurement of self-oriented and relationship-oriented motives for
forgiveness, and also because they were familiar for Japanese students. After reading the
scenarios, participants were asked to rate internal forgiveness, forgiving behavior, motives for
forgiveness, conflict resolution strategies, and conflict outcomes. These items are presented in
The five items were used to measure internal forgiveness. Two items were part of the
Transgression-Related Interpersonal Motivation Inventory (TRIM; McCullough et al., 1998).
These items measure the reduction in the retaliation motivation (“I will make him/her pay” and
“I want him/her to get what he/she deserve”), Two items taken from TRIM measured the
reduction avoidance motivation (“I keep as much distance between us as possible” and “I live
as if he/she doesn’t exist, isn’t around”). The fifth item “I no longer feel bad about the
perpetrator” for internal forgiveness was to measure internal prosocial changes, which some
researchers assumed to be an essential component (McCullough et al., 1997, 1998). We asked
participants to indicate how they would forgive the perpetrator by choosing a response on a
6-point scale ranging from 0 (“Not at all”) to 5 (“Strongly.”)
We measured forgiving behavior using four items which were established based on
Kelley (1998). He found that a victim communicates forgiveness to a perpetrator via a direct
verbal channel and an indirect nonverbal channel. Therefore, we asked participants how they
would deal with the perpetrator. We asked them to rate two items that measured direct
communication of forgiveness and two items that measured indirect communication of
forgiveness by responding on a 6-point scale ranging from 0 “Not at all” to 5 “Definitely.” The
measurement of motives for forgiveness was the same as Study 1. To measure conflict
resolution styles, we provided our participants with eight items (table 5). These items were
different from study 1, because it was necessary to modify items to fit the specific situations
used in study 2. Participants responded to these items by choosing a response from a 6-point
scale ranging from 0 “Not at all” to 5 “Definitely.”
In the measurement of satisfaction, we used three items. One item measured
satisfaction with outcome, and the other two items focused on acceptance of the outcome and
perceived control of the process of conflict resolution. We assumed that the latter items
reflected a victim’s evaluation of the conflict resolution. We asked participants to respond to
each items by choosing a response from a 6-point scale ranging from 0 “Not at all” to 5
Dimensions of motives. We computed scores for each motive by averaging items
across the two scenarios. Factor analysis of the motive scores produced the same
two-dimensional structure. As Table 6, sympathy, maintenance of relationship, and generosity
loaded highly on the first dimension, and the need for acceptance and the maintenance of
social harmony loaded highly on the second one. We computed scores for the self-oriented
motive by averaging the need for acceptance and the maintenance of social harmony, and
computed scores for the relationship-oriented motive by averaging the other motives.
True and hollow forgiveness and motives for forgiveness. We averaged items of
internal forgiveness and forgiving behavior across the scenarios. Since alpha coefficients of
these scales (Table 5) reached an acceptable level, we used the averaged scores in the
following analyses. Then, we divided participants into three groups in the same manner as
Study 1: participants whose forgiving behavior was lower than its median (2.66) were assigned
into the non-forgiveness group (N = 60); among those whose forgiving behavior were higher
than the median, participants whose internal forgiveness was higher than its median (1.87)
were assigned into the true forgiveness group (N = 59), while those lower than the median
were assigned into the hollow forgiveness (N = 38).
In order to examine differences in motives for forgiveness between the three groups,
we conducted ANOVA on motives for forgiveness with forgiveness and motive dimension as
independent variables. A significant interaction of forgiveness and motives F(2, 153) = 4.54, p
< .05, η2 = .056 indicates that, as Figure 4 shows, the participants in true forgiveness group
reported a higher level of relationship-oriented motive than the participants in other two groups
(ps < .05) and the participants hollow forgiveness group reported a higher level of self-oriented
motive than in the relationship-oriented motive (p < .01).
True and hollow forgiveness and conflict resolution. Scores of resolution strategies
were also computed by averaging items across the scenarios. Reliability of the resolution
scores were established by the high levels alpha coefficients (Table 5). In order to examine if
forgiveness would influence preference of strategies, we conducted an ANOVA on the
resolution scores with forgiveness and strategy as independent variables (Figure 5). A
significant main effect of strategy (F(2, 306) = 7.39, p < .01, η2 = .046) means that our
participants preferred collaborative strategies to confrontational ones (M =1.89, 2.46, 2.05, p
< .01). An interaction of groups x coping styles was also significant, F(4, 306) = 18.79, p < .01, η2
= .197. As Figure 5 shows, the participants in the true forgiving group reported more frequently
engaged in collaboration than the participants in other groups (p < .01), and the participants in the
hollow forgiving group reported more frequently engaged in avoidance than the participants in the
true forgiving group (p < .01).
