Forgiveness and its associations with prosocial thinking, feeling, and doing beyond the relationship with the offender

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2005 Oct;31(10):1315-26. doi: 10.1177/0146167205274892.


Past research has revealed that forgiveness promotes prosocial cognition, feeling, and behavior toward the offender. The present research extends this research by examining whether forgiveness may spill over beyond the relationship with the offender, promoting generalized prosocial orientation. Consistent with hypotheses, three studies revealed that forgiveness compared to unforgiveness is generally associated with higher levels of a generalized prosocial orientation, as indicated by higher levels of a we frame of mind (as indicated by a greater use of first-person plural pronouns, e.g., we, us, in a language task) and greater feelings of relatedness toward others in general. Moreover, forgiveness (vs. unforgiveness) was even associated with greater probability of donating to charity and greater willingness to engage in volunteering. Finally, the authors found that unforgiveness reduces tendencies toward generalized prosocial orientation, whereas forgiveness restores generalized prosocial orientation to baseline levels within the relationship.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Female
  • Guilt*
  • Helping Behavior
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Perception*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thinking*