ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

心理学报 ›› 2023, Vol. 55 ›› Issue (9): 1441-1452.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2023.01441

• 研究报告 • 上一篇    下一篇


陈光辉, 李一涵, 丁雯, 陈静, 张良(), 张文新   

  1. 山东师范大学心理学院, 济南 250014
  • 收稿日期:2022-07-18 发布日期:2023-06-09 出版日期:2023-09-25
  • 通讯作者: 张良
  • 基金资助:

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 Online:2023-06-09 Published:2023-09-25
  • Contact: ZHANG Liang


人际伤害事件发生后, 犯错者的懊悔与受害者的宽恕是修复人际关系的两个关键因素。本研究采用经典行为实验范式, 以139名4~5岁幼儿为对象, 考察犯错者的懊悔表现对受害者宽恕水平的影响, 以及不同类型旁观者在二者关系中的调节作用。结果表明:4岁和5岁幼儿均已经能够识别犯错者的懊悔表现, 且对懊悔犯错者的宽恕水平显著高于无懊悔者; 旁观者的存在会影响幼儿的宽恕水平, 且教师旁观和好朋友旁观比陌生人旁观更能降低幼儿对懊悔者的宽恕水平, 更能提升对无懊悔者的宽恕水平。旁观者的存在没有显著提升幼儿对懊悔者的宽恕水平, 这可能与幼儿社会化过程中内化的社会期望(如“以德报怨”)有关, 基于此, 本文尝试提出“社会期望的旁观者激活假说”, 并进行了讨论。

关键词: 幼儿, 懊悔, 宽恕, 旁观者, 激活假说


Humans are extremely social beings, and we attempt to repair our ruptured relationships when transgressions occur that damage interpersonal cooperation. The expression of guilt and remorse by the transgressor and the forgiveness by the victim are both vital to the repair process. To some extent, transgressors’ remorse is the most prominent elicitor of victims’ forgiveness. Previous studies have demonstrated that forgiveness emerges as early as 5 years old and that young children are capable of forgiving a remorseful transgressor even in the absence of an explicit apology. Given the emphasis on relationship harmony among Chinese people in a collectivistic culture, parenting and socialization might help children understand peers’ remorse intentions and forgive them at a much earlier age. Furthermore, the high need for personal reputation and social image in peer interactions, which is called “face” (mianzi) by the Chinese, might lead to individuals’ forgiveness decisions being influenced by bystanders who witness or participate in group interactions. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate whether 4- or 5-year-olds could have the capacity to infer an apology from displays of transgressors’ remorse in order to reveal the influence of remorse on forgiveness and further explore the activation effect of different types of bystanders among the association between remorse and forgiveness.

Study 1 was a one-factor (expression of remorse: remorse vs. no remorse) within-subject design. Forty-nine children aged 4 to 5 years (27 girls) were investigated by a classic paradigm of remorse and forgiveness. The “tear picture” game was used to create conditions of expressing remorse and not expressing remorse. Then, children were asked ten questions designed to assess whether they understood the true intention of remorse. Finally, the resource distribution task was used to assess forgiveness behavior. In Study 2, a total of 139 4- to 5-year-old children (80 girls) were recruited to participate in a 2 (expressions of remorse: remorse vs. no remorse) × 4 (types of bystander: no bystander vs. teacher vs. good friend vs. stranger) mixed experimental design. The procedure used in Study 2 was identical to that used in Study 1.

The results showed that: In Study 1, both 4-year-old children and 5-year-old children truly understood the intention of the expression of remorse, and they were much more forgiving of a remorseful transgressor than of a transgressor who had not shown remorse. In Study 2, although children were still more forgiving of a remorseful transgressor than an unremorseful transgressor in the presence of bystanders, bystanders significantly increased the level of forgiveness shown toward unremorseful transgressor and reduced the level of forgiveness for remorseful transgressor. Specifically, for remorseful transgressor, child victims were more forgiving of a transgressor while in the presence of strangers than while in the presence of teachers or good friends; however, for unremorseful transgressor, child victims who were being observed by teachers or good friends showed more forgiveness behavior than did victims who were being observed by stranger bystanders. Furthermore, the results showed that young children were more likely to equally distribute flowers to remorseful and unremorseful transgressor in the presence of bystanders, especially teachers or good friends.

This study successfully revealed that young Chinese children could accurately understand the intention of transgressors’ remorse and thus be willing to perform forgiveness behavior at age 4, which is exactly 1 year earlier than their counterparts in the Western sample. More importantly, we also present a new theoretical hypothesis, namely, the “bystander-activation effect of social expectations”, to propose that the presence of bystanders activates individuals’ socially desirable behaviors, such as “requite injury with kindness” and “egalitarianism”, in the Chinese collectivist culture. Thus, it is easier to understand why bystander onlooking could increase the level of forgiveness for unremorseful transgressor and cause young victims to distribute flowers to remorseful and unremorseful transgressor equally. Furthermore, the greater the authoritative or intimate level of bystanders is, such as teachers or good friends, the stronger the activated social expectations are and the more socially desirable the engaged-in behaviors are. This study provides important enlightenment for understanding the association between remorse and forgiveness and for rethinking the cross-cultural differences in children’s socialization.

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