Does Commitment Promote Forgiveness?

Strong commitment in one’s relationships promotes positive mental events and forgiveness.  This is according to a 2002 study by Finkel and colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University.  They defined commitment as the intent to persist or the decision to remain dependent on the partner. Betrayal, meanwhile, is arguably one of the hardest things to forgive in any relationship. When people are betrayed, they often find it difficult to withdraw from the negative emotions that accompany the act.

Finkel and colleagues conducted three separate studies to explore the relationship between commitment and forgiveness: (1) a priming experiment, (2) a cross-sectional survey study, and (3) an interaction record study. . The authors believed that there would be a positive association between commitment and forgiveness and Study 1 found that individuals, who are highly committed to their partners, are more likely to forgive acts of betrayal. Study 2 and 3 looked at if mental events would bring about the association between commitment and behavior. Study 2 found that highly committed individuals had more positive immediate and delayed behaviors, immediate and delayed cognitive interpretations, and delayed emotional reactions however they had more negative emotional reactions. Study 3 demonstrated that when individuals are highly committed, even in acts of betrayal, they are more likely to look at the act with more positive emotion, cognition, and behavior. They also found that, the association of commitment with forgiveness was significantly affected by both cognitive interpretations and emotional reactions to the betrayal.

Finkel, E. J., Rusbult, C. E., Kumashiro, M., & Hannon, P. A. (2002). Dealing with betrayal in close relationships: Does commitment promote forgiveness? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(6), 956-974. doi:

Me (2)By Mackenzie Bowe

Mackenzie is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development and Sociology. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in May 2018, she plans on going to graduate school for Social Work.