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Through scenario methodologies and recall methodologies

The Road to Forgiveness: A Meta-analytic Synthesis of Its Situational and Dispositional Correlates

Ryan Fehr, Michele Gelfand, Monisha Nag

Psychological Bulletin, 2010

Research details

Type of paper: Integrative/Synthetic Review

Sample size: 26006

Open Access: No


Forgiveness has received widespread attention among psychologists from social, personality, clinical, developmental, and organizational perspectives alike. Despite great progress, the forgiveness literature has witnessed few attempts at empirical integration. Toward this end, we meta-analyze results from 175 studies and 26,006 participants to examine the correlates of interpersonal forgiveness (i.e., forgiveness of a single offender by a single victim). A tripartite forgiveness typology is proposed, encompassing victims' (a) cognitions, (b) affect, and (c) constraints following offense, with each consisting of situational and dispositional components. We tested hypotheses with respect to 22 distinct constructs, as correlates of forgiveness, that have been measured across different fields within psychology. We also evaluated key sample and study characteristics, including gender, age, time, and methodology as main effects and moderators. Results highlight the multifaceted nature of forgiveness. Variables with particularly notable effects include intent (r = -.49), state empathy (r = .51), apology (r = .42), and state anger (r = -.41). Consistent with previous theory, situational constructs are shown to account for greater variance in forgiveness than victim dispositions, although within-category differences are considerable. Sample and study characteristics yielded negligible effects on forgiveness, despite previous theorizing to the contrary: The effect of gender was nonsignificant (r = .01), and the effect of age was negligible (r = .06). Preliminary evidence suggests that methodology may exhibit some moderating effects. Scenario methodologies led to enhanced effects for cognitions; recall methodologies led to enhanced effects for affect.