Perceived transgressor agreeableness decreases cortisol response and increases forgiveness following recent interpersonal transgressions

Benjamin A. Tabak, Michael E. McCullough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

Stress associated with interpersonal conflict can adversely impact mental and physical health-especially when it causes activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Among victims of interpersonal transgressions, certain personality characteristics (viz., neuroticism and agreeableness) have been associated in some studies with successful conflict resolution and decreased physiological activity. How victims' perceptions of their transgressors' personalities affect conflict resolution and physiological reactivity, however, has not been examined. Here, we examined the relationships of (a) victims' agreeableness and neuroticism, and (b) victims' perceptions of their transgressors' agreeableness and neuroticism with plasma cortisol responses in women and (in a larger sample of men and women) forgiveness over time. Victims who perceived their transgressors as highly agreeable had (a) lower cortisol responses following a simulated speech to the transgressor, and (b) higher self-reported forgiveness, even after controlling for initial levels of forgiveness. Participants' own agreeableness and neuroticism had negligible associations with cortisol response and forgiveness over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-392
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychology
Volume87
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2011

Keywords

  • Agreeableness
  • Cortisol
  • Forgiveness
  • Interpersonal conflict
  • Neuroticism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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