Is the concept of forgiveness universal? a cross-cultural perspective comparing western and eastern cultures

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1749-1756
Journal / PublicationCurrent Psychology
Issue number5
Online published28 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


To understand the conceptualizations of forgiveness more comprehensively, both the cognitive and emotional aspects of forgiveness were investigated across different cultures. Two studies examined cultural similarities and differences in the conceptualizations of forgiveness. In Study 1, we compared idioms of the Chinese and English languages. In Study 2, we compared transgression-related writings between Hong Kong Chinese and Americans. In Study 1 (N = 204), we found that the basic presumptions of forgiveness (i.e., the recognition of transgression and the idea of cancelling debt) were similar across cultures. The cognitive dimension of forgiveness (which involves virtues that preserve social relationships) was more frequently observed in Chinese idioms than English idioms. In Study 2 (N = 68), we found that similar emotional responses (e.g., shame and guilt) arose across cultures following one’s own wrongdoing. Chinese writers were more likely to adopt higher cognitive processing in understanding forgiveness than American writers, as was reflected in their writings.

Research Area(s)

  • Cross-cultural comparison, Forgiveness, Idioms, Transgression-related writings