Forgiveness is often understood as the outcome of sociocognitive processes including appraisals of transgression severity and offender responsibility, rumination, and empathy for the offender. Alternatively, forgiveness may be understood as the initiator of such sociocognitive processes; a decision, intuition, or act that elicits reappraisals, reduces ruminative thought, and leads to a repositioning to the offender. The authors tested these two causal directions in a three-wave longitudinal study capturing participants' (N = 112) thoughts and feelings in the first 3 days immediately following an interpersonal transgression. Latent growth modeling showed that initial forgiveness significantly predicted an increase in empathy and a decrease in perceived severity over time. Conversely, initial rumination significantly predicted a change in forgiveness; interestingly, counter to conventional theoretical views, rumination facilitated an increase in forgiveness over time. The findings indicate that, in the dynamic period following a transgression, forgiveness plays an active role and initiates sociocognitive changes in victims.
- interpersonal conflict
- longitudinal methodology