The Doormat Effect: When Forgiving Erodes Self-Respect and Self-Concept Clarity

Laura B. Luchies*, Eli J. Finkel, James K. McNulty, Madoka Kumashiro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

We build on principles from interdependence theory and evolutionary psychology to propose that forgiving bolsters one's self-respect and self-concept clarity if the perpetrator has acted in a manner that signals that the victim will be safe and valued in a continued relationship with the perpetrator but that forgiving diminishes one's self-respect and self-concept clarity if the perpetrator has not. Study 1 employed a longitudinal design to demonstrate that the association of marital forgiveness with trajectories of self-respect over the first 5 years of marriage depends on the spouse's dispositional tendency to indicate that the partner will be safe and valued (i.e., agreeableness). Studies 2 and 3 employed experimental procedures to demonstrate that the effects of forgiveness on self-respect and self-concept clarity depend on the perpetrator's event-specific indication that the victim will be safe and valued (i.e., amends). Study 4 employed a longitudinal design to demonstrate that the association of forgiveness with subsequent self-respect and self-concept clarity similarly depends on the extent to which the perpetrator has made amends. These studies reveal that, under some circumstances, forgiveness negatively impacts the self.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)734-749
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume98
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • amends
  • betrayal
  • forgiveness
  • self-concept clarity
  • self-respect

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