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The Effects of Culture and Forgiveness in the Recall

Faculty Supervisor:
Dwight Krehbiel
Year of Project Completion:
Sonia Barrera


The current literature states that being forgiving does not lead to the risky health consequences that may be produced when one is unforgiving (Witvliet, Ludwig, & VanderLann., 2001). Despite cultural differences, levels of forgiveness seem to be similar across cultures. Emotion plays an important role during an offense and forgiveness. Research indicates that those from collectivistic cultures experience more physiological arousal during emotion expression. On the contrary, individuals from individualistic cultures do not experience such physiological arousal during emotion expression (Butler, Lee, & Gross, 2009). In this study, 40 participants from different cultural backgrounds were interviewed about an offense they experienced. The interview included a recall condition and a thinking condition. Heart rate, skin conductance, skin temperature and EMG were continuously recorded during the interview. This study investigated whether participants from collectivistic cultures would have increased physiological arousal during the recall of the offense while those from individualistic cultures would have increased physiological arousal while imagining the offense. It was found that those from collectivistic cultures experienced a significantly lesser increase in EMG during the thinking condition, compared to those from individualistic cultures. This indicates that those from collectivistic cultures frowned less than those from individualistic cultures while imagining the offense. Some physiological means were in the predicted direction. Confounding variables and the order of the conditions seemed to affect the results in the current study. This study demonstrates how our culture influences how we respond when discussing or thinking about an offense we have experienced.

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.