Date of Award

2007

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Counseling Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Dennis Waite

Second Advisor

Tevni E. Grojales

Third Advisor

Elvin Gabriel

Abstract

Problem. For the past three decades, there has been a growing body of literature related to the topic of forgiveness. The idea that empathy, consisting of both emotional and cognitive aspects, plays an integral role in the process of forgiveness is widely supported in the literature, although there is limited empirical evidence for this claim. Beyond interest in examining the relationship between forgiveness and empathy, this research also aimed to explore the role of cognitive flexibility in the forgivenessprocess, considering both the intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions of cognitive flexibility.

Method. The Enright Forgiveness Inventory, Interpersonal Reactivity Index, and the NEO Personality Inventory--Revised were used as measures of forgiveness, empathy, and cognitive flexibility respectively. Only two of the five scales on the NEO were analyzed in this study; the Openness to Experience scale was used as a measure of intrapersonal cognitive flexibility and the Agreeableness scale as a measure of interpersonal cognitive flexibility. Canonical Correlation Analysis was used to determine the proportion of variance created by the correlation of the two groups of variables: (a) the subscales of the forgiveness inventory and (b) the subscales of the empathy and cognitive flexibility inventories. A total of 208 undergraduate students from a local university participated in the study.

Results. The analysis resulted in one significant dimension with a canonical correlation of .33 and 11% of the variance shared between the two groups of variables. Results further indicated that Agreeable individuals tended to have more positive and less negative thoughts as well as more positive and less negative behavior toward an individual by whom they had felt hurt. In turn, the components of forgiveness as a whole were shown to predict interpersonal cognitive flexibility.

Conclusions. Scores reflecting an agreeable personality style, which measured interpersonal cognitive flexibility, were shown to predict cognitive and behavioral components of forgiveness. Likewise, the components of forgiveness as a whole were shown to be a predictor of interpersonal cognitive flexibility. Not only do these findings contribute to the existing body of literature in the field of forgiveness, they also provide implications for future research and clinical practice.

Subject Area

Forgiveness, Empathy

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