Providing compensation promotes forgiveness for replaceable, but not irreplaceable, losses

The present study aimed to examine how the replaceability of a loss moderates the effectiveness of compensation. In Study 1, we sampled real-life experiences of experiential loss, material loss, or loss of materials to which the victims had special attachment, and assayed subsequent feelings toward the transgressor who caused the loss. The results showed that for those who reported losses of an experience or cherished material object, perpetrators’ offers of compensation did not facilitate forgiveness. In Study 2, by manipulating replaceability of hypothetical losses in vignettes, we showed that compensation for replaceable losses effectively elicits forgiveness from a victim, but compensation for irreplaceable losses is ineffective. A series of mediation analyses showed that the effect of replaceability on forgiveness is explained by the victim’s perception of whether their loss was sufficiently recovered. We discuss the function of compensation and its inherent limitations.