Truth and Forgiveness: Does a Subjective Sense of Knowing the Truth Facilitate Victims’ Closure and Willingness to Forgive?

Quinney, B. (Flinders University), Wenzel, M. (Flinders University), Woodyatt, L. (Flinders University)

Victims often want to know the truth about their victimisation, perhaps assuming that the truth will help them come to terms. The current research investigates whether knowing the truth, the impression that one has more (vs. less) complete or consistent information about an event, affects victims’ post-transgression thinking and emotions. We theorise that knowing the truth leads victims to form a sense of understanding or meaning, greater abstract evaluative thinking and cognitive distancing from the event, and reduced affective intensity. Consequently, truth is predicted to increase victims’ willingness to forgive. We developed a method to examine knowing the truth by presenting a report that appeared visually complete or visually incomplete but was equal in information quantity to avoid confounding knowing the truth with information effects. Findings indicate that the visually complete report led to greater subjective judgments of knowing the truth than the visually incomplete report, and indirectly to a sense of meaning, closure, reduced affect, and greater forgiveness. The study provides preliminary evidence of the utility of knowing the truth in aiding victims to come to terms with their victimisation.

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Emotion and Individual Differences