Psychological Science 2018, (3) 700-705 DOI:     ISSN: 0412-1961 CN: 21-1139/TG

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behavioral measure
cognitive neural mechanism
LI Hai-Jiang
LV Jia-Mei
Article by Li,H.J
Article by Lv,J.M

A review of the behavioral measures of forgiveness and its cognitive neural mechanism

1,Jia-Mei LU


Forgiveness is regarded as a complex phenomenon and researchers have no consensus on the definition of forgiveness. However, most researchers agree that forgiveness involved a prosocial change toward the offender which concerning a decrease in negative thoughts, emotions, motivations, and behaviors toward a transgressor, as well as an increase in positive thoughts, emotions, motivations, and behaviors toward a transgressor. Previous studies have found that forgiveness is positively correlated with improvement of relationship quality and increases of subjective well-being, negatively related to neuroticism, depression, and rumination. Forgiveness were also found to be related to physical health. All these factors make forgiveness become an interesting research subject of psychologists. In the present article, we reviewed evidence concerning behavioral measures of forgiveness and cognitive neural mechanism of forgiveness. We introduced four behavioral measures paradigm of forgiveness including revised Cyberball task, revised Dictator game, revised Prisoner's dilemma game and revised Taylor aggression paradigm. The results of behavioral paradigm found that these behavioral measures can elicited the same feelings as a transgression in laboratory and may be useful to assess forgiveness which was supported by significantly correlation between self-reported forgiveness and behavioral response. Imaging studies examining cortical responses to forgiveness have implicated several brain regions, including medial prefrontal cortex, ventrolateral and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, posterior parietal cortex, anterior and posterior cingulate cortex, and temporoparietal junction, typically those associated with social cognition, cognitive control, empathy and theory of mind. Future research should further explore the influence of different behavioral measures on forgiveness process. Which aspect of forgiveness was assessed by each of the behavioral measures of forgiveness and whether these different aspects of forgiveness overlap? Whether simple behavioral responses among different measures can reflect and uncover the mechanism of high psychological process like forgiveness? In addition, the cognitive neural mechanism of forgiveness remain unclear and need to pay more attention. How different cortical activation to forgiveness collaborate with each other to facilitate individuals’ forgiveness after experiencing transgression? How other psychological processes such as the ability of cognitive control influence forgiveness? what’s the cognitive neural mechanism of the influence of cognitive control on forgiveness? Finally, the brain basis associated with forgiveness still unknown. With the development of multimode imaging methods (resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging, structural MRI, diffusion tensor imaging), it is possible to explored the brain structural and brain spontaneous activity associations with cognition, emotion and ability from the perspective of individual difference. Thus, future research should explore the brain structural and functional substrate of forgiveness.

Keywords forgiveness   offences   behavioral measure   cognitive neural mechanism  
Received 2017-04-17 Revised 2017-12-19 Online: 2018-05-20 
Corresponding Authors: Jia-Mei LU
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