Using Heart Rate Variability to Test the Effect of Self-Compassion, Trait Forgiveness and Prayer on Anger Recovery in College Students

Publication Year



Compassion, Forgiveness, Prayer, Anger


Biological Psychology | Other Physiology


Cardiovascular diseases greatly affect the health of Americans, and these diseases are associated with an increased strain on the cardiovascular system. Anger is an emotion that has been known to put a strain on the cardiovascular system by causing a sympathetic nervous system response. This study was conducted to investigate if individuals who pray, or are more forgiving and self-compassionate, have a lower sympathetic nervous response to an anger stimulus. The sympathetic nervous system activity was measured using high frequency heart rate variability. The high frequency heart rate variability was evaluated in the time of recovery after an anger event to determine if there is a correlation between subjects who have a higher trait compassion and forgiveness, those who pray and increased heart rate variability. No statistical significance was found between those who do or do not pray in trait self-compassion (p = 0.122) and heart rate variability (p = 0.928). There was a significant difference in the forgiveness of subjects who did and did not pray (p = 0.028), which suggests that prayer may have an effect on the ability for one to forgive. There was a statistically significant correlation (p= 0.000) found between trait self-compassion and forgiveness, which suggests that people who are self-compassionate are more forgiving or those who are more forgiving are more compassionate. Understanding how prayer can affect the physiology and the psychology of responses to negative emotions, such as anger, can provide new methods of treatment for patients with cardiovascular complications

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status


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