Victim and Perpetrator Perspectives in Post World War II Contexts: Intergroup Forgiveness and Historical Closure in Europe and East Asia
The current thesis aimed to extend existing research on intergroup forgiveness by considering historical context as an important element. The clear victim and perpetrator roles in the European and East Asian post World War II settings provided the context for this research. Social representations of history provided the theoretical framework for four studies. Study 1 employed a meta-analytical approach to explore the impact of contextual variables on interpersonal forgiveness across 13 societies. Based on Berry's ecocultural framework and Inglehart's affluence theory it was expected that socio-political, societal well-being and socio-economic variables are linked to interpersonal forgiveness. Significant differences in interpersonal forgiveness between the 13 societies emerged, which could be explained by conflict potential, socio-economic and socio-political context variables, societal peacefulness, societal well-being, and negative societal evaluations of historical calamities. Study 2 explored conceptualisations of interpersonal and intergroup forgiveness using a qualitative approach with interviewees from Japan, Germany and the Philippines. Facets, antecedents and outcomes of forgiveness were identified as main themes. Differences in the relevance of forgiveness as a means of conflict resolution were revealed across cultures. An illuminating concept was identified and labelled as "historical closure", signifying an attitude towards historical issues as relevant or irrelevant to present and future relationships between groups. Study 3a and 3b included victim perspectives from three formerly victimized European nations (France, Poland, Russia) and three formerly victimized East Asian nations (China, Taiwan, Philippines). Study 3a examined differences in intergroup forgiveness across the six societies. Between-society differences were found. Chinese participants were less forgiving compared to French participants, pointing to the different historical contexts as an explanatory source. Study 3b investigated the ability of historical closure and other group-based constructs to predict intergroup forgiveness. In both settings, historical closure was a consistent significant predictor and contributed to explain unique variance. A cross-level operator analysis revealed that political apologies by the perpetrator country during the last 20 years was negatively associated with intergroup forgiveness, indicating that external context related variables can contribute to explain intergroup forgiveness. Study 4 investigated perpetrator perspectives from Japan and Germany, with focus on the cognitive and behavioural components of the willingness to make amends. Japanese and Germans differed significantly on the behavioural component: it was predicted by lack of closure in the Japanese sample; whereas in the German sample guilt and shame were positive predictors. Lack of historical closure consistently contributed to predicting the cognitive component of the willingness to make amends. Japanese experienced more guilt and shame feelings than Germans. Stronger national identification did not contribute as expected and had a reversed effect in Japan by being a positive predictor. Historical closure is an intriguing concept, as it is a positive predictor for intergroup forgiveness among participants from formerly victimized nations, but a negative predictor for the willingness to make amends among participants from formerly perpetrating nations. This is an interesting interdependency in coming to terms with history: closure seems to be needed by victims to be ready to forgive, whereas the lack of closure for perpetrators seems to drive the willingness to make amends.