Interpersonal Consequences of Forgiveness: Does Forgiveness Deter or Encourage Repeat Offenses?

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Benefits of forgiveness have been well documented, but past research has not directly addressed the crucial question of whether forgiveness deters or invites repeat transgressions. Our research indicates that expressing forgiveness typically discourages future offenses. In Study 1, participants playing a form of the prisoner’s dilemma game were more likely to repeat their transgressions against unforgiving victims than forgiving victims, especially when victims had no chance to retaliate. In response to a hypothetical scenario presented in Study 2, participants reported that they would be less likely to risk offending someone for a second time if that person had forgiven their first offense. In Study 3, participants’ autobiographical recollections of their prior transgressions revealed that receiving forgiveness predicted higher repentance motivation.

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Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

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