A Behavioral Analysis of Apologies, Forgiveness, and Interpersonal Conflict

Deric Toney, Linda Hayes


Instances of conflict can be of the most distressful experiences within a relationship or in interacting with others. There are a number of behaviors that occur to compose a conflict, however there are two behaviors that serve to restore a relationship following conflict, those of apologizing and forgiving. While plenty of attention has been provided to the issues of interpersonal conflict, apologizing, and forgiving from more traditional approaches, these accounts contrast the views of behavior analysis in a number of ways. When the behaviors involved in interpersonal conflict are assessed from a behavior-analytic perspective, many of these traditional views are directly challenged. Furthermore, we find that the manner in which conflicts are normally resolved within relationships may be contributing to harmful patterns of interactions. The present paper aims to provide a thorough behavioral analysis of the operating contingencies and behaviors that occur during episodes of interpersonal conflict. With such an understanding, suggestions are made based on behavioral principles as to how resolution may be more readily achieved and further conflict may be avoided.


conflict, apology, forgiveness, relationships

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/bsi.v26i0.7425

Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility