Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 293–304 | Cite as

The influence of forgiveness and apology on cardiovascular reactivity and recovery in response to mental stress

  • Matthew C. Whited
  • Amanda L. Wheat
  • Kevin T. Larkin


To investigate the relation between forgiveness and apology as they relate to cardiovascular reactivity and recovery, 29 men and 50 women were exposed to an interpersonal transgression (i.e., verbal harassment) while performing a serial subtraction task. Participants were categorized into high and low forgiveness groups based on scores on the forgiving personality scale. Following the task, approximately half of the participants received an apology from the experimenter for his/her comments during the task. Although no group differences in cardiovascular reactivity were observed during the serial subtraction task, persons high in forgiveness displayed more rapid diastolic and mean arterial blood pressure recovery than persons low in forgiveness. In response to the apology, participants displayed greater high frequency heart rate variability recovery compared to those who did not receive an apology. A significant apology × sex interaction was observed for diastolic blood pressure and mean arterial blood pressure. Women who received an apology exhibited faster recovery from the transgression than women who did not receive an apology. In contrast, men who received an apology exhibited delayed recovery from the transgression compared to men who did not receive an apology. These results indicate that there are potentially healthful benefits to forgiveness and apology, but the relation is influenced by situation and by sex.


Forgiveness Apology Heart rate variability Cardiovascular reactivity Cardiovascular recovery 



Support for this study was provided by West Virginia University’s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences (Doctoral Research Program) and Department of Psychology (Alumni Fund). We thank Jennifer Friedberg for her assistance in conducting some of the statistical analyses herein.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew C. Whited
    • 1
  • Amanda L. Wheat
    • 2
  • Kevin T. Larkin
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Preventive and Behavioral MedicineUniversity of Massachusetts Medical CenterWorcesterUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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