Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Blaine Fowers

Second Committee Member

Matthias Siemer

Third Committee Member

Michael McCullough


In this project I evaluated the effect of social dominance on reconciliation and forgiveness. Based on studies of nonhuman primates, it was hypothesized that humans would be more likely to accept and reciprocate conciliatory gestures when made by more socially dominant people. It was also hypothesized that the moderating effect of relative dominance on a victim?s decision to forgive would not be as strong as relative dominance?s effect on a victim?s decision to reconcile. This hypothesis was based on the expectation that reconciliation is most essential for gaining access to transgressor-controlled resources. However, conciliatory gestures by less dominant transgressors more effectively elicited forgiveness and reconciliation, as these gestures were evidently more successful at making victims feel safe. Also, relative dominance did not have a greater effect on victims? conciliatory behaviors than on forgiveness.


Social Dominance; Conciliatory Gestures; Reconciliation; Forgiveness