Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 214–224 | Cite as

Terror Management and Trait Empathy: Evidence that Mortality Salience Promotes Reactions of Forgiveness among People with High (vs. low) Trait Empathy

  • Jeff Schimel
  • Michael J. A. Wohl
  • Todd Williams
Original Paper


Terror management research has typically found that people respond harshly toward offending others when reminded of their mortality. In the current research we examined whether mortality salience would increase attitudes of forgiveness toward such individuals, especially among those with high trait empathy. Consistent with prior research, Study 1 showed that mortality salience increased forgiveness of a violent hockey player, but only if this person was a member of the ingroup. Study 2 showed that mortality (vs. dental pain) salience led persons high in trait empathy to forgive the same violent hockey player regardless of his group membership. Implications for increasing forgiveness and prosocial behavior in intergroup contexts are briefly discussed.


Terror management Empathy Forgiveness Worldview Ingroup Outgroup Intergroup conflict Mortality salience 



This research was supported in part by a SSHRC Standard Research Grant #G124130386.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeff Schimel
    • 1
  • Michael J. A. Wohl
    • 2
  • Todd Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Carleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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