Michael E. McCullough, Lindsey M. Root, Benjamin A. Tabak and Charlotte van Oyen Witvliet

in The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology

Second edition

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780195187243
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

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We posit that humans have a propensity to forgive, under certain circumstances, that is every bit as intrinsic to human nature as the tendency to seek revenge when harmed. The human tendency to forgive is reliably elicited by social and environmental factors that lead victims to view their transgressors as worthy of care, potentially valuable to the victim in the future, and safe. The victim's personality characteristics may also influence the likelihood of viewing transgressors as careworthy, valuable, and safe. Using these categories, we review recent developments in the scientific study of the social and personality factors that promote forgiveness. We also review developments in the measurement of forgiveness, the links of forgiveness to health and well-being, and quantitative evidence regarding the effectiveness of interventions for promoting forgiveness.

Keywords: conflict; evolution; forgiveness; health; revenge

Article.  6139 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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