Should I retaliate?: the role of aggression, forgivingness, moral responsibility, and social interest in the decision to return harm for harm

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Locasio, Ann Lee

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This study examined the four constructs of forgivingness, aggression, moral responsibility, and social interest as they impact retaliation among college students. There has been renewed research interest into the concept of forgivingness in the last ten to fifteen years. While forgiveness refers to the propensity to refrain from resentment or seeking revenge against an offender, forgivingness is defined as the tendency to engage in acts of forgiveness across time and across situations. It is a trait or disposition. Research on aggression, moral responsibility, and social interest has been ongoing for several decades. Aggression refers to physical or verbal behavior intended to hurt someone. Moral responsibility means the tendency to act morally, in accordance with generally accepted standards of right and wrong, even when others may choose to do otherwise. Social interest is defined as having a sense of belonging to all of humanity, such that one’s connections with others are focused solely on the common good of all. This study looks at these three constructs along with level of forgivingness as they relate to retaliation. Retaliation in this study was defined as taking back not only what was taken from oneself, but going beyond that, taking more, in order to punish the other participant. Why people retaliate or refrain from doing so is not completely clear, but this study shows that forgivingness and social interest each play a part in predicting level of retaliation. These two constructs were predictors of the outcome variable; however, aggression, moral responsibility, and membership in a group where harm was done, intended, or neither, did not predict retaliation.