ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Research shows that in the aftermath of conflict, forgiveness improves victims’ well-being and the victim-offender relationship. Building on the research on embodied perception and economy of action, we demonstrate that forgiveness also has implications for victims’ perceptions and behavior in the physical domain. Metaphorically, unforgiveness is a burden that can be lightened by forgiveness; we show that people induced to feel forgiveness perceive hills to be less steep (Study 1) and jump higher in an ostensible fitness test (Study 2) than people who are induced to feel unforgiveness. These findings suggest that forgiveness may lighten the physical burden of unforgiveness, providing evidence that forgiveness can help victims overcome the negative effects of conflict.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Article
The Unburdening Effects of Forgiveness:
Effects on Slant Perception and
Jumping Height
Xue Zheng
1
, Ryan Fehr
2
, Kenneth Tai
3
, Jayanth Narayanan
4
, and Michele J. Gelfand
5
Abstract
Research shows that in the aftermath of conflict, forgiveness improves victims’ well-being and the victim–offender relationship.
Building on the research on embodied perception and economy of action, we demonstrate that forgiveness also has implications
for victims’ perceptions and behavior in the physical domain. Metaphorically, unforgiveness is a burden that can be lightened by
forgiveness; we show that people induced to feel forgiveness perceive hills to be less steep (Study 1) and jump higher in an osten-
sible fitness test (Study 2) than people who are induced to feel unforgiveness. These findings suggest that forgiveness may lighten
the physical burden of unforgiveness, providing evidence that forgiveness can help victims overcome the negative effects
of conflict.
Keywords
forgiveness, heaviness, embodied perception, action, conflict
Across history and cultures, forgiveness is promoted as a virtu-
ous, desirable, and laudable response to transgressions (Peter-
son & Seligman, 2004). Themes of forgiveness pervade the
world’s major religions (Rye et al., 2000), and philosophical
musings on the virtue of forgiveness have similarly persisted
for centuries (Griswold, 2007). Despite these widespread tru-
isms on the positive consequences of forgiveness, systematic
theoretical and empirical studies of the consequences of for-
giveness are rare. Recent studies show that forgiveness
improves victims’ well-being and facilitates reconciliation
between victims and offenders (Karremans & Van Lange,
2008; Lawler et al., 2003; McCullough, Bellah, Kilpatrick, &
Johnson, 2001). Nonetheless, research on the consequences
of forgiveness is still in its infancy (Karremans & Van
Lange, 2008).
Given the ubiquity of the idea of forgiveness and the fervor
with which it is often promoted, a deeper understanding of its
precise consequences is vital. We argue that forgiveness affects
how victims perceive and interact with the physical environ-
ment in domains unrelated to the conflict itself. Drawing from
research on embodied perception and the economy of action,
we specifically propose that compared to unforgiveness, for-
giveness (a) reduces individuals’ perceptions of hill steepness
and (b) improves individuals’ performance in a jumping task.
Research on embodied perception suggests that the objec-
tive features of an environment are not the sole determinants
of how people perceive a physical environment. Perceptions
are influenced by the physical demands of an intended action
in a given environment (e.g., climbing a hill or walking down
a hallway; Proffitt, 2006). More specifically, according to Gib-
son’s (1979) notion of affordances, visual perception is influ-
enced by an economy of action, such that individuals seek to
conserve valuable resources and ensure that their energy is used
effectively (Proffitt, 2006). In other words, individuals use their
visual perception to estimate how difficult it would be to climb
a hill or walk down a hallway. Thus, the objective features of an
environment and an individual’s capacity to act within that
environment both influence perception. For example, hills are
perceived to be steeper by individuals for whom climbing the
hill would be harder, including individuals who are elderly or
tired (Bhalla & Proffitt, 1999). Similarly, people carrying
heavy backpacks perceive distances to be longer than people
who are not carrying heavy backpacks (Proffitt, Stefanucci,
Banton, & Epstein, 2003).
1
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the
Netherlands
2
Michael G. Foster School of Business, University of Washington, Seattle,
WA, USA
3
Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University,
Singapore
4
NUS Business School, National University of Singapore, Singapore
5
Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
Corresponding Author:
Xue Zheng, Department of Business-Society Management, Rotterdam School
of Management, Erasmus University, Rotterdam; Office T 11-49, Burgemeester
Oudlaan 50, 3062 PA, the Netherlands.
Email: zhengxue.academic@gmail.com
Social Psychological and
Personality Science
1-8
ªThe Author(s) 2014
Reprints and permission:
sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/1948550614564222
spps.sagepub.com
at Erasmus Univ Rotterdam on December 27, 2014spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Consistent with the notion that visual perception regulates
anticipated actions, recent studies have demonstrated that phys-
ical states influence both perception and action (Eves, 2014;
Meier, Schnall, Schwarz, & Bargh, 2012). Building on the
embodied perception research (Bhalla & Proffitt, 1999), these
studies suggest that individuals who perceive their physical
environments as more demanding are more likely to act within
these environments in an energy-conserving manner. For
example, individuals who are carrying heavy bags in shopping
malls tend to avoid stairs and opt to use escalators instead, pre-
sumably due to the perceived length and steepness of the stairs
(Eves, 2014). Consistent with these findings, another growing
body of research suggests that concepts with a metaphorical
link to individuals’ energy capacities can influence their per-
ceptions and actions in the same way that actual burdens do
(Slepian, Masicampo, Toosi, & Ambady, 2012).
Forgiveness, Embodied Perception, and Action
Studies have shown that metaphorical links between abstract
concepts (e.g., anger) and concrete bodily experiences (e.g., hot
temperatures) can facilitate the actual concrete bodily experi-
ences the metaphors suggest (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980, 1999;
Landau, Meier, & Keefer, 2010). For instance, social rejection
causes people to experience actual feelings of coldness
(Zhong & Leonardelli, 2008). Similarly, anger causes people
to estimate that the ambient temperature of a room is hotter
than it actually is (Wilkowski, Meier, Robinson, Carter, &
Feltman, 2008).
Relevant to this research, the abstract concept of forgiveness
is often discussed in terms of the concrete bodily experience of
letting go of a heavy weight. According to this metaphor,
unforgiveness entails carrying a heavy burden and forgiveness
may release this burden. As noted by one prominent author,
‘Forgiveness takes the burden of hate, guilt and bitterness off
your back and, with a lighter load, you can climb higher and
faster’’ (Ziglar, 2009). Another author noted that forgiveness
‘has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of
being a victim’’ (Strahan, 2006). Popular books on forgiveness
note that ‘‘Forgiveness can lighten our load’’ (Hamilton, 2012)
and that ‘‘Once the choice to forgive is made, the burden is
lifted from the offended one’’ (Wood, 2008).
