Conceptualizations of Forgiveness

Etienne Mullet, Michelle Girard, Parul Bakhshi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

42 Scopus citations


The objectives of the survey were to examine the extent to which (1) laypeople agree with conceptualizations of forgiveness encountered in literature, notably that forgiveness supposes the replacement of negative emotions toward the offender by positive emotions, (2) forgiveness is a process that can only take place between an offended and an offender who is known to the offended, and (3) forgiveness is not a process that devalues the forgiven but a process that encourages him/her to behave better in the future. It was also aimed at examining the extent to which parents and children store the same conceptualizations about forgiveness. A total of 343 students participated in the study as well as their mothers and fathers. Four conceptualization factors were identified: Change of Heart, More-Than-Dyadic Process, Encourages Repentance, and Immoral Beliavior. Only a minority of participants agreed with the idea that forgiving supposes regaining affection or sympathy toward the offender (23%), and with the idea that forgiveness can encourage repentance from the forgiven (33%). More participants, however, agreed with the ideas that the forgiver can be somebody in close relationship with the offended and that the forgiven can be an unknown offender or an abstract institution (46%). Very few participants (4%) agreed with the idea that forgiveness is immoral. Parents and their children tended to conceptualize forgiveness similarly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-86
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Psychologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Conceptualizations
  • Empathy
  • Forgiveness
  • Morality
  • Repentance

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