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Friday
Jun082012

Social Networks, Commitment, and True Blood: Who Forgives a Vampire?

You might assume that relationship science doesn’t have much to say about vampire romances, but you would be wrong. Previously, we wrote about the Sookie/Bill/Eric love triangle, but relationship research explains some of the other complex relationships on True Blood as well. 

One of the reoccurring storylines in Bon Temps is that Sookie’s best friend, Tara, doesn’t understand why Sookie continues to be attracted to her undead suitors (first Bill, then Eric), especially given all the trouble they’ve caused. Every time Bill makes a mess of things, Sookie forgives him. Why doesn’t Tara forgive Bill (setting aside, of course, the fact that Tara was held hostage for several days by a particularly unsavory vampire)?

Research on social networks1 speaks directly to the different forgiveness orientations that Tara and Sookie have towards Sookie’s bloodthirsty boyfriends (see more about friends and your relationships here). The basic idea is that, as a form of relationship maintenance, partners are more motivated than others (e.g., family, friends) to forgive significant others’ transgressions. If Sookie is hoping for a long-term relationship with Bill (i.e., she’s committed to him), forgiving him when he gets them in trouble helps keep them together. (And if there’s one thing my mom taught me about relationships, it’s that you should never hold a grudge against a vampire lover.)

On the other hand, Tara isn’t committed to Bill and doesn’t have any motivation to keep the relationship going (she also doesn’t have the positive biases that Sookie does), so she’s less forgiving of Bill’s transgressions. She’s also more likely to make negative attributions (i.e., more likely to blame Bill) compared to Sookie, which hinders forgiveness. For example, when Bill, in a state of extreme hunger, feasts on Sookie and nearly drains her to death, she says that he was about to starve and couldn’t control himself. Tara, on the other hand, just sees him as a blood-thirsty vampire and can’t forgive him.

(warning...lots of blood and four-letter words in the video clip below)

So the next time your vampire lover forgets your anniversary, stays out late (or early, I suppose), or almost gets you killed by werewolves, don’t be surprised if you forgive him/her even if your friends don’t. (read more about the link between forgiveness and relationship violence here)

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1Green, J. D., Burnette, J. L., & Davis, J. L. (2008). Third-party forgiveness: (Not) forgiving your close other’s betrayer. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 407-418.

Dr. Benjamin Le - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Le's research focuses on commitment, including the factors associated with commitment and its role in promoting maintenance. He has published on the topics of breakup, geographic separation, infidelity, social networks, cognition, and need fulfillment and emotions in relationships. Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

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