Examining Prosocial behavior through forgiveness

Interpersonal conflict is an inevitable part of social life. Elucidating factors that contribute to how we react to conflict has important implications for well-being and mental health. Through the use of several different methodologies, we have examined this question with colleagues at the University of Miami. We've found that conciliatory gestures exhibited by transgressors increase victims' perceptions of their transgressors' level of agreeableness, which increases forgiveness (Tabak & McCullough, 2012; Tabak et al., 2012) and reduces cortisol reactivity (Tabak & McCullough, 2012). In addition, we've shown that conciliatory gestures exhibited by transgressors increase victims' perceptions of their transgressors' relationship value and decrease perceptions of their transgressors' liklihood of exploiting them in the future (McCullough et al., 2014). Our research group has also found that early childhood experiences of family conflict and violence, as well as neighborhood crime and violence, contribute to decreased cooperation and higher rates of retaliation following a betrayal in trust (McCullough et al., 2012). All of this work contributed to a theoretical paper in which we discuss the evolution of forgiveness and revenge (McCullough, Kurzban, & Tabak, 2013).