A colleague of ours recently attended a national conference in which a Master’s thesis in Canada by Hanson (2005) was extensively discussed. The author asserts that the Enright Forgiveness Inventory (EFI) inadvertently assesses tolerance and not forgiveness in China.
The conclusion was reached by having university students rate the items regarding what the students think the scale’s intent is. The consensus was that it assesses tolerance and not forgiveness. Thus, Hanson questions the validity of the scale in the Chinese culture. We have four rebuttals to his conclusion.
First, as Hanson points out in the document, Chinese students have far more exposure to the concept of tolerance, based on Confucianism, than to forgiveness, thus possibly biasing them in that direction when making their judgements.
Second, a good scale’s intent will not be obvious to participants, otherwise social desirability can confound the results. As pointed out above, we deliberately chose items, in the initial construction of the instrument, that had no relationship with social desirability and a strong relationship with the one-item question about forgiveness.
Third, we have a study in Taiwan reported in the “in press” book entitled, Forgiveness Therapy (APA Books), which clearly shows as high a correlation as is possible (when using a one-item scale) between participants’ EFI scores and the degree to which participants have forgiven the person targeted on the EFI. Although Taiwan and China have traditional and simplified versions, respectively, of the Chinese language, these are nonetheless more similar than different and people in each of these cultures can understand one another. In other words, a study in Taiwan can help shed light on Hanson’s assertions in China.
Fourth, items on the EFI such as feeling “tender” and “caring” and seeing the other as “loving” have little to do with tolerance (a respectful putting-up-with) and much to do with forgiving. If someone were tolerating and not forgiving, he or she would not score high on these items, thus reducing the correlation between the EFI and the one-item forgiveness question.
We critique the Hanson effort here so that the unsuspecting researcher who consults his thesis is not misled by his conclusion.