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IACM 2022

IACM 2022 Abstract Book »

To Forgive or to Show Integrity: Forgiveness undermines integrity-based trust but increases benevolence-based trust

Eight studies illustrate that victims face a tradeoff between being perceived as benevolent or having high integrity when deciding whether to forgive transgressors. Participants judged a forgiving victim to have lower integrity but higher benevolence than both non-forgiving victims and victims who expressed neither. This finding emerged when the victim was an individual or an institution, endured small or great harm, denounced the transgression as wrong, or received an apology from the transgressor. As predicted, forgiveness reduced victims’ integrity because forgiveness conveyed lower concern with affirming the violated moral principle. Consequently, this effect was more likely to emerge for morality-based than competence-based transgressions and when no reparative actions were taken to remove the offense. An incentivized managerial simulation showed that victims face downstream reputational consequences because of their decision to forgive. Overall, these findings challenge common wisdom about the forgiveness-morality relationship and highlight a critical dilemma that victims face.

Rebecca Schaumberg
United States

University of Southern California
United States

Gabrielle Adams
University of Virginia Batten School of Leadership
United States


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