Forgiveness Results From Integrating Information About Relationship Value and Exploitation Risk

Jeni L. Burnette, Michael E. McCullough, Daryl R. van Tongeren, Don E. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

69 Scopus citations

Abstract

Exploitation is a fact of life for social organisms, and natural selection gives rise to revenge mechanisms that are designed to deter such exploitations. However, humans may also possess cognitive forgiveness mechanisms designed to promote the restoration of valuable social relationships following exploitation. In the current article, the authors test the hypothesis that decisions about forgiveness result from a computational system that combines information about relationship value and exploitation risk to produce decisions about whom to forgive following interpersonal offenses. The authors examined the independent and interactive effects of relationship value and exploitation risk across two studies. In Study 1, controlling for other constructs related to forgiveness, the authors assessed relationship value and exploitation risk. In Study 2, participants experienced experimental manipulations of relationship value and exploitation risk. Across studies, using hypothetical and actual offenses and varied forgiveness measures, the combination of low exploitation risk and high relationship value predicted the greatest forgiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-356
Number of pages12
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Volume38
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012

Keywords

  • evolutionary psychology
  • exploitation
  • forgiveness
  • interpersonal relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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