Does victims' forgiveness help offenders to forgive themselves? The role of meta-perceptions of value consensus

Michael Wenzel, Christiana Harous, Mikaela Cibich, Lydia Woodyatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interpersonal transgressions are disruptive to relationships as they violate values presumed to be shared and threaten the integrity of victim and offender, and their shared identity. Forgiveness and self-forgiveness are understood to be important elements of the moral repair process, however commonly they are studied as intrapsychic phenomena without considering the dynamics between them. Here, we investigate whether victims' expression of forgiveness can facilitate offenders' genuine self-forgiveness – the restoration of the offender's moral self by taking responsibility and working through their guilt. We argue that forgiveness can do so when it leads offenders to perceive that the victim believes the offender shares in a consensus about the violated values (meta-perceived value consensus) and, in turn, leads offenders to affirm their perception of value consensus. Three experimental studies (N = 807, 606, and 752) provided evidence for the hypothesized sequential mediation, with forgiveness having an indirect positive effect on genuine self-forgiveness via meta-perception of value consensus and offender's affirmation of value consensus. Study 2 furthermore manipulated the victim's belief in the offender sharing in the value consensus and provided causal evidence for its role in the process. The findings highlight the importance of a restored value consensus for the offender's repair of integrity through genuine self-forgiveness, which depends on the offender knowing, and knowing that the victim knows, that they share those values. The research advances our understanding of moral repair as a dyadic negotiated process.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104433
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Forgiveness
  • Moral repair
  • Self-forgiveness
  • Value consensus


Dive into the research topics of 'Does victims' forgiveness help offenders to forgive themselves? The role of meta-perceptions of value consensus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this