Interpersonal Motives and Cultural Values Behind Forgiveness: A Study in the Philippines and in the United States
Santos, Henri Carlo Y.
When faced with a conflict or transgression, an offended person may be motivated to connect and be in communion with the offender instead of wanting to dominate the interaction. These motives may predict whether or not the offended person chooses to forgive. Additionally, communal and agentic motives may reflect cultural contexts that foster embeddedness and harmony (e.g., Filipino) over those that do not (e.g., American). We compared Filipino (n = 184) and American (n = 132) responses to a hurtful transgression from someone they knew. High levels of communal motives and concern for another’s face, along with low levels of endorsement of hierarchy values and concern for one’s own face predicted forgiveness. Other cultural values and religiosity did not play a significant role. In addition, high levels of forgiveness led to increases in positive emotions, decreases in negative emotions, and improved relationship satisfaction. Avoidance also led to positive emotional outcomes but resulted in a less satisfactory relationship. This process generally operated in the same way across both cultural contexts, with the exception of the motive to seek vengeance. Although communal motives fostered forgiveness in both American and Filipino contexts, only Filipinos attended to their desire to be close to the offender when deciding whether or not to seek vengeance. This study has implications for interventions in the Philippines and other similar cultural contexts that value communion with others. In these cultural contexts, additional emphasis on communal motives and reconciliation may be key to preventing revenge motives.
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