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Judgments of Victim Behavior

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Organizational Justice Resaerch Team

Conference presentations

Barry Godolphin Research Grant


Welcome. We are a team of junior and senior undergraduates who work with Dr. Heather Smith.

Recent political events suggest that sometimes the forgiveness of infidelity is evaluated more harshly than the infidelity itself. The purpose of this project is to explore why and when this might be the case. In one study, fraternity members will read a short description of a situation in which a fellow member learns that his girlfriend has been unfaithful. In response, the member 1) forgives the girlfriend, 2) slashes her tires or 3) leaves her. In the other study, women will read a short description of a situation in which a female politician (running for the first time or for re-election) learns that her husband has been unfaithful. In response, the politician 1) forgives her husband, 2) wrecks his car or 3) divorces him. We predict that participants will judge a member who forgives infidelity most harshly if 1) they identify more closely with the fraternity and 2) the victim is a high status representative of the fraternity.

Although this project builds upon recent political events in which some people harshly evaluated spouses who forgave their partner’s infidelity. However, we think a systematic investigation of observers’ reactions to victims’ behavior has important implications for other contexts. For example, restorative justice approaches to juvenile offenses require conferences among victims, perpetrators and community members. The assumption is that community members will view victim forgiveness as the positive conclusion of the mediation. Our research might reveal when such forgiveness is viewed positively and when it might not be.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this project!

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Heather Smith or any of the team members listed below.

Fraternity study team members: Women and politics team members:
Chris Goode Drew Gunter
Kyle Nelson Barbara Hoffmann
Robin Temple Sally Logan,
Rachel Hersh Melissa Moran
  Dianna Nation


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Heather Smith, Ph.D.
Psychology Department
Sonoma State University
1801 E. Cotati Ave
Rohnert Park, CA 93928