Research suggests that abstract concepts that have a meta-
phorical association with physical heaviness can produce an
actual sensation of heaviness. A concrete, physical feeling of
heaviness can result from the metaphorical ‘‘weight’’ of keep-
ing a secret (Slepian et al., 2012; Slepian, Masicampo, &
Ambady, 2014) or feeling guilty (Day & Bobocel, 2013).
Together with the evidence for a metaphorical association
between forgiveness and heaviness, these studies suggest that
unforgiveness might produce a physical feeling of heaviness
that forgiveness can alleviate. In turn, forgiveness may alter
victims’ perceptions and actions in the physical world.
We test these ideas in two studies. In Study 1, we examine
the effect of induced feelings of forgiveness and unforgiveness
on the participants’ visual perceptions of a hill’s geographical
slant. We predict that induced feelings of unforgiveness
increase the perceived physical demands of climbing a hill,
causing the participants to perceive it as steeper than the parti-
cipants who are induced to feel forgiveness. In Study 2, we
examine the effect of induced feelings of forgiveness and
unforgiveness on the participants’ actions during an ostensibly
unrelated jumping task. Assuming that unforgiveness activates
the concrete experience of a heavy burden, we predict that feel-
ings of unforgiveness increase the perceived physical demands
of performing a jumping task. Thus, in addition to influencing
the perceived steepness of a hill, induced feelings of unforgive-
ness should reduce individuals’ jumping heights compared to
the heights reached by those with induced feelings of
forgiveness.
Study 1
Participants and Procedure
Forty-eight undergraduate students were recruited from Eras-
musUniversitytoparticipateinthestudyinexchangefora
monetary payment. One participant was unable to complete the
study due to unforeseen rain and another was unable to com-
plete the study due to lack of English proficiency. Thus, the
final sample included 46 participants (37%male; M
age
¼
22.18). To minimize the demand characteristics, the partici-
pants were asked to participate in two ostensibly unrelated
studies conducted by two different experimenters. Upon arrival
at the experimental lab, the participants were asked to complete
a ‘‘social experience survey’’ in which they wrote about a con-
flict they had experienced in the past. After completing the
writing task, the participants answered questions measuring
their affect, the manipulation checks, and demographic ques-
tions. Then, the participants were asked to complete an unre-
lated ‘‘object perception survey’’ in which they walked alone
to a nearby hill and were asked to estimate its steepness.
Finally, the participants reported their weight and height and
completed a suspicion check question. None of the participants
reported any suspicion about the connection between the two
tasks or the actual purpose of the study. They were then
debriefed about the actual purpose of the study.
Manipulation and Measures
Forgiveness
The participants were randomly assigned to one of the two con-
ditions, namely, forgiveness or unforgiveness. In the forgive-
ness condition, the participants were asked to write about a
time they were seriously offended by another person and ulti-
mately forgave them. In the unforgiveness condition, the parti-
cipants were asked to write about a time they were seriously
offended by another person but did not forgive them. This pro-
cedure was consistent with previous studies in which specific
feelings were induced by asking the participants to produce a
2Social Psychological and Personality Science
at Erasmus Univ Rotterdam on December 27, 2014spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
‘life event inventory’’ detailing a specific event from their own
past (Karremans & Van Lange, 2008; Schwarz & Clore, 1983).
Perception of Geographical Slant
After the forgiveness manipulation, the participants took part in
a purported object perception survey that served as our measure
of geographical slant perception. First, the participants walked
individually to a predetermined point at the base of a nearby
hill. Then, the participants provided three estimates of the hill’s
slant, that is, verbal, visual, and haptic. The verbal measure
required the participants to verbally estimate the slant of the
hill from 0to 90and then record this verbal estimate on a
piece of paper. The visual measure required the participants
to adjust a disk until a yellow layer, representing the hill,
matched their perception of the hill’s slant. The participants
were allowed to adjust the yellow layer anywhere from 0(par-
allel to the ground) to 90(perpendicular to the ground). The
device used is shown in Figure 1. Although the participants
could not see degree marks on the disk, a protractor on the back
allowed the experimenter to record the participants’ estimates
in degrees. The haptic measure required the participants to
place their hand on a computer tablet mounted on a tripod stand
that was equipped with iAngle Meter (Phagdeechat, 2010), a
software program that records the tablet’s tilt based on the par-
ticipant’s movements (see Figure 2). The participants were
given the following instructions: ‘‘Please put your dominant
hand on this pad. Please match the pad’s tilt to the slant of the
hill, as if you are placing your hand on the incline of the hill.’
Furthermore, the participants were instructed not to look at
their hand while adjusting the pad.
Previous research indicates that these three measures of geo-
graphic slant should produce divergent effects. The visual and
verbal measures should be influenced by subjective factors
such as the participants’ tiredness, whereas the haptic measure
should not be influenced (Bhalla & Proffitt, 1999; Proffitt,
Bhalla, Gossweiler, & Midgett, 1995; Schnall, Harber, Stefa-
nucci, & Proffitt, 2008). Thus, the forgiveness manipulation
should influence the participants’ visual and verbal estimations
of the hill’s slant, but have no effect on the participants’ haptic
estimations of the hill’s slant.
Manipulation Check and Controls
After completing the forgiveness recall task, the participants
indicated the extent to which they still held a grudge against
their offender (1 ¼not at all,7¼very much). As perceptions
of hill slant can be influenced by gender and physical fitness
(Bhalla & Proffitt, 1999), the participants also indicated their
gender, weight, and height. In addition, the participants’ mood
states were measured using Watson, Clark, and Tellegen’s
(1988) 20-item Positive and Negative Affect Schedule
(PANAS) scale.
Results and Discussion
Manipulation Check
To examine the effectiveness of our forgiveness manipulation,
we conducted an independent samples t-test. As expected, the
participants in the forgiveness condition held significantly less
grudge against their offenders (M¼3.14, SD ¼1.67) than the
Figure 1. Visual measure. The light-yellow section is adjusted by
participant to reflect hill slant.
Figure 2. Participant using haptic measure.
Zheng et al. 3
at Erasmus Univ Rotterdam on December 27, 2014spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
participants in the unforgiveness condition (M¼4.00, SD ¼
1.22), t(44) ¼2.02, p¼.05, Z
2
¼.09.
Test of Primary Hypothesis
We conducted an independent samples t-test to examine the
effect of forgiveness on the participants’ verbal estimates of the
hill’s slant. This analysis revealed a significant effect of for-
giveness: t(44) ¼2.04, p¼.048, Z
2
¼.09. The participants
in the forgiveness condition perceived the hill to be less steep
(M¼44.27, SD ¼13.68) than the participants in the unforgive-
ness condition (M¼52.13, SD ¼12.50). Our analysis of the
participants’ visual estimates also confirmed our prediction.
The participants in the forgiveness condition perceived the hill
to be less steep (M¼40.27, SD ¼12.51) than the participants
in the unforgiveness condition (M¼48.92, SD ¼9.38), t(44) ¼
2.67, p¼.01, Z
2
¼.14. However, as predicted, the partici-
pants in the forgiveness condition (M¼24.55, SD ¼5.03) and
unforgiveness condition (M¼26.13, SD ¼5.12) did not differ
in their perceptions of the hill’s slant when using the haptic
measure, t(44) ¼1.05, p¼.30, Z
2
¼.03; see Figure 3.
Tests of Alternative Explanations
To rule out alternative explanations for our findings, we exam-
ined the potential roles of the participants’ feelings of guilt
(Kouchaki, Gino, & Jami, 2014), positive and negative mood
states, gender, and body mass index (BMI). First, we examined
the potential explanatory roles of the participants’ feelings,
such as guilt, and their overall positive (a¼.82) and negative
(a¼.84) mood states. The participants’ feelings of guilt were
not influenced by the forgiveness manipulation, t(43) ¼.55,
p¼.59, Z
2
¼.01, and were uncorrelated with the three mea-
sures of hill slant (rs < .18, ps > .23). The participants’ positive
mood states were likewise not influenced by the forgiveness
manipulation, t(43) ¼.05, p¼.96, Z
2
¼.00, although a mar-
ginally significant correlation did emerge between the partici-
pants’ positive mood states and the haptic measure of hill slant
(r¼.28, p¼.06). A marginally significant difference emerged
between the unforgiveness (M¼2.25, SD ¼.80) and the for-
giveness conditions (M¼1.86, SD ¼.65) in the participants’
negative moods, t(43) ¼1.80, p¼.08, Z
2
¼.07. However, the
participants’ negative moods were unrelated to the three hill
slant estimates (rs < .20, ps > .20).
Finally, we examined the potential explanatory roles of the
participants’ individual differences such as BMI and gender.
We first correlated BMI with the three slant estimates and
found that BMI was not related to any of them (rs < .11, ps >
.48). We then conducted a series of two-way analyses of var-
iance (ANOVAs) with the forgiveness condition and gender
as independent variables and the three slant estimates as depen-
dent variables. The results revealed no significant two-way
interaction effects on the verbal or visual estimates (ps>
.14). The main effect of gender was marginally significant for
the verbal estimates, F(1, 42) ¼3.24, p¼.08, Z
2
¼.05, but not
significant for the visual estimates, F(1, 42) ¼2.03, p¼.16,
Z
2
¼.05. The main effect of the forgiveness condition on both
the verbal estimates, F(1, 42) ¼6.73, p¼.01, Z
2
¼.14, and
the visual estimates, F(1, 42) ¼7.68, p¼.01, Z
2
¼.16,
remained significant. For the haptic measure of two-way inter-
action, F(1, 42) ¼.03, p¼.86, Z
2
¼.00, the main effect of the
forgiveness condition, F(1, 42) ¼.82, p¼.37, Z
2
¼.02, and
the main effect of gender, F(1, 42) ¼.14, p¼.72, Z
2
¼.00,
were not significant. Thus, the results for the three slant
estimates were consistent with the results that did not control
for gender.
The results from Study 1 provide evidence that feelings of
forgiveness and unforgiveness influence victims’ visual per-
ceptions of a hill’s geographical slant. Specifically, forgiveness
reduces the perceived steepness of geographical slants: the par-
ticipants in the forgiveness condition perceived a hill to be less
steep than the participants in the unforgiveness condition.
Study 2
In Study 2, we examined the effect of feelings of forgiveness
and unforgiveness on the participants’ actual actions during
an ostensibly unrelated jumping task. We predicted that feel-
ings of unforgiveness increase the perceived physical demands
of a jumping task. Thus, feelings of forgiveness should increase
individuals’ jumping heights compared to the feelings of
unforgiveness.
Participants and Procedure
There were 160 undergraduate student participants from two
universities of which 72 were from Erasmus University and
88 were from the National University of Singapore.
1
They
completed the study in exchange for course credit (53.1%male;
M
age
¼20.84). As in Study 1, the participants were asked to
participate in two ostensibly unrelated studies. First, they were
asked to complete a ‘‘social experience survey’’ that served as
our forgiveness manipulation. Then, they were asked to com-
plete a ‘‘physical fitness study.’’ Finally, the participants com-
pleted demographic and control items and a suspicion check
question. None of the participants reported any suspicion about
the connection between the two tasks or the true purpose of the
Figure 3. Mean slant estimates in the two conditions in Study 1. Error
bars indicate standard errors of means.
4Social Psychological and Personality Science
at Erasmus Univ Rotterdam on December 27, 2014spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
study. They were then debriefed about the actual purpose of
the study.
Manipulation and Measures
Forgiveness
The forgiveness and unforgiveness manipulations were identi-
cal to those in Study 1. In this study, we added a control con-
dition wherein the participants were asked to write about a
recent interpersonal interaction (e.g., dinner with a friend and
a conversation with a coworker). The participants were ran-
domly assigned to one of the three conditions.
Jumping Height
After the forgiveness manipulation, the participants took part in
an ostensible physical fitness task. The task required them to
jump 5 times. To keep the participants’ jumps consistent, they
were asked to jump without bending their knees. We video-
taped the participants jumping on a yoga mat. A scale on the
wall was used to record the height of their jumps in centimeters.
Two coders watched the videos independently and recorded the
height of the jumps. We averaged the two coders’ ratings to
create a composite measure of jumping height (r¼.88). This
served as the dependent variable.
Manipulation Check and Controls
After completing the forgiveness recall task, the participants
indicated the extent to which they held a grudge against their
offender (1 ¼not at all,7¼very much). As in Study 1, they
were asked to indicate their feelings of guilt and mood states
using the 20-item PANAS scale of Watson et al. (1988).
Jumping height can vary as a function of gender, physical
fitness, and physical activity. Thus, these variables were used
as controls in Study 2. As a measure of physical activity, the
participants completed the International Physical Activities
Questionnaire (Craig et al., 2003), which is a 7-item instrument
measuring the average time individuals spend on three types of
physical activities per week, namely, vigorous activity, moder-
ate activity, and walking. Sample items are as follows: ‘‘During
the last 7 days, on how many days did you do vigorous physical
activities like heavy lifting, digging, aerobics, or fast bicy-
cling?’’ and ‘‘How much time did you spend doing vigorous
physical activities on one of those days?’’
Results
Manipulation Check
To examine the effectiveness of our forgiveness manipulation,
we conducted a one-way ANOVA. The main effect of the
forgiveness manipulation was significant: F(2, 157) ¼9.36,
p<.01, Z
2
¼.11. A contrast analysis indicated that the parti-
cipants in the forgiveness condition (M¼2.67, SD ¼1.73) felt
less grudge against their offenders than the participants in the
unforgiveness condition, M¼3.53, SD ¼1.60), t(157) ¼
2.80, p¼.01, Z
2
¼.06. There was no difference between
the forgiveness (M¼2.67, SD ¼1.73) and control conditions
(M¼2.24, SD ¼1.41), t(157) ¼1.38, p¼.17, Z
2
¼.02. The
participants in the unforgiveness condition (M¼3.53, SD ¼
1.60) felt more of a grudge against their offenders than the
participants in the control condition (M¼2.24, SD ¼1.41),
t(157) ¼4.25, p< .01, Z
2
¼.16. Thus, the forgiveness
manipulation was successful.
Test of Primary Hypothesis
A one-way ANOVA was conducted to examine the effect of
the forgiveness manipulation on the participants’ jumping
heights. As predicted, there was a main effect of the forgive-
ness manipulation on jumping height: F(2, 157) ¼7.12, p<
.01 Z
2
¼.08. The contrast analyses showed that the participants
in the forgiveness condition jumped higher (M¼29.68, SD ¼
9.61) than those in the unforgiveness condition (M¼22.30,
SD ¼8.97), t(157) ¼3.64, p< .01, Z
2
¼.08, whereas the par-
ticipants in the unforgiveness condition jumped lower (M¼
22.30, SD ¼8.97) than the participants in the control condition
(M¼27.61, SD ¼12.40), t(157) ¼2.66, p< .01, Z
2
¼.04.
However, there was no significant difference in jumping
height between the forgiveness (M¼29.68, SD ¼9.61) and
the control conditions (M¼27.61, SD ¼12.40), t(157) ¼
1.01, p¼.31, Z
2
¼.01 (see Figure 4).
Test of Alternative Explanations
Consistent with Study 1, we examined the participants’ feelings
of guilt, positive (a¼.85) and negative (a¼.85) mood states,
gender, BMI, and physical activity levels as potential alterna-
tive explanations for our findings. A series of ANOVAs indi-
cated that there were no significant differences in feelings of
guilt, positive mood states, or negative mood states across all
the conditions; all the pvalues were > .10. Furthermore, feel-
ings of guilt, positive mood states, and negative mood
states were all unrelated to the participants’ jumping heights
(rs < .09, all ps > .26).
Figure 4. Mean jumping height in the three conditions in Study 2.
Error bars indicate standard errors of means.
Zheng et al. 5
at Erasmus Univ Rotterdam on December 27, 2014spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Neither BMI nor physical activity was related to the partici-
pants’ jumping heights (BMI: r¼.10, p¼.23; physical
activity: r¼.08, p¼.32). We conducted a two-way ANOVA
with the forgiveness condition and gender as independent vari-
ables and jumping height as the dependent variable and found a
significant main effect of gender, F(1, 154) ¼11.09, p<.01,
Z
2
¼.07. Additionally, there was a significant main effect of
the forgiveness condition, F(2, 154) ¼6.92, p<.01,Z
2
¼
.08. The results revealed no significant two-way interaction,
F(2, 154) ¼.93, p¼.40, Z
2
¼.01. Thus, the effect of the for-
giveness manipulation on the participants’ jumping heights
does not appear to be unduly affected by gender.
General Discussion
Conflict is inevitable in an interdependent world (De Dreu &
Gelfand, 2008). Although scholars have promoted forgiveness
as a beneficial response to transgressions, research on the pre-
cise nature of these benefits is limited. We demonstrate that
forgiveness has even more far-reaching effects on victim out-
comes than previously observed. Beyond its effects on victims’
psychological well-being, forgiveness also has implications for
how victims perceive and interact with their physical surround-
ings. Building on the literature on embodied perception and
action, we demonstrate that forgiveness both reduces the per-
ceived slant of a hill and improves victims’ performance on a
physical fitness task. Subsequently, we discuss the implications
and limitations of these findings and offer suggestions for
future research.
First, our findings contribute to the understanding of for-
giveness in meaningful ways. In tandem with research demon-
strating that forgiveness benefits the physical health of victims
(e.g., Lawler et al., 2003), our research shows that forgivers
perceive a less daunting world and perform better on challen-
ging physical tasks. Although we focus on the effects of for-
giveness on victims’ experiences in the physical domain, our
research opens the door to a more expansive examination of the
effect of forgiveness on victims’ physical experiences beyond
the conflict domain. Furthermore, our research emphasizes the
importance of empirically examining the consequences of for-
giveness. Although writers and philosophers have frequently
touted the benefits of forgiveness, the lack of empirical studies
of these benefits risks an oversimplified understanding of the
many ways in which forgiveness influences a victim.
Beyond its implications for the forgiveness literature, our
research also has important implications for the embodied per-
ception literature. Unlike the majority of previous studies that
have focused on actual burdens such as physical impairment
and the carrying of heavy objects, we build on the findings
of Slepian et al. (2012) and Slepian et al. (2014) to demonstrate
that concepts with a metaphorical relationship to heaviness can
influence the perceived slant of hills. Similarly, unlike most
embodied perception research, which has focused on percep-
tual implications (Meier et al., 2012), we demonstrate that
metaphorical burdens directly influence action, leading the par-
ticipants to jump less high than they otherwise would.
Finally, we contribute to the literature on the link between
embodied perception and psychosocial resources. Previous
research in this domain has focused on social support and felt
understanding (i.e., the feelings of being validated, respected,
and appreciated; Beckes & Coan, 2011; Harber, Einev-
Cohen, & Lang, 2008; Oishi, Schiller, & Gross, 2012; Schnall
et al., 2008). This research has demonstrated that psychosocial
resources such as social support and felt understanding can
‘lighten’’ individuals’ burdens and make the physical world
seem less demanding. There has been no discussion of conflict
in this literature, although psychosocial resources are particu-
larly likely to be compromised by conflict. Our findings imply
that forgiveness might be an intervention that allows individu-
als to reclaim the psychosocial resources they have lost.
This study is not without its limitations, which highlight
important directions for future research. First, it is important
to note that the effects of forgiveness are not universally posi-
tive. Previous studies demonstrate that the positive effects of
forgiveness are moderated by several factors (Exline,
Worthington, Hill, & McCullough, 2003; Luchies, Finkel,
McNulty, Kumashiro, 2010; Wallace, Exline, & Baumeister,
2008). For example, some studies suggest that the positive
effects of forgiveness are attenuated when the offender is unre-
pentant or disagreeable (Luchies et al., 2010). Thus, the effects
of forgiveness on victims’ interactions with the physical world
might hinge on the characteristics of the offender. Likewise,
the effects of forgiveness might hinge on the social norms and
expectations surrounding a particular offence. Sociological
research has conceptualized reconciliation processes as social
rituals in which the victim and offender are expected to fulfill
prescribed roles. In particular, when offenders apologize to
their victims, victims are typically expected to offer forgive-
ness in return (De Cremer, Pillutla, & Reinders Folmer,
2010; Risen & Gilovich, 2007; Tavuchis, 1991). This suggests
that the burden of unforgiveness might be particularly high
when the offender is repentant, yet the victim is still unable
to forgive.
Finally, we note that although Studies 1 and 2 converge to
suggest that unforgiveness produces a burden akin to carrying
a heavy load (Bhalla & Proffitt, 1999; Proffitt et al., 2003;
Slepian et al., 2012, 2014), the precise mediating mechanisms
of these effects were not tested. One potential explanatory
mechanism might involve the participants’ feelings of power.
Power is an important determinant of individuals’ resource
availability (Emerson, 1962; Keltner, Gruenfeld, & Anderson,
2003), and it may affect the perception of the physical prop-
erties of objects via resource availability. Indeed, a recent
study finds that individuals who experience social power per-
ceive a box of books to be physically lighter than individuals
who experience a lack of social power (Lee & Schnall, 2014).
This is consistent with research showing that social power is
associated with more efficient mobilization of action-
relevant bodily resources (Scheepers, de Wit, Ellemers, &
Sassenberg, 2012). Given that victims who are unable to
reconcile with their offenders often feel a sense of powerless-
ness within the victim–offender relationship (Schnabel &
6Social Psychological and Personality Science
at Erasmus Univ Rotterdam on December 27, 2014spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Nadler, 2008), this suggests that the sense of powerlessness
may deplete resources and this makes it more difficult to deal
with physical challenges.
Unforgiveness also enhances rumination (Carlsmith,
Wilson, & Gilbert, 2008), which may decrease the availability
of cognitive resources such as glucose that can be otherwise
used to cope with physical challenges such as jumping and
climbing a hill (Schnall, Zadra, & Proffitt, 2010). Future
research should explore the potential mediating mechanisms
of these effects. Along similar lines, although our research sug-
gests there is a link between perception and action, this link was
not directly tested. Future research should address this issue by
simultaneously measuring both perception and action and
examining the link between these two phenomena.
Conclusions
A state of unforgiveness is like carrying a heavy burden—a
burden that victims bring with them when they navigate the
physical world. Forgiveness can ‘‘lighten’’ this burden. Our
findings suggest that the benefits of forgiveness may go beyond
the constructive consequences that have been established in
the psychological and health domains; it may have lasting
implications for how forgivers perceive and interact with the
physical world.
Acknowledgment
The authors wish to thank the journal editor Simone Schnall as well as
two anonymous reviewers for their feedback and suggestions on the
earlier versions of this paper. We would also like to thank Zoe Kinias
for helping design Study 2 as well as Ilaria Orlandi and Laura M.
Giurge for assisting with the data collection for Study 1.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to
the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for
the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This
research is supported by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and
U.S. Army Research Office under Grant W911NF-08-1-0144 to
Michele J. Gelfand, the AcRF Tier 1 Funding from the Ministry of
Education of Singapore (Grant Number C207/MSS13B007) and also
supported by the Academic Research Funds from the National Univer-
sity of Singapore (Grant Number R-317-000-106-112).
Note
1. Although data were collected in two locations, inclusion of location
as a moderator or control did not influence our results in any way.
References
Beckes, L., & Coan, J. A. (2011). Social baseline theory: The role of
social proximity in emotion and economy of action. Social and
Personality Psychology Compass,5, 976–988.
Bhalla, M., & Proffitt, D. R. (1999). Visual–motor recalibration in
geographical slant perception. Journal of Experimental Psychol-
ogy: Human Perception and Performance,25, 1076–1096.
Carlsmith, K. M., Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2008). The paradox-
ical consequences of revenge. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology,95, 1316–1324.
Craig, C. L., Marshall, A. L., Sjo¨stro¨m, M., Bauman, A. E., Booth, M.
L., & Ainsworth, B. E., (2003). International Physical Activity
Questionnaire (IPAQ): 12-country reliability and validity. Medi-
cine & Science in Sports & Exercise,35, 1381–1395.
Day, M. V., & Bobocel, D. R. (2013). The weight of a guilty con-
science: Subjective body weight as an embodiment of guilt. PloS
One,8, e69546.
De Cremer, D., Pillutla, M. M., & Reinders Folmer, C. P. (2011). How
important is an apology to you? Forecasting errors in the evaluat-
ing the value of apologies. Psychological Science,22, 45–48.
De Dreu, C. K. W., & Gelfand, M. J. (Eds.). (2008). The psychology of
conflict and conflict management in organizations.NewYork,
NY: Taylor & Francis.
Eves, F. F. (2014). Is there any Proffitt in stair climbing? A headcount
of studies testing for demographic differences in choice of stairs.
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,21, 71–77.
Emerson, R. M. (1962). Power dependence relations. American Jour-
nal of Sociology,27, 31–41.
Exline, J. J., Worthington, E. L., , Jr., Hill, P., & McCullough, M. E.
(2003). Forgiveness and justice: A research agenda for social and
personality psychology. Personality and Social Psychology
Review,7, 337–348.
Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception.
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Griswold,C.L.(2007).Forgiveness: A philosophical exploration.
Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Hamilton, A. (2012). Forgiveness: Finding peace through letting go.
Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Harber, K. D., Einev-Cohen, M., & Lang, F. (2008). They heard a cry:
Psychosocial resources moderate perception of others’ distress.
European Journal of Social Psychology,38, 296–314.
Karremans, J. C., & Van Lange, P. A. M. (2008). Forgiveness in inter-
personal relationships: Its malleability and powerful consequences.
European Review of Social Psychology,19, 202–241.
Keltner, D., Gruenfeld, D. H., & Anderson, C. A. (2003). Power,
approach, and inhibition. Psychological Review,110, 265–284.
Kouchaki, M., Gino, F., & Jami, A. (2014). The burden of guilt: Heavy
backpacks, light snacks, and enhanced morality. Journal of Experi-
mental Psychology: General,143, 414–424.
Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago, IL:
University of Chicago Press.
Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the flesh: The embo-
died mind and its challenge to Western thought. New York, NY:
Basic Books.
Landau, M. J., Meier, B., & Keefer, L.(2010). A metaphor-enriched
social cognition. Psychological Bulletin,136, 1045–1067.
Lawler, K. A., Younger, J. W., Pferi, R. L., Billington, E., Jobe, R.,
Edmondson, K., & Jones, W. H. (2003). A change of heart: Cardi-
ovascular correlates of forgiveness in response to interpersonal
conflicts. Journal of Behavioral Medicine,26, 373–393.
Zheng et al. 7
at Erasmus Univ Rotterdam on December 27, 2014spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Lee, E. H., & Schnall, S. (2014). The influence of social power on
weight perception. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,
143, 1719–1725.
