Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


First study to watch brain patterns when forgiving


Different parts of brain are activated

In the first study ever to examine how the brain functions when making judgments about forgivability and empathy, researcher Tom Farrow, B.Sc. (Hons.), Ph.D., found that different regions of the brain are activated when a person makes judgments about forgiving.

The findings will be presented at the Scientific Conference on Forgiveness along with studies from over 40 of the top scientists in the world who study forgiveness. The conference is in Atlanta October 24-25. To register, log on to the Press Room at:

This study, conducted in the UK, shows that forgiveness is a complex process that occurs in the brain. Different parts of the brain are utilized when a person makes moral judgments, empathizes with someone and eventually makes judgments about how forgivable the person and/or action may be. Farrow’s study is the first ever to examine how the brain functions when making judgments about forgivability and empathy. Through MRI scanning of a healthy control group, the study found that judgments about forgivability and empathy produced a distinct pattern of brain activity.

Following therapy, the brain activity of two separate groups of patients, one with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the other with Schizophrenia, appeared to normalize and return to the patterns seen in the healthy control group. These changes were noted in the portion of the brain involved in feeling empathy and making moral judgments. Changes were not as pronounced in the regions of the brain that controls forgivability judgments.

Farrow is a Lecturer in Adult Psychiatry (Neuroimaging), Sheffield Cognition and Neuroimaging Laboratory (SCANLab), Sheffield University, UK. He is also a Visiting Royal Society Overseas Research Fellow, Brain DynamicsCentre,Westmead Hospital and Honorary Lecturer, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Sydney, Australia.

(Control data published in the Journal of Neuro Report, Vol. 12, Issue 11, pages 2433-2438 in 2001; PTSD data under submission to the British Journal of Psychiatry; Schizophrenia data is being typed up and prepared for submission; PTSD and Schizophrenia data presented at many conferences in the U.S., Japan and Australia.)

ABSTRACT: Farrow, Tom: Brain Imaging and Empathic and Forgivability Judgments

1. Brain imaging of high-level cognitive functions is feasible.
2. Physiologically, forgiveness is almost certainly a multi-dimensional complex cognitive process.
3. Preliminary evidence suggests that it may be possible to demonstrate brain activation change, concomitant with symptom resolution and / or therapeutic input.

Forgiveness is likely to comprise multiple cognitive components. One such component may be the ability to judge the forgivability of another’s actions. Another component may be an ability to empathize with others, including an aggressor. Empathy consists of two components: an affective (visceral emotional reaction) and a cognitive (understanding of the conspecific’s behaviour). Empathy and forgiveness are also both heavily dependent on the expression and interpretation of emotions. We used functional MRI to examine the neural correlates of making empathic and forgivability judgments. To our knowledge this is the first study to examine the functional anatomy of forgiveness. We posited that forgiveness incorporates judgments of another’s intentions, their emotional state and the forgivability of their actions. While it was not feasible to image subjects actively forgiving or empathizing in ’real life’, we used narrative scenarios derived from everyday life, to probe the neural systems supporting these complex cognitive functions. We hypothesised that fronto-temporal regions would be differentially activated by these tasks.

Method:-12 healthy control subjects and 13 patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) underwent fMRI scanning, while they engaged in tasks: (i) that involve speculation on another’s intention, (ii) that invoke empathy and (iii) involve making judgments of actions’ forgivability; each versus ’baseline’ social reasoning judgments. A post-therapy fMRI scan followed a course of cognitive behavioral therapy with a forgiveness component. Results: Post-therapy, we found increased activation in brain regions predicted on the basis of foregoing work in healthy controls. These included significant left middle temporal gyrus activation in post-therapy response to empathy judgments and posterior cingulate gyrus activation in post-therapy response to forgivability judgments.

Conclusions: Empathic and forgivability judgments activate specific regions of the human brain, which we propose contribute to social cohesion. The activation in these regions changed with symptom resolution in PTSD.

Vicki Robb | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht New population data provide insight on aging, migration
31.08.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht PRB projects world population rising 33 percent by 2050 to nearly 10 billion
25.08.2016 | Population Reference Bureau

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>