Whitney Jeter, Ph.D. (2016)

Major Professor:

Dr. Patrick Knight

Title and Institution:

Assistant Professor, Fort Hays State University

Dissertation:

Investigating mindfulness and implementation planning as strategies that facilitate granting and seeking forgiveness behaviors among young adults 

Abstract:

Previous research suggests that college-age students, namely first-year college individuals, are particularly prone to experience relational conflict. Interpersonal forgiveness has been well-documented as a variable that can reduce relational conflict among young adults. However, limited empirical research to date has explored the motivation and ability of college-age students to engage in forgiveness granting behaviors when they are the victim of an interpersonal conflict; this lack of empirical research is especially prevalent when considering the perpetrator’s perspective and why (motivation) and how (ability) perpetrators engage in forgiveness seeking behaviors following conflict.

Given this gap in previous research, the current dissertation assessed forgiveness granting and forgiveness seeking behaviors for victims and perpetrators of an interpersonal transgression, respectively. Using attitude and behavioral change models as theoretical guides, we exposed young adults to a message pertaining to reasons/motivations for why they should engage in forgiveness behaviors as well as two training techniques (i.e. mindfulness and implementation planning) that may promote the ability to express granting/seeking forgiveness. Study 1 focused on naturalistic, self-reported transgression experiences occurring within close relationships, while Study 2 focused on a standardized transgression experience occurring in a lab setting. Across these two studies, we found that participants who were exposed to reasons/motives for forgiveness as well as a mindfulness or implementation planning technique were more likely to engage in forgiveness grating/seeking behaviors than participants who were not exposed to this information. Furthermore, results suggest that the participants’ mood and attitudes toward forgiveness granting/seeking were enhanced by receiving both a message and a training technique. These results were especially pronounced for victims in the mindfulness training conditions for both Study 1 and Study 2. Overall, our results suggest that receiving both a message emphasizing motives/reasons for forgiveness as well as an easy to implement technique may assist young adults in alleviating severe interpersonal conflict (Study 1) as well as every day, slight transgressions (Study 2). The findings from Study 1 and Study 2 add unique knowledge to previous forgiveness literature and help to inform previous research about the process victims and perpetrators undergo when engaging in forgiveness following relational conflict.