People feel worse about their forgiveness when mismatches between forgiveness and amends create adaptation risks

Laura B. Luchies*, Eli J. Finkel, Anthony E. Coy, Chelsea A. Reid, Daryl R. Van Tongeren, Jody L. Davis, Jeffrey D. Green

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Building on principles of evolutionary psychology and sociometer theory, we propose that people feel worse about the extent to which they have forgiven when their forgiveness level increases their risk of exploitation or their risk of spoiling a valuable relationship. We predicted that people would feel worse about their forgiveness level when they grant a high level of forgiveness to a perpetrator who has made weak (vs. strong) amends, thereby heightening their risk of exploitation (H1). We also predicted that people would feel worse about their forgiveness level when they grant a low (vs. high) level of forgiveness to a perpetrator who has made strong amends, thereby putting the value of their relationship with the perpetrator at risk (H2). We conducted a longitudinal study of transgressions occurring in romantic relationships and two experiments to test these ideas. H1 was supported in two of the three studies; H2 was supported in all three. A mini meta-analysis indicated that both effects were reliable across the program of research. These results suggest that feelings about one’s forgiveness level serve a functional purpose: Feeling bad about one’s forgiveness level signals that the current combination of amends and forgiveness levels may be causing an adaptation risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)681-705
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Volume36
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2019

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Keywords

  • Amends
  • evolutionary psychology
  • forgiveness
  • happiness
  • prosocial behavior
  • sociometer theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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