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The psychology of forgiveness

robiandali.jpgThe TED.com staff’s favorite psychology research blog, the BPS Research Digest, reports on a study on forgiveness from the University of Sussex and the New School for Social Research. The study examines how groups which have committed atrocious acts against one another come to break the cycle of resentment and forgive.

[The researchers] surveyed 180 Bosnian Muslims about their attitudes towards Bosnian Serbs in the wake of the earlier conflict. They found that Bosnian Muslims who had more Serb friends and who identified more with a sense of being “Bosnian,” rather than “Bosnian Muslim” or “Bosniak,” also tended to show more empathy for Serbs as a group, to be more trusting of Serbs, and to see Serbs as more varied — all of which predicted greater levels of forgiveness and more positive attitudes towards the Serbs.

This pattern is consistent with what’s known as the “contact hypothesis” in social psychology, which states that more high quality contact between groups promotes intergroup reconciliation.

A pertinent find in the weeks following Pangea Day — and the beginning of new initiatives by other TEDPrize winners.

(Photo credit: Marla Aufmuth)