What it takes to forgive: When and why executive functioning facilitates forgiveness.
To establish what it takes to forgive, the present research focused on the cognitive underpinnings of the forgiveness process. We conducted four studies that examined and supported the prediction that executive functioning (a set of cognitive control processes) facilitates forgiveness. First, a correlational study revealed a positive relation between executive functioning and dispositional forgiveness (Study 1). Second, a longitudinal study demonstrated that executive functioning predicts the development of forgiveness over a period of 5 weeks after the offense (Study 2). Finally, two experiments examined when and why executive functioning facilitates forgiveness. Specifically, and in line with predictions, Studies 3 and 4 showed that executive functioning facilitates forgiveness only in the case of relatively severe (as compared with mild) offenses. Furthermore, Study 4 provided evidence for a psychological mechanism underlying the relation between executive functioning and forgiveness by demonstrating the mediating role of rumination about the offense. Implications of these findings for the literature on forgiveness and the role of executive functioning in interpersonal relationships more generally are discussed.