One adverse consequence of interpersonal mistreatment is that it damages the relationship between the victim and the transgressor. Scholars have promoted forgiveness of such mistreatment as a victim response that can motivate transgressors to work towards relationship restoration. Building on social exchange theory and the social perception literature, we provide an account of when transgressors are less (vs. more) willing to restore their relationship with the victim in response to forgiveness. Specifically, we argue that transgressors perceive forgiveness from a victim who has high (vs. low) power, relative to the transgressor, as insincere, making transgressors less willing to restore the relationship. We further argue that this effect of high (vs. low) victim power is pronounced especially when the victim also has low (vs. high) status. Two experiments and two field studies support these predictions. These findings highlight the relevance of studying how contextual conditions color transgressors' perceptions of victims' behavior to understand relationship restoration after interpersonal mistreatment.
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- interpersonal mistreatment
- relationship restoration