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Type: Thesis
Title: Does it matter why people forgive? How a victim’s reasons for forgiving change the outcomes of forgiveness
Author: Gabriels, Jordan Brian
Issue Date: 2018
School/Discipline: School of Psychology
Abstract: This thesis is designed to answer the question, “does it matter why people choose to forgive?” and more specifically, “when forgiving potentially exploitative offenders, should people forgive for the sake of their own wellbeing or should they forgive for the sake of their relationship?” To establish the context for this question, the first chapter introduces several relevant issues. To begin Chapter 1.1, I review the literature highlighting the costs and benefits associated with granting forgiveness, and argue that the outcomes of forgiveness are generally negative when the offender presents an exploitation risk. In Chapter 1.2, I discuss why victims might choose to forgive an exploitative offender, outlining the many reasons victims cite for granting forgiveness. In Chapter 1.3, I bring these two discussions together and argue that the outcomes of forgiveness depend on the combination of the victim’s reason for forgiving and the degree to which the offender presents an exploitation risk. More specifically, I argue that the outcomes of forgiving an exploitative offender depend on the degree to which forgiveness is focussed on the self, relative to the relationship. This thesis has also been designed to shed light on an area of forgiveness research that has historically received very little attention: forgiveness of non-human entities such as organisations. Much of the research on forgiveness has focussed primarily on revenge and forgiveness between individuals in close relationships. However, I argue that it is equally important to investigate forgiveness of nebulous others such as organisations. Accordingly, in the latter half of the thesis I address this gap by investigating the outcomes of forgiveness between individuals and organisations. To test the central hypothesis of this thesis, a series of five studies was conducted. Study 1 was a two-phase prospective study of close relationship partners who were the victim of an actual transgression at phase one. Participants were later assessed at phase two for forgiveness motives and levels of distress. Studies 2 and 3 were online experiments in which exploitation risk and forgiveness motives were manipulated to test their effect on measures of forgiveness-related distress. Study 4 was a factor analysis designed to more clearly understand the reasons people forgive organisations. Study 5 examined personally experienced transgressions where the offender was an organisation, testing the moderating effect of the motives identified in Study 4. Taken together, these five studies have provided an answer to the initial question, “does it matter why people choose to forgive?” At least in the short-term, forgiving explicitly to benefit the self not only results in more positive outcomes than withholding forgiveness, but also more positive outcomes than forgiving to restore a relationship. Moreover, within close interpersonal relationships, forgiving for the sake of the self also provides a buffer against the distress associated with forgiving an exploitative offender. Unfortunately, the pattern of results that emerged from the studies examining the impact of forgiveness of organisations was less clear. Nonetheless, the finding that the impact of forgiveness motives appears to be less important when victims forgive organisations as opposed to individuals is novel. The body of research presented in this thesis demonstrates that the outcomes of forgiveness and reconciliation depend on not only why victims forgive but also whom they forgive.
Advisor: Strelan, Peter
Semmler, Carolyn
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Psychology, 2019
Keywords: Forgiveness
functional analysis
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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