Tensions between collective-self forgiveness and political repair

Michael Wenzel, Blake Quinney, Michael J.A. Wohl, Anna Barron, Lydia Woodyatt

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Faced with collective guilt, perpetrator groups may seek collective-self forgiveness. However, does this diminish their support for political repair? Advancing the concept of collective-self forgiveness, we distinguish between end-state collective-self forgiveness as restored moral identity and two processes: pseudo collective-self forgiveness as defensive downplaying and genuine collective-self forgiveness as ‘working through’ the ingroup's guilt. In three studies, non-Indigenous Australians (N = 369, 800 and 785) were surveyed about currently debated constitutional changes for the recognition and empowerment of Indigenous Australians. Pseudo and genuine collective-self forgiveness were positively related to end-state collective-self forgiveness. Pseudo and end-state were negative, but genuine collective-self forgiveness positively, related to support for repair and truth telling. Participants identifying with both Australians and Indigenous Australians more strongly endorsed genuine collective-self forgiveness. The results suggest a pathway for perpetrator group members to balance identity needs with commitment to repair, but highlight drawbacks of seeing collective-self forgiveness as an end-state objective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1641-1662
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number7
Early online date28 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • collective guilt
  • collective-self forgiveness
  • intergroup wrongdoing
  • political repair
  • truth telling


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