Do actions speak louder than words? Differential effects of apology and restitution on behavioral and self-report measures of forgiveness

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We built upon previous laboratory studies by examining the independent and interactive effects of restitution and apology on behavioral and self-reported measures relevant to forgiveness. Undergraduates (N = 155) received two of 10 tickets in a distribution. Some thought another participant was the distributor; others thought it was random. Later, some participants received restitution as nine tickets from the artificial participant, whereas others received nine tickets by chance. Some also received an apology. Participants then distributed 10 tickets to the artificial participant, the behavioral measure of forgiveness. Participants also self-reported forgiveness by rating the motivations underlying their distribution, including the motive, 'to express forgiveness'. Results indicated restitution increased behavioral expressions of forgiveness, but apology increased self-reported forgiveness. The restitution effect was partially mediated by empathy and the desire to help the transgressor. This study underscores the importance of both restitution and apology and of using multiple measures of forgiveness.