Forgive Them for I Have Sinned: The Relationship between Guilt and Forgiveness of Others’ Transgressions

57 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2015

See all articles by Jennifer Jordan

Jennifer Jordan

University of Groningen

Francis Flynn

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Taya R. Cohen

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

Date Written: January 5, 2015

Abstract

Across four studies, guilt led to forgiveness of others’ transgressions. In Study 1, people prone to experience guilt (but not shame) were also prone to forgive others for past misdeeds. In Study 2, we manipulated harm- and inequity-based guilt; both increased forgiveness of others’ transgressions. Further, the effect of guilt on forgiveness was mediated by identification with the transgressor. In Study 3, we replicated the guilt-forgiveness relationship and examined three other plausible mediators: capability for similar wrongdoing, empathic understanding, and general identification; only identification with the transgressor satisfied the criteria for mediation. In Study 4, we induced guilt by asking participants to harm a friend or stranger. Guilt induced by harming a friend led to greater forgiveness of third-party transgressors, and again, identification with the transgressor mediated the effect. We discuss the implications of these results for understanding how the prosocial effects of guilt extend beyond the boundaries of a single interpersonal relationship.

Keywords: Guilt; Forgiveness; Identification; Transgressions; Incidental Emotions

Suggested Citation

Jordan, Jennifer and Flynn, Francis and Cohen, Taya R., Forgive Them for I Have Sinned: The Relationship between Guilt and Forgiveness of Others’ Transgressions (January 5, 2015). European Journal of Social Psychology, 2015, Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 15-10, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2547188

Jennifer Jordan (Contact Author)

University of Groningen ( email )

P.O. Box 800
9700 AH Groningen, Groningen 9700 AV
Netherlands

Francis Flynn

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Taya R. Cohen

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business ( email )

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
4122686677 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.tepper.cmu.edu/our-faculty-and-research/about-our-faculty/faculty-profiles/tcohen/cohen-t

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