Writing about the benefits of an interpersonal transgression facilitates forgiveness

Michael E. McCullough, Lindsey M. Root, Adam D. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

209 Scopus citations


The authors examined the effects of writing about the benefits of an interpersonal transgression on forgiveness. Participants (N = 304) were randomly assigned to one of three 20-min writing tasks in which they wrote about either (a) traumatic features of the most recent interpersonal transgression they had suffered, (b) personal benefits resulting from the transgression, or (c) a control topic that was unrelated to the transgression. Participants in the benefit-finding condition became more forgiving toward their transgressors than did those in the other 2 conditions, who did not differ from each other. In part, the benefit-finding condition appeared to facilitate forgiveness by encouraging participants to engage in cognitive processing as they wrote their essays. Results suggest that benefit finding may be a unique and useful addition to efforts to help people forgive interpersonal transgressions through structured interventions. The Transgression-Related Interpersonal Motivations Inventory-18-Item Version (TRIM-18) is appended.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)887-897
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of consulting and clinical psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2006


  • Benefit finding
  • Forgiveness
  • LIWC
  • Meaning
  • TRIM
  • Writing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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