Luchies, L. B., Finkel, E. J., McNulty, J. K., & Kumashiro, M. (2010).
The doormat effect: When forgiving erodes self-respect and self-
concept clarity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
98, 734–749.
McCullough, M. E., Bellah, C. G., Kilpatrick, S. D., & Johnson, J. L.
(2001). Vengefulness: Relationships with forgiveness, rumination,
well-being, and the Big Five. Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin,27, 601–610.
Meier, B. P., Schnall, S., Schwarz, N., & Bargh, J. A. (2012). Embodi-
ment in social psychology. Topics in Cognitive Science,4, 705–716.
Oishi, S., Schiller, J., & Gross, E. B. (2012). Felt understanding and
misunderstanding affect the perception of pain, slant, and distance.
Social Psychological and Personality Science,4, 259–266.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). The VIA classification of
strengths and virtues. Washington, DC: American Psychological
Association.
Phagdeechat, N. (2010). iAngle Meter (Version 1.1) [Mobile applica-
tion software]. Retrieved from http://itunes.apple.com
Proffitt, D. R. (2006). Embodied perception and the economy of
action. Perspectives on Psychological Science,1, 110–122.
Proffitt, D. R., Bhalla, M., Gossweiler, R., & Midgett, J. (1995). Per-
ceiving geographical slant. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,2,
409–428.
Proffitt, D. R., Stefanucci, J., Banton, T., & Epstein, W. (2003). The
role of effort in perceiving distance. Psychological Science,14,
106–112.
Risen, J. L., & Gilovich, T. (2007). Target and observer differences in
the acceptance of questionable apologies. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology,92, 418–433.
Rye, M. S., Pargament, K. I., Ali, M., Beck, G. L., Dorff, E. N., Hal-
lisey, C., & Williams, J. G. (2000). Religious perspectives on for-
giveness. In M. E. McCullough, K. I. Pargament, & C. E. Thoresen
(Eds.), Forgiveness: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 17–40).
New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Scheepers, D., de Wit, F., Ellemers, N., & Sassenberg, K. (2012).
Social power makes the heart work more efficiently: Evidence
from cardiovascular markers of challenge and threat. Journal of
Experimental Social Psychology,48, 371–374.
Schnabel, N., & Nadler, A. (2008). A needs-based model of reconci-
liation: Satisfying the differential needs of victim and perpetrator.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,94, 116–132.
Schnall, S., Harber, K. D., Stefanucci, J. K., & Proffitt, D. R. (2008).
Social support and the perception of geographical slant. Journal of
Experimental Social Psychology,44, 1246–1255.
Schnall, S., Zadra, J. R., & Proffitt, D. R. (2010). Direct evidence for
the economy of action: Glucose and the perception of geographical
slant. Perception,39, 464–482.
Schwarz, N., & Clore, G. L. (1983). Mood, misattribution, and
judgments of well-being: Informative and directive functions
of affective states. Journal of Personality and Social Psychol-
ogy,45,513523.
Slepian, M. L., Masicampo, E. J., & Ambady, N. (2014). Relieving the
burdens of secrecy: Revealing secrets influences judgments of hill
slant and distance. Social Psychological and Personality Science,
5, 293–300.
Slepian, M. L., Masicampo, E. J., Toosi, N. R., & Ambady, N. (2012).
The physical burdens of secrecy. Journal of Experimental Psychol-
ogy: General,141, 619–624.
Strahan, C. R. (2006). The roan maverick. Charleston, SC: BookSurge
Publishing.
Tavuchis, N. (1991). Mea culpa: A sociology of apology and reconci-
liation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Wallace, H. M., Exline, J. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (2008). Interperso-
nal consequences of forgiveness: Does forgiveness deter or encour-
age repeat offenses? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,
44, 453–460.
Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and
validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The
PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
54, 1063–1070.
Wilkowski, B. M., Meier, B. P., Robinson, M. D., Carter, M. S., &
Feltman, R. (2009). ‘‘Hot-headed’’ is more than an expression: The
embodied representation of anger in terms of heat. Emotion,9,
464–477.
Wood, C. W. (2008). Hurt people hurt people. Maitland, FL: Xulon
Press.
Zhong, C. B., & Leonardelli, G. J. (2008). Cold and lonely: Does
social exclusion feel literally cold? Psychological Science,19,
838–842.
Ziglar, Z. (2009, October 19). The power of forgiveness. Retrieved
from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v¼o3Sq8Ew7u5A
Author Biographies
Xue Zheng is a postdoctoral researcher at Rotterdam School of
Management. Her research focuses on forgiveness, trust, power, and
conflict management.
Ryan Fehr is an assistant professor at University of Washington,
Seattle. His research focuses on conflict, ethics, morality, creativity
and innovation, and cross-cultural management
Kenneth Tai is an assistant professor at Singapore Management
University. His research focuses on envy, social exclusion, and
decision making in the workplace.
Jayanth Narayanan is an assistant professor at National University of
Singapore. He studies social psychological issues in the workplace.
Michele J. Gelfand is a professor at University of Maryland, College
Park. Her work explores cultural influences on conflict, negotiation,
justice, and revenge; workplace diversity and discrimination; and
theory and methods in cross-cultural psychology.
8Social Psychological and Personality Science
at Erasmus Univ Rotterdam on December 27, 2014spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... For example, verticality has been shown to ground valence (good things are "up"; Meier & Robinson, 2004), power (the powerful are "at the top"; Schubert, 2005), and rationality ("high level" intellectual discussions sometimes "sink" to an emotional level; Cian et al., 2015). Similarly, heaviness grounds concepts beyond importance, including guilt (Kouchaki et al., 2014), secrets (Slepian et al., 2012), and forgiveness (Zheng et al., 2015). Cases where the same sensory experience grounds several judgment dimensions present the problem of one-to-many mapping and raise the question how perceivers decide which mapping to apply. ...
Preprint
Bodily sensations impact metaphorically related judgments. Are such effects obligatory or do they follow the logic of knowledge accessibility? If the latter, the impact of sensory information should be moderated by the accessibility of the related metaphor at the time of sensory experience. We manipulated whether “importance” was on participants’ minds when they held a physically heavy vs. light book. Participants held the book while making an importance judgment vs. returned it before making the judgment (Study 1) or learned prior to holding the book that the study was about “importance evaluations” vs. “graphics evaluations” (Study 2). In both studies, the same book was judged more important when its heft was increased, but only when importance was on participants’ minds at the time of sensory experience. We conclude that sensory experiences only impact metaphorically-related judgments when the applicable metaphor is highly accessible at the time of experience.
