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Regulate the body’s stress response

The Physiological Substrate of Forgiveness

John P. Crowley, Ryan J. Allred

The Oxford Handbook of the Physiology of Interpersonal Communication, 2020

Research details

Type of paper: Integrative/Synthetic Review

Open Access: No


Previous research demonstrates the health benefits of both intrapersonal and interpersonal forgiveness as indicated by various markers of physiological activity. Specifically, evidence suggests that forgiveness can help regulate the body’s stress response and increase an individual’s ability to relax after exposure to an acute stressor. This review identifies specific outcomes associated with the health benefits of forgiveness and its effects on cardiovascular functioning, as well as hyperarousal in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous systems. In addition to its health benefits, the findings suggest that activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis may influence the types of forgiveness that individuals communicate.