ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2023, Vol. 55 ›› Issue (9): 1441-1452.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2023.01441

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The association between transgressor’s remorse and victim’s forgiveness among young children: The activation effect of bystanders

CHEN Guanghui, LI Yihan, DING Wen, CHEN Jing, ZHANG Liang(), ZHANG Wenxin   

  1. School of Psychology, Shandong Normal University, Jinan 250014, China
  • Received:2022-07-18 Published:2023-09-25 Online:2023-06-09
  • Contact: ZHANG Liang
  • Supported by:
    National Social Science Fund of China(General Project BBA210031)


Transgressors’ remorse and victim’s forgiveness are two key factors in restoring the ruptured interpersonal relationships between them. One hundred and thirty-nine 4- to 5-year-old children (80 girls) were recruited to participate in experiments of the classic paradigm of remorse and forgiveness, aiming to reveal the influence of remorse on forgiveness and to further explore the activation effect of different types of bystanders among the association between remorse and forgiveness. The results showed that both 4-year-old children and 5-year-old children could actually comprehend the intention under transgressors’ expression of remorse, and they showed more forgiveness to a remorseful transgressor than to a transgressor with no remorse. The presence of bystanders significantly influenced the level of forgiveness. Specifically, to remorseful transgressor, child victims were more forgiving in the presence of strangers than in the presence of their teachers or good friends; however, for unremorseful transgressor, child victims showed more forgiveness when being observed by their teachers and good friends than being observed by stranger bystanders. Bystanders onlooking did not significantly increase the level of forgiveness to remorseful transgressor, which may be related to children’s internalized social expectations (such as “requite injury with kindness”) during the socialization process. Based on this, this study tried to propose and discuss a new theoretical hypothesis, the “bystander-activation effect of social expectations”.

Key words: young child, remorse, forgiveness, bystander-activation effect, collectivism