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When and how forgiving benefits victims: Post‐transgression offender effort and the mediating role of deservingness judgements

European Journal of Social Psychology

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For all the well‐established benefits of forgiveness for victims, when and how is forgiving more likely to be beneficial? Three experimental studies found that forgiving is more likely to be beneficial when victims perceived reparative effort by offenders such that offenders deserve forgiveness. Deservingness judgements were elicited by manipulating post‐transgression offender effort (apology/amends). When offenders apologized (Study 1; recall paradigm) or made amends (Study 2; hypothetical paradigm) and were forgiven—relative to transgressors who did not apologize/make amends but were still forgiven—forgiving was beneficial. These findings—that deserved forgiveness is more beneficial for victims than undeserved forgiveness—were replicated when forgiving itself was also manipulated (Study 3). Moreover, Study 3 provided evidence to indicate that if a victim forgives when it is not deserved, victim well‐being is equivalent to not forgiving at all. Of theoretical and practical importance is the mediating effect of deservingness on relations between post‐transgression offender effort and a victim's personal consequences of forgiving.