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Conciliatory Gestures Make Transgressors Seem More Agreeable. Mike McCullough Ben Tabak University of Miami Coral Gables, FL. Reconciliation: Friendly Post-Conflict Contact. Aureli & de Waal, 2000.

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Conciliatory Gestures Make Transgressors Seem More Agreeable

Mike McCullough

Ben Tabak

University of Miami

Coral Gables, FL

forgiveness and reconciliation cross cultural universals
Near-universal (93%) presence of forgiveness and/or reconciliation in a random sample of 60 human societies (McCullough, 2008)Forgiveness and Reconciliation:Cross-Cultural Universals?

“I recently asked a world-renowned American psychologist, who specializes

in human aggression, what he knew about reconciliation. Not only did he have no

Information on the subject, but he looked at me as if the word were new to him” (De

Waal,1989, p. 233)

explaining reconciliation in non human primates
Explaining Reconciliation in Non-Human Primates
  • Benign Intent (Silk, 2002): Conciliatory gestures (CGs) evolved as inexpensive, inconspicuous signals of desire to resume peaceful relations
  • Valuable relations (de Waal, Aureli): CGs evolved because they reassure and reduce anxiety victims’ and aggressors’ post-conflict anxiety, and thus accelerate the re-establishment of valuable (i.e., fitness-enhancing) relations

Conciliatory Gestures (O)

Judgments of Value, Safety, &



Forgiveness or


Behavior (V)



agreeableness as a summary of value safety and careworthiness
Agreeableness as a Summary of Value, Safety, and Careworthiness
  • Higher-order trait associated with prosociality, helpfulness, active efforts to avoid conflict, generosity, and trustworthiness
  • Agreeable people have more relaxed conflict resolution styles, are less likely to respond aggressively to provocation, and are less frequently the targets of aggression
  • Characterized by adjectives such as warm, kind, trusting, appreciative, and cooperative
Measuring Forgiveness via Self-Report: The Transgression-Related Interpersonal Motivations (TRIM) Inventory

Subscale 1: Avoidance Motivation (7 items)

“I keep as much distance between us as possible.”

“I avoid him/her.”

Subscale 2: Revenge Motivation (5 items)

“I’ll make him/her pay.”

“I want to see him/her hurt and miserable.”

Subscale 3: Benevolence Motivation (6 items)

“I want us to bury the hatchet.”

“I want us to have a positive relationship again.”

Scale alphas > .85. Scale scores range from 1-5. We use a Rasch-derived measure that combines all 18 items. 0 = lowest theoretical value, 10 = one logit of difficulty.


Transgressor Agreeableness may Mediate the Conciliation-Forgiveness Association





Conciliatory Gestures

Transgressor Agreeableness

Reconciliation Behavior

conciliatory gestures agreeableness and forgiveness a longitudinal look
Conciliatory Gestures, Agreeableness, and Forgiveness: A Longitudinal Look
  • 164 (54 male, 110 female) undergraduates, (M age = 19.6)
  • Experienced an interpersonal transgression within nine days of beginning the study (Range = 0-9 days, M = 4.37)
  • Completed up to 21 repeated TRIM measures
  • We used Rasch models to generate a unidimensional measure of forgiveness based on the TRIM
  • LGCMs to estimate initial status and rate of linear change for every person, then associated those latents with Conciliatory Gestures and the Big Five (John, Donahue, and Kentle, 1991)

Transgressor Agreeableness may Mediate the Conciliatory Gestures-Forgiveness Association

Sobel test statistic = -2.23, p < .05.

*p < .05

  • Apologies, compensation, and behavioral and expressive indices of remorse and contrition “hang together” in receivers’ perceptions
  • These conciliatory gestures seem to facilitate forgiveness and reconciliation, measured via self-report and behaviorally
  • These effects may be mediated by their intermediate effects on victims’ perceptions of transgressors’ agreeableness
  • Thus, CGs may work by making transgressors seem like safer and more valuable relationship partners
interested in reading more the speaker recommends
Interested in reading more? The speaker recommends . . .


San Francisco, Jossey-Bass (March, 2008)