Forgiveness Research

Dr. Robert Enright

Dr. Robert Enright has been conducting social science research on moral development, particularly forgiveness and forgiveness education, since 1985. His meticulous validation of his scientific procedures has put him in the forefront of the science of forgiveness. Time magazine has called him “the forgiveness trailblazer.” The Los Angeles Times said Dr. Enright is “the guru of what many are calling a new science of forgiveness." The Christian Science Monitor called Dr. Enright “the father of forgiveness research.”

By publicly sharing all of his research results in more than 100 publications, Dr. Enright helped expand the science of forgiveness into countless areas of study and experimentation. All of his research is done in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin-Madison where Dr. Enright is a Professor of Educational Psychology.

Dr. Enright's Forgiveness Research (Peer-Reviewed Empirical Studies)

  • Incest survivors
    The forgiveness group became emotionally healthier than the control group after 14 months. Differences between the groups were observed for depression, anxiety, hope, and self-esteem. The results were maintained in a 14-month follow-up.
  • Substance-dependent clients
    The forgiveness group became emotionally healthier than the control group, similar to the above study. The experimental participants need for drugs declined substantially, relative to the control group.
  • Cardiac patients
    Again, the experimental (forgiveness) group became emotionally healthier than the control group. Cardiac disease often involves a tightening of the arteries, especially when people are angry. After experiencing forgiveness therapy, those in the experimental group exhibited better functioning arteries, meaning that patients have a reduced risk of chest pains and sudden death.
  • Emotionally-abused women
    Results are similar to the above studies in terms of emotional health (decreased anxiety, depression, PTSD symptoms, and increased self-esteem).
  • Terminally-ill, elderly cancer patients
    After a 4-week intervention, the forgiveness group showed greater improvement in psychological health (less anger, more hopefulness toward the future) than the control group.
  • Postabortion men
    Following treatment, participants demonstrated a significant gain in forgiveness and significant reductions in anxiety, anger, and grief as compared with controls.
  • Women with Fibromyalgia who were abused in childhood
    This recent study revealed that an intervention based on forgiveness offers emotional and medical benefits for women with fibromyalgia who have suffered abuse during childhood.
  • Forgiveness in the Workplace
    This ground-breaking study was the hallmark research demonstrating the positive role forgiveness can play in reducing anger, resentment, and the desire for revenge among those coping with workplace injustice. 
  • At-risk middle school students in Wisconsin
    Those in the experimental group not only improved more in emotional health than those in the control group, but alsoimproved more in academic achievement than the control counterparts.
  • At-risk female adolescents in Korea
    This is one of Dr. Enright’s latest research reports which focuses on Korean students who have been bullied and who bully.Those in the experimental group not onlyimproved more in emotional health than those in the control groups but also improved more in academic performance and in their behavior (less aggression and delinquency).
  • Primary grade students in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    Those in the experimental group were less angry than those in the control group.
  • Primary grade students in Belfast, Northern Ireland
    Those in the experimental group were less angry and depressed and more forgiving than those in the control group.
  • Parents of students in Belfast, Northern Ireland
    Parents in the test group improved statistically (the parents improved) as they taught forgiveness to their children.
  • Eighth Grade Students in an Urban Midwestern City
    This 2014 study compares forgiveness education using pen-pal and journaling activities across two groups of socially and culturally diverse youth. The groups improved on both forgiveness and prejudice. The pattern of outcomes was different for the African American participants than for the European American participants.
  • Forgiveness Postvention with a Survivor of Suicide Following a Loved One Suicide: A Case Study>
    This study examined the process of the changes of one survivor of suicide following a loved one's suicide experienced during the postvention.

For a comprehensive list of his books, journal articles, and other forgiveness materials, here is a Collection of Dr. Enright’s Forgiveness Research Studies.


33 Years of Prolific Research

To get an idea of the variety of research work he has done during his 40+ year career in psychology (33+ years focusing exclusively on forgiveness and forgiveness education), here are abstracts of 34 of Dr. Enright's research studies. Among the more than 110 professional journal articles, monographs and tracts Dr. Enright has authored or co-authored, these 34 were all peer-reviewed and published. The abstracts, provided by ERIC Institute of Education Sciences, date back to 1975 and include studies such as these:

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