... For example, verticality has been shown to ground valence (good things are "up"; Meier & Robinson, 2004), power (the powerful are "at the top"; Schubert, 2005), and rationality ("high level" intellectual discussions sometimes "sink" to an emotional level; Cian et al., 2015). Similarly, heaviness grounds concepts beyond importance, including guilt (Kouchaki et al., 2014), secrets (Slepian et al., 2012), and forgiveness (Zheng et al., 2015). Cases where the same sensory experience grounds several judgment dimensions present the problem of one-to-many mapping and raise the question how perceivers decide which mapping to apply. ...
Article
Full-text available
Bodily sensations impact metaphorically related judgments. Are such effects obligatory or do they follow the logic of knowledge accessibility? If the latter, the impact of sensory information should be moderated by the accessibility of the related metaphor at the time of sensory experience. We manipulated whether “importance” was on participants’ minds when they held a physically heavy vs. light book. Participants held the book while making an importance judgment vs. returned it before making the judgment (Study 1) or learned prior to holding the book that the study was about “importance evaluations” vs. “graphics evaluations” (Study 2). In both studies, the same book was judged more important when its heft was increased, but only when importance was on participants’ minds at the time of sensory experience. We conclude that sensory experiences only impact metaphorically-related judgments when the applicable metaphor is highly accessible at the time of experience.
... This is consistent with the existing empirical research. [16], [17] Individuals with high level of interpersonal trust of minority high school students usually have higher self-esteem level, they are more likely to forgive others and maintain a pleasant interpersonal environment, so they have a higher sense of psychological well-being. ...
... [4][5][6][7][8][9] Furthermore, forgiving people tend to have more support from friends and coworkers 10 and tend to see obstacles as less challenging. 11 Forgiveness has also been associated with fewer chronic health conditions, improved physiological functioning, and better cognitive function. 4,[12][13][14] With these benefits in mind, it is easy to see why several approaches to teaching forgiveness have developed. ...
... [4][5][6][7][8][9] Furthermore, forgiving people tend to have more support from friends and coworkers 10 and tend to see obstacles as less challenging. 11 Forgiveness has also been associated with fewer chronic health conditions, improved physiological functioning, and better cognitive function. 4,[12][13][14] With these benefits in mind, it is easy to see why several approaches to teaching forgiveness have developed. ...
... Researchers have also investigated the possible influence of more complex emotions on spatial perception. Zheng, Fehr, Tai, Narayanan, and Gelfand (2015) investigated the influence of offense and forgiveness on perception of hill slant. Zheng et al. randomly assigned participants to one of the two emotional stimulus groups before asking them to judge the slant of a hill. ...
Article
Full-text available
When people perceive the world, what they see is based on the physics of light reflecting off surfaces and entering their eyes. Their brain then processes the raw data so that photoreceptor activity becomes perceptual awareness. Most textbooks and chapters on sensation and perception follow this formula, building student understanding of perception as progressing from the raw data of light to the biological response of photoreceptors to more complex processing of edges and objects in the brain. This approach is often called bottom-up processing. Top-down processing, in contrast, occurs when people’s expectations, emotions, and bodies affect how they see the world. In this article, I review diverse evidence suggesting that perception is not solely a result of bottom-up processing. I also suggest ways that we should inform students of this complexity.
... Further, participants placed in a powerless condition judged boxes to be heavier than did participants in a powerful condition (Lee & Schnall, 2014). A reduction in psychological resources can affect perceptual judgments of the physical world in much the same manner as a physical burden (Schnall et al., 2008;Slepian et al., 2012;Slepian et al., 2015;Zheng, Fehr, Tai, Narayanan, & Gelfand, 2014). ...
Article
Proverbs in different cultures describe being indebted as burdensome or a physical strain. To our knowledge, little research has examined the link between debt and burden. In the present work, we conducted five studies to examine the hypothesis that debt would lead to perceptual judgments of the environment as more forbidding and extreme in much the same manner as a physical burden. In Studies 1–3, we found that compared with the control condition, people in the debt condition threw beanbags farther, estimated the distance to be greater, and estimated the hills to be steeper. In study 4 we found that participants with student loan debt rated their subjective weight as heavier than participants without debt. In Study 5, we replicated the results of Study 3, which we pre-registered using the Open Science Framework. These findings provided the first evidence of the association between debt and physical burden and indicated that debts affect people similarly to physical burdens.
Article
Full-text available
Forgiveness has been regarded as a sign of power, yet empirical evidence is mixed. This research seeks to resolve this inconsistency by looking into how and from whom forgiveness is expressed. Integrating theories on forgiveness, communication, and gender role, we hypothesized and found, in two experiments, that a third party's perception of forgiver power is jointly influenced by forgiveness expression (explicit vs. implicit) and forgiver gender. Female forgivers were perceived as less powerful than their male counterparts when forgivers expressed implicit forgiveness, whereas this gender difference was not found when forgivers expressed explicit forgiveness. Perceived forgiver power, in turn, positively influenced third parties' cooperation with the forgiver in subsequent interaction. This research represents an initial step to understanding forgiveness from a communication perspective. It demonstrates the social implications of forgiveness on uninvolved third parties. Our findings also resonate with several others in showing that forgiveness does not always yield interpersonal benefits.
Article
Intergroup conflict is a pervasive issue at the heart of concern for organizations and society alike. Currently, there is little consensus about the impetus for intergroup conflict. Micro approaches focus on behavioral aspects of individuals, personality factors, and characteristics of group composition, whereas macro theories explain the reason for tension as competition as the factors within the external environment that contribute to differences in power. In this article, I offer a Resource Dependence Perspective on intergroup conflict (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978), which focuses on the strategic actions undertaken to manage dependencies with other entities in their environment, and synthesize the two theoretical perspectives into a single more comprehensive view of intergroup conflict. I offer propositions, a theoretical model, and discuss implications for research and practice.
Article
Full-text available
Recent work demonstrates that harboring secrets influences perceptual judgments and actions. Individuals carrying secrets make judgments consistent with the experience of being weighed down, such as judging a hill as steeper and judging distances to be farther. In the present article, two studies examined whether revealing a secret would relieve the burden of secrecy. Relative to a control condition, thinking about a secret led to the judgments of increased hill slant, whereas revealing a secret eliminated that effect (Study 1). Additionally, relative to a control condition, thinking about a secret led to judgments of increased distance, and again, revealing a secret eliminated that effect (Study 2). Sharing secrets with others might relieve the perceived physical burden from secrecy.
