This project represents an initial effort to study the cultural, emotional and social factors that contribute to forgiveness for mass atrocities. Human history is replete with examples of groups committing mass atrocities against each other, such as the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide committed by the Turks, and slavery in the US. Negative emotions and mistrust can be directed at the perpetrator group by members of the victim group for generations long after the actual perpetrators and victims have died. These negative emotions and mistrust can potentially prevent positive intergroup relations and exacerbate or increase the likelihood of conflict.
The research supported by this grant will study the forgiveness of Jews for the Holocaust and Armenians for the Armenian genocide. Using experimental methods, the investigators will explore whether and to what extent ethnic and religious identity are associated with forgiveness, and expressed feelings towards the offender groups (Germans for Jews, Turks for Armenians). In addition, the investigators will consider the impact of the passage of time since the event. The proposed research will make several important contributions by advancing theories about cultural influences on forgiveness and intergroup relations, and enhancing understanding of a set of processes that have direct implications for the lives of individuals and groups across the globe.
National Science Foundation Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences
February 2010 - January 2012