The Role of Psychological Distance in Forgiveness
Rizvi , Sana
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My aim in the present research was to expand the literature on how to promote forgiveness by considering the role of psychological distance. Participants responded to interpersonal conflict vignettes in six experiments. In Experiment 1, using a measurement-of-mediation design, I found that participants were more motivated to forgive when the transgression was temporally distant versus near to them. Furthermore, high-level construal mediated the positive effect of temporal distance on forgiveness. Experiment 2a demonstrated that physically distancing a transgression resulted in high-level construal, and Experiment 2b showed that individuals primed with a high-level construal versus a low-level construal were more motivated to forgive their transgressor. Together, Experiments 2a and 2b confirmed a causal chain between physical distance, construal level, and forgiveness. In Experiment 2c, I found that participants were more forgiving when the transgression was physically distant rather than near to them. In Experiment 2d, I replicated the direct effect of physical distance on forgiveness, and ruled out alternative explanations for the effect. In Experiment 3, using a measurement-of-mediation design, I found that reduced memory of event details, lower perceptions of event severity, and lower attributions of blame towards the offender mediated the effect of construal level on forgiveness. Taken together, my research demonstrates that increasing the psychological distance between the transgression and the victim promotes forgiveness due to high-level (versus low-level) construal. Furthermore, construal level has an effect on forgiveness by altering perceptions and judgments that people have about transgressions. My research has implications for literatures on construal level theory and forgiveness.