Article
Full-text available
Three studies explored whether social power affects the perception of physical properties of objects, testing the hypothesis that the powerless find objects to be heavier than the powerful do. Correlational findings from Study 1 revealed that people with a low personal sense of power perceived loaded boxes to be heavier than people with a high personal sense of power perceived them to be. In Study 2, experimentally manipulated power indicated that participants in the powerless condition judged the boxes to be heavier than did participants in the powerful condition. Study 3 further indicated that lacking power actively influences weight perception relative to a neutral control condition, whereas having power does not. Although much research on embodied perception has shown that various physiological and psychosocial resources influence visual perception of the physical environment, this is the first demonstration suggesting that power, a psychosocial construct that relates to the control of resources, changes the perception of physical properties of objects. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
Article
Full-text available
People judged the inclination of hills viewed either out-of-doors or in a computer-simulated virtual environment. Angle judgments were obtained by having people (1) provide verbal estimates, (2) adjust a representation of the hill's cross-section, and (3) adjust a tilt board with their unseen hand. Geographical slant was greatly overestimated according to the first two measures, but not the third. Apparent slant judgments conformed to ratio scales, thereby enhancing sensitivity to the small inclines that must actually be traversed in everyday experience. It is proposed that the perceived exaggeration of geographical slant preserves the relationship between distal inclination and people's behavioral potential. Hills are harder to traverse as people become tired; hence, apparent slant increased with fatigue. Visually guided actions must be accommodated to the actual distal properties of the environment; consequently, the tilt board adjustments did not reflect apparent slant overestimations, nor were they influenced by fatigue. Consistent with the fact that steep hills are more difficult to descend than to ascend, these hills appeared steeper when viewed from the top.
Article
Full-text available
We conducted two studies to examine whether the psychological states of felt understanding and misunderstanding would affect people’s basic perceptions such as pain, geographical slant, and distance. As predicted, an experimentally induced sense of felt understanding relative to misunderstanding increased pain tolerance marginally and reduced the perceived distance to the target locations significantly. In Study 2, we not only replicated Study 1’s findings on pain tolerance and distance perception but also found that participants in the understanding condition perceived the same hill to be significantly less steep than those in the misunderstanding condition. Our studies demonstrated that the experimentally induced feeling of misunderstanding tends to have the aversive effect on the perception of pain, geographical slant, and distance, whereas the experimentally induced feeling of understanding tends to alleviate pain, reduce the geographical slant, and the perceived distance to a target location.
Article
Full-text available
Guilt is an important social and moral emotion. In addition to feeling unpleasant, guilt is metaphorically described as a "weight on one's conscience." Evidence from the field of embodied cognition suggests that abstract metaphors may be grounded in bodily experiences, but no prior research has examined the embodiment of guilt. Across four studies we examine whether i) unethical acts increase subjective experiences of weight, ii) feelings of guilt explain this effect, and iii) whether there are consequences of the weight of guilt. Studies 1-3 demonstrated that unethical acts led to more subjective body weight compared to control conditions. Studies 2 and 3 indicated that heightened feelings of guilt mediated the effect, whereas other negative emotions did not. Study 4 demonstrated a perceptual consequence. Specifically, an induction of guilt affected the perceived effort necessary to complete tasks that were physical in nature, compared to minimally physical tasks.
Article
Full-text available
Perception informs people about the opportunities for action and their associated costs. To this end, explicit awareness of spatial layout varies not only with relevant optical and ocular-motor variables, but also as a function of the costs associated with performing intended actions. Although explicit awareness is mutable in this respect, visually guided actions directed at the immediate environment are not. When the metabolic costs associated with walking an extent increase-perhaps because one is wearing a heavy backpack-hills appear steeper and distances to targets appear greater. When one is standing on a high balcony, the apparent distance to the ground is correlated with one's fear of falling. Perceiving spatial layout combines the geometry of the world with behavioral goals and the costs associated with achieving these goals. © 2006 Association for Psychological Science.
Book
The now-classic Metaphors We Live By changed our understanding of metaphor and its role in language and the mind. Metaphor, the authors explain, is a fundamental mechanism of mind, one that allows us to use what we know about our physical and social experience to provide understanding of countless other subjects. Because such metaphors structure our most basic understandings of our experience, they are "metaphors we live by"--metaphors that can shape our perceptions and actions without our ever noticing them. In this updated edition of Lakoff and Johnson's influential book, the authors supply an afterword surveying how their theory of metaphor has developed within the cognitive sciences to become central to the contemporary understanding of how we think and how we express our thoughts in language.
Article
Nearly everyone has wronged another. Who among us has not longed to be forgiven? Nearly everyone has suffered the bitter injustice of wrongdoing. Who has not struggled to forgive? Charles Griswold has written the first comprehensive philosophical book on forgiveness in both its interpersonal and political contexts, as well as its relation to reconciliation. Having examined the place of forgiveness in ancient philosophy and in modern thought, he discusses what forgiveness is, what conditions the parties to it must meet, its relation to revenge and hatred, when it is permissible and whether it is obligatory, and why it is a virtue. © Charles L. Griswold 2007 and Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Book
George Lakoff and Mark Johnson take on the daunting task of rebuilding Western philosophy in alignment with three fundamental lessons from cognitive science: The mind is inherently embodied, thought is mostly unconscious, and abstract concepts are largely metaphorical. Why so daunting? "Cognitive science--the empirical study of the mind--calls upon us to create a new, empirically responsible philosophy, a philosophy consistent with empirical discoveries about the nature of mind," they write. "A serious appreciation of cognitive science requires us to rethink philosophy from the beginning, in a way that would put it more in touch with the reality of how we think." In other words, no Platonic forms, no Cartesian mind-body duality, no Kantian pure logic. Even Noam Chomsky's generative linguistics is revealed under scrutiny to have substantial problems. Parts of Philosophy in the Flesh retrace the ground covered in the authors' earlier Metaphors We Live By , which revealed how we deal with abstract concepts through metaphor. (The previous sentence, for example, relies on the metaphors "Knowledge is a place" and "Knowing is seeing" to make its point.) Here they reveal the metaphorical underpinnings of basic philosophical concepts like time, causality--even morality--demonstrating how these metaphors are rooted in our embodied experiences. They repropose philosophy as an attempt to perfect such conceptual metaphors so that we can understand how our thought processes shape our experience; they even make a tentative effort toward rescuing spirituality from the heavy blows dealt by the disproving of the disembodied mind or "soul" by reimagining "transcendence" as "imaginative empathetic projection." Their source list is helpfully arranged by subject matter, making it easier to follow up on their citations. If you enjoyed the mental workout from Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works , Lakoff and Johnson will, to pursue the "Learning is exercise" metaphor, take you to the next level of training. --Ron Hogan Two leading thinkers offer a blueprint for a new philosophy. "Their ambition is massive, their argument important.…The authors engage in a sort of metaphorical genome project, attempting to delineate the genetic code of human thought." -The New York Times Book Review "This book will be an instant academic best-seller." -Mark Turner, University of Maryland This is philosophy as it has never been seen before. Lakoff and Johnson show that a philosophy responsible to the science of the mind offers a radically new and detailed understandings of what a person is. After first describing the philosophical stance that must follow from taking cognitive science seriously, they re-examine the basic concepts of the mind, time, causation, morality, and the self; then they rethink a host of philosophical traditions, from the classical Greeks through Kantian morality through modern analytical philosophy.