Scores of satisfaction were computed in the same manner, and alpha reached an
acceptable level. In order to examine the effects of forgiveness on satisfaction, we conducted
an ANOVA on satisfaction scores with forgiveness as an independent variable. As Figure 6
shows, the results indicate that the participants in the true forgiveness group reported higher
scores of satisfaction with the outcome than the hollow forgiveness group marginally (F(2,
145) = 2.99, p = .053).
In Study 2, we attempted to replicate the findings of Study 1 by using a different
Factor analysis of motives for forgiveness reproduced the same two-dimensional
structure, that is, the relationship-oriented and self-oriented motives. In this exploratory
analysis, the maintenance of social harmony was categorized into the self-oriented motive,
suggesting that the motive is not due to one’s positive concern for group members, but reflects
his or her personal apprehension that he or she will be socially disapproved or rejected if he or
she disturbs social harmony. Victims are often embarrassed by the possibility that they may
have been responsible for the harm or become anxious about how others see the event, thus
lowering their self-esteem (Leary, 2001). In order to relieve such negative cognitions and
emotions, victims may want social support from others and so may become apprehensive about
disturbing social harmony. As Carnevale and Pruitt (1992) argued, however, the
two-dimensional structure of motives for forgiveness suggests that people are concerned with
the welfare of others, as well as the welfare of themselves, even when they are victimized.
The results of Study 2 support our hypotheses predicting differential associations
between motives and types of forgiveness, that is, the relationship-oriented motives
encouraged true forgiveness and the self-oriented motives prompted hollow forgiveness. In the
empathy-forgiveness model by McCullough et al. (1998), it is assumed that a victim’s
forgiveness is increased by empathy towards the perpetrator. The present study suggests that it
is the case of true forgiveness. The present study also suggests that true forgiveness is
prompted not only by empathy but also by other related motives such as sympathy and
understanding or the maintenance of relationship.
Our hypotheses regarding resolution strategies and satisfaction with outcome were
also supported. Participants who behaviorally showed true forgiveness were concerned with
the relationship. It may be the reason why they preferred constructive and friendly
communications for conflict resolution. Since these collaborative strategies were likely to lead
to substantial problem solving such as win-win solutions (Rubin, Pruitt, & Kim, 1994),
participants of true forgiveness might have been more satisfied with outcomes. On the other
hand, those who showing hollow forgiveness were more likely to prefer avoidance in conflict
situations, but it was likely to leave conflicts or problems as unresolved, so they might have
been less satisfied with outcomes.
The results of Study 2 also suggest that true forgiveness involved intrapersonal
prosocial changes, which was emphasized by McCullough et al. (2000). Forgiveness entails
suppression of anger and hostility against the perpetrator, which may cause psychological
distress (i.e., depression or a sense of helplessness). However, some victims may be able to
overcome the distress because the internal changes enhance social connectedness which
prompts collaborative strategies for conflict resolution. In those who do not internally forgive a
perpetrator, negative emotions remain and consequently interfere with constructive conflict
resolution. The present studies suggest that the type of forgiveness (true or hollow) determines
the selection of strategies for conflict resolution. As stated above, coping with the experience
of being victimized determines whether internal forgiveness is shaped or not, which in turn
influences the selection of resolution strategies.
4. Conclutions and Limitations
In the present studies, we theoretically divided forgiving victims into two groups
based on levels of internal forgiveness. Assuming that true and hollowforgiveness would differ
in motivations, strategies for conflict resolution, and satisfaction with outcome, we examined a
series of hypotheses across two studies using different methods. Consistent with our
hypotheses, results revealed that victims showing the true forgiveness were concerned with
relationships, preferred collaborative strategies, and were highly satisfied with outcomes. On
the other hand, victims showing hollow forgiveness had strong self-oriented concerns,
preferred avoidance, and their satisfaction with outcomes were low. The findings demonstrated
the roles of different types of forgiveness in conflict management, contributing to theoretical
development of forgiveness and conflict resolution.
