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The morality and emotion of forgiveness: How three moral concerns and four emotions are relevant to forgiveness decisions
AuthorLindsey, Samuel C
AdvisorPeoples, Clayton D.
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The purpose of this dissertation was to understand the relationship of morality and emotion to forgiveness decisions. Since religious, philosophical, and literary cultures have historically offered instruction on when it is morally right or wrong to forgive others, I predicted that a morality-forgiveness link does exist. I examined the morality-forgiveness link using the theoretical framework of Moral Foundations Theory (MFT). MFT also predicts that emotions play a role in how we interpret situations. Using Google AdWords as a recruitment method, I surveyed 237 US adults online about how they perceive five foundational aspects of morality, their decisions to forgive, and emotions they experience when wronged by others. I found that Google AdWords is a quick, reliable alternative to university recruiting and results in a sample similar to the US Internet population, but it can also be relatively expensive. I found that a morality-forgiveness link did occur within my sample, and that the moral foundation of Purity was an important predictor of forgiveness beyond the traditional moral foundation of Harm and Fairness. I found that people who were asked about whether they experienced anger and compassion when wronged by others, and people who were not asked, did not differ in their forgiveness decisions, implying that whether asked about anger and compassion or not, many people feel both emotions in reaction to wrongdoing of others. I also discovered that two additional emotions, beyond anger and compassion, significantly predicted forgiveness: embarrassment and contempt; and a model accounting for the linear effect of embarrassment, compassion, anger, and contempt accounted for over 47% of the variance in forgiveness decisions.