2015 Volume 30 Issue 3 Pages 191-212
This article attempts to obtain a better understanding of human reconciliation processes by integrating the social psychological perspective with an evolutionary perspective. The evolutionary literature on reconciliation suggests that benefits accruing from one’s association with a partner (relationship value) and uncertainty about the partner’s intention (intentional ambiguity) are two crucial determinants of reconciliation processes. Empirical evidence confirms the importance of these two factors. First, research on forgiveness from the victim’s perspective showed that relationship value increases forgiveness, whereas intentional ambiguity (i.e., whether the perpetrator intends to exploit the victim again) decreases forgiveness. Second, research on apology perception from the victim’s perspective showed that costly apologies, as compared to no-cost apologies, reduce intentional ambiguity and thereby effectively convince the victim of the perpetrator’s benign intent. Third, research on apology-making from the perpetrator’s perspective revealed that relationship value and intentional ambiguity (i.e., whether the victim intends to continue/terminate the relationship) increases the probability of costly apology-making. These three lines of research provide support for evolutionary hypotheses about human reconciliation processes.