University of Western Ontario - Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Psychology

Supervisor

Dr. James Olson

Abstract

After being hurt by a romantic partner, individuals may feel ambivalent towards their partner. Specifically, individuals’ feelings about their partner after a transgression (current attitudes) may be discrepant from how they want to feel about their partner (desired attitudes). When individuals are aware of such a discrepancy, they may be motivated to resolve it by using mental strategies (e.g., focusing on the positive characteristics of the partner or focusing on events that are not related to the transgression) that bring their current attitudes more in line with their desired attitudes, a process that has been labeled deliberate self-persuasion (Maio & Thomas, 2007). In three studies, we empirically tested the deliberate self-persuasion process within a forgiveness context. In Study 1, participants recalled a transgression within the last six months in which they were harmed by their romantic partner and indicated their responses to the transgression. In Study 2, participants imagined a hypothetical scenario in which they were harmed by their romantic partner and reported how they would respond to the transgression. In Study 3, participants who were transgressed against by their romantic partner within the last week were asked to indicate their reactions to the transgression over a three-week period. In general, more ambivalent feelings toward the transgressor were associated with more need to resolve the ambivalence. In turn, the need to resolve the discrepancy was sometimes associated with more use of deliberate self-persuasion strategies and was consistently associated with greater discussion of the transgression with the partner. Although the results indicated that participants may not always resolve their feelings of ambivalence using deliberate self-persuasion strategies, strategies predicted forgiving responses in all three studies. In addition, the use of deliberate self-persuasion strategies was associated in Study 3 with greater increases in forgiveness over time. The results from the current studies provide some empirical support for a deliberate self-persuasion model of forgiveness.

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