A Study of Transgressors: Aspects of Restitution

Student Author(s)

Sabrina Hakim

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Lindsey Root-Luna; Dr. Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet; Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren

Document Type


Event Date



The purpose of this study was to examine restitution-making behavior after committing a transgression. Previous research has explored how victims of an offense forgive, whereas this study investigated how perpetrators of an offense make restitution. The two main factors of the study we manipulated were the degree to which participants valued the person they offended and the degree to which they felt responsible for the transgression. Previous research has found relational value to be an important component to forgiveness (Burnette, McCullough, Van Tongeren & Davis, 2012). We hypothesized that feeling responsible or highly valuing the victim would be related to restitution-making behaviors. Participants were 124 (90 females) undergraduates ranging in age from 17-26. They were placed in groups of four and interacted for either five (low relational value) or ten minutes (high relational value), and then ranked the other group members on how much they wanted to work with them on a future task. Following this, they were told that the participant they ranked last was excluded from playing a game and would have to complete a boring task, and this was determined either randomly (no responsibility) or based on their specific ranking (high responsibility). Subsequently, participants played an enjoyable game on the computer for five minutes. Each participant then allocated 700 math problems amongst themselves and the other members, which served as the restitution-making behavioral measure. A 2(responsible vs. not responsible) x 2(low vs. high relational value) x 3(group member: self, first-ranked, last-ranked) mixed ANOVA yielded a significant interaction on restitution-making behavior. Highly valuing the victim led to equitable allocation of problems. In the low relational value condition, participants gave more problems to the victim when they didn’t feel responsible; however, this effect was reversed when the person felt responsible. Implications for these results will be discussed.

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