However, there are several limitations to these studies. First, we did not measure true
forgiveness and hollow forgiveness at the behavioral level. In both studies, they were measured
by items measuring forgiveness: participants rated their forgiving behavior based on recalled
episodes in Study 1 and based on role-playing in Study 2. Secondly, both studies were
correlational in nature. In these studies, we measured theoretical variables based on
participants responses to harm situations and analyzed the relationships between them. We did
not manipulate any variables in these studies, so it was impossible to establish causal
relationships between the variables.
Finally, we should note that all participants in the present studies were Japanese.
Cross-cultural research on conflict management has indicated that Japanese prefer avoidance
more than westerners (Hirokawa & Miyahara, 1986; Ohbuchi et al., 1999). The present results
are consistent with the previous findings: Figure 4 shows that participants selected avoidance
more than the other strategies. The association between avoidance and hollow forgiveness
makes us predict that this type of forgiveness will be more often observed among Japanese
than among westerners. The future research should examine cultural differences in forgiveness
in terms of types of forgiveness and motives for forgiveness.
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Table 1. Items of motives for forgiveness in Takada & Ohbuchi (2004).
Motives and Items
Maintenance of relationship
I wanted to maintain the relationship with the harm-doer
I wanted to re-establish the relationship with the harm-doer
I did not want to miss the harm-doer.
Maintenance of social harmony
I did not want to disturb harmony in the group.
I wanted to take care of teamwork.
I felt sympathy with the harm-doer.
I felt understanding toward the harm-doer.
I did not mind because such a trouble is inevitable.
I felt that is nothing in social interactions.
Reduction of stress
I did not want to escalate the conflict.
I wanted to evade from the stress.
Protection of identity
I wanted to protect my self-ideal.
I wanted to be a generous person.
Need for acceptance
I did not want to be isolated.
I wanted to be regarded as a generous person by the others.
I wanted to be understood and sympathized by the others.
Table 2. Results of factor analysis of the 16 items for motives
The 1st Factor: Need for acceptance
I wanted to be understood and sympathized by the others
I wanted to evade from the stress
I did not wanted to be isolated
I wanted to protect my self-ideal
I wanted to be regarded as a generous person by others
The 2nd Factor: Maintenance of relationship
I did not want to miss the harm-doer
I wanted to re-establish the relationship with the harm-doer
I wanted to maintain the relationship with the harm-doer
The 3rd Factor: Sympathy
I wanted to be a generous person
I felt sympathy with the harm-doer
I did not want to escalate the conflict
I felt understanding toward the harm-doer
The 4th factor: Maintenance of social harmony
I did not want to disturb harmony in the group
I wanted to take care of teamwork
The 5th factor: Generosity
I did not mind because such a trouble is inevitable
I felt that is nothing in social interactions
Table 3. Second-order factor analysis of the 5 motives (study1)
Need for acceptance
Maintenance of social harmony
Maintenance of relationship
Table 4. Correlation between motives, willingness to forgive, and forgiving behavior
Need for acceptance
Maintenance of social harmony
Maintenance of relationship
Willingness to forgive
Note. ** p < .01; * p < .05
Table 5. Items measured in study 2 and alpha
I will make him/her pay (R)
I want him/her to get what he/she deserve (R)
I keep as much distance between us as possible (R)
I live as if he/she doesn’t exist, isn’t around (R)
I no longer feel bad about the perpetrator
I convey my forgiveness to the perpetrator
I say to the perpetrator “I don’t care about it”
I keep touch in keep with the offender
I treat the offender same as usual
I punish the offender
I give the offender a good beating
I confront with the offender
I blame the offender
I get to the solution with the offender hand in hand
I hash out a compromise with the offender
I talk with the offender about the offense kindly
I avoid the offender
I don’t relate the offender
I satisfy the result of the conflict
I accept the results smoothly
I am confident about resolving the problem
(R) means reverse items
Table 6. Factor analysis of 5 motives (study 2)
Maintenance of relationship
Need for acceptance
Maintenance of social harmony
Figure 1. Differences in the forgiveness motives as a function of types of forgiveness
Satisfaction with results of conflict resolution as a function of types of forgiving (study
Figure 3. Conflict coping styles as a function of types of forgiving (study 1)
Figure 4. Differences in motives among 3 groups (study 2)
Figure 5. Conflict coping styles as a function of types of forgiving (study 2)
Figure 6. Satisfaction with results of conflict resolution as a function of types of
forgiving (study 2)