When we commit transgressions, we need to be forgiven to restore our friendships and social standing. Two main ways we can elicit forgiveness is through asking for forgiveness after committing a transgression (i.e., retrospective elicitors) or before committing a transgression (i.e., prospective elicitors). Research on retrospective elicitors with adults and children indicates that apologizing or showing remorse elicits forgiveness from both victims and bystanders, and sheds light on the nuances of such elicitors and their functions. Far less is known about how adults and children respond to prospective elicitors of forgiveness, such as disclaimers (statements that prepare the listener for a transgression or a failure of character or performance, e.g., “I don’t mean to be rude but…”), and how the functions and effectiveness of prospective elicitors compare to those of retrospective elicitors. Furthermore, much less is known about the additive effects of using both retrospective and prospective elicitors of forgiveness. A better understanding how and when forgiveness is elicited in childhood and through adulthood promises to shed light on human sociality and cooperativeness.
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