Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Scott T. Allison


Empathy and forgiveness are two key constructs involved in effective conflict-resolution. Empathy has been defined in terms of its cognitive aspects (i.e. the ability to understand another’s emotional reactions to situations without actually feeling the other’s emotions) and its affective components (i.e. the ability to vicariously feel the emotions of another without directly experiencing the other’s situation). On the other hand, forgiveness has been described as the ability to act in a prosocial manner towards a transgressor. Past research has repeatedly shown links between empathy and forgiveness, such that empathy is a precursor to forgiveness. More recent research has suggested that empathy is not always an automatic response and that a belief in the malleability of empathy may help increase empathic effort in challenging situations. The present series of studies extended this research and found that theories of empathy (i.e. fixed versus malleable mindsets) do not predict empathic effort in more empathically challenging situations. The strongest predictor of empathic effort in more challenging situations was perceived empathic ability. As previous research suggests, empathy and forgiveness are related constructs; for instance, participants were more likely to forgive a transgressor if they thought they themselves were good empathizers. Because perceived empathic abilities seemed to have a greater effect than theories of empathy, perhaps perceived empathic abilities are more useful in situations in which empathy and forgiveness are especially difficult, but more investigation is needed.

Included in

Psychology Commons