Transforming or restraining rumination: The impact of compassionate reappraisal versus emotion suppression on empathy, forgiveness, and affective psychophysiology

Charlotte van Oyen Witvliet, Alicia J. Hofelich Mohr, Nova G. Hinman, Ross W. Knoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


We tested the effects of practicing compassionate reappraisal vs. emotional suppression as direct coping responses to victims’ ruminations about a past interpersonal offense. Participants (32 females, 32 males) were randomly assigned to learn one coping strategy which immediately followed three of six offense rumination trials (counterbalanced). For both strategy types, coping (vs. offense ruminating) reduced ratings of negative emotion, decreased the use of negative emotion language, and reduced tension at the brow muscle (corrugator EMG). Only compassionate reappraisal coping (vs. offense rumination) immediately prompted greater empathy and emotional forgiveness toward the offender. Empathy ratings for the first coping trial mediated the relationship between strategy type and empathy ratings for the final rumination trial. Compassionate reappraisal strategy participants increased their empathy toward the offender while ruminating at the end of the study. Compassionate reappraisal participants (vs. emotional suppression) described coping (vs. rumination) with more positive language, and also had calmer cardiac pre-ejection period responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-261
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Positive Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge support offered through a grant to the first and fourth authors from the Fetzer Institute, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Scholar awards to the second, third, and fourth authors. This work contributes to an interdisciplinary project on The Pursuit of Happiness established by the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University and supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The authors thank Nathaniel DeYoung, Lindsey Root Luna, John Shaughnessy, Daryl VanTongeren, and David G. Myers for insightful conversations about the project. Correspondence should be directed to the first author. Currently, Alicia Hofelich Mohr is at the College of the Liberal Arts Office of Information Technology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 55455, USA. Nova Hinman is at the Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, 43403-0232, USA. Ross Knoll is at the Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, 60115, USA.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Taylor & Francis.


  • PEP
  • Stroop
  • emotion regulation
  • empathy
  • forgiveness
  • reappraisal
  • suppression


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