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Dr. Jichan Kim and Mary Jo Oliver


Faculty Showcase

Name: Dr. Jichan Kim
School: Behavioral Sciences
Department: Psychology
Field: Forgiveness psychology



What is your research focus?

In forgiveness psychology, we look at the predictors, the process, and the outcomes of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a moral virtue practiced in the context of one’s wrongdoing, and as a moral virtue, forgivers’ deliberate choice to do good and desire to mature as virtuous individuals are crucial. Therefore, some of the relevant questions that we have been trying to investigate through our research are: 1) what might be some of the predictors that would assist in one’s practice of forgiveness? 2) what might be some of the best ways to invite people to the process of forgiveness? And 3) can we identify and assess the benefits of practicing forgiveness?

For the past three decades, we have learned a lot about the psychology of forgiveness through numerous research studies on the topic, but there are more to be done because forgiveness is a heroic virtue that requires much from those desiring to practice it. Through our research, we hope to learn more about the interplay between interpersonal, self-, and divine forgiveness as well as the role of apology and other personal, relational, and societal factors that interact with the practice of forgiveness.

How did your mentorship play a role in the research process?

One of the recent studies we completed looked at the relationship between forgiveness and love. While a conceptual link between forgiveness and love seems more intuitive, ours was one of the very first studies that empirically showed the relationship between forgiveness and love. What made such a discovery truly exciting was we as a team went through the entire process of testing an idea using the method we designed and drawing conclusions based on the data we collected. Our project not only received an award during Research Week but also was published in a major journal, which was possible through the research mentorship Liberty University afforded us.

What impact will this research have on your field?

At the core of forgiveness lies Christ-like love. Unfortunately, the power of forgiveness between people who love “very” poorly is often neglected for many reasons. One of the reasons might be that justice as the fundamental virtue has been rightly emphasized but often at the expense of the virtue of forgiveness. Showing how love in the form of forgiveness and justice are compatible and how forgiveness does not demand abandoning justice could possibly lead more people to forgiveness. More knowledge, discovered through research, about the relationship between forgiveness and love as well as other factors that influence one’s practice of forgiveness can serve as a catalyst as we strive for more love and more peace in our hearts, relationships, and communities.

What is the most exciting or rewarding part of the mentorship process?

Observing students’ growth at first hand is very rewarding. However, what most excites me is the fact that we are modeling how we are supposed to be as a community of learners: we learn from each other’s insight, we influence each other through our passion and commitment, and we sharpen each other’s skills, knowledge, and character. I hope students know how much their various contributions mean to the development of all who are involved in the collaborative research.

Student Showcase

Name: Mary Jo Oliver
Major: Developmental Psychology
Mentor: Dr. Jichan Kim

What is your research project?

My current research project centers around a forgiveness discussion intervention and its potential to facilitate increased forgiveness, compassionate love for humanity, and mental health-related variables. Compassionate love for humanity is seldom used in behavioral sciences research, even though, in a few studies, the effects of compassionate love on prosocial behavior are robust. Our study contributes significantly to understanding and utilizing the relationship between forgiveness and compassionate love for humanity.

In addition to our current work, Dr. Kim and I have collaborated with other student researchers to publish an article linking compassionate love and empathy as predictors of forgiveness using hierarchical regression analysis. This analysis showed that compassionate love better predicted transgression-specific and transgression-general forgiveness when compared with empathy. Our findings further extended the growing field of research regarding the importance of compassionate love and forgiveness as predictors of prosocial behaviors.

How did you get involved in research with a faculty mentor?

I began working with Dr. Kim through the Psychology Department’s directed research program called the Daniels Program. During my senior year of my bachelor’s degree, I was placed on his team and worked through the process of conducting cross-sectional research on the topic of empathy, compassionate love, and forgiveness. My teammates and I traveled to a national and regional research conference to defend and present our research. After I graduated with my Bachelor of Science, Dr. Kim provided me with the opportunity to work with him as a Research Assistant during my master’s program. Through this assistantship, I was able to conduct experimental research regarding forgiveness interventions.

What impact will this research have on your future academic and professional opportunities?

Researching with Dr. Kim changed the course of my career and professional trajectory. When I began in the Daniels Program, I was excited to learn about the research process, but I was not interested in researching long-term. Through IRB, writing, learning methodology, and data collection, I began to see research in a whole new light. Research in the behavioral sciences is incredibly unique in that you have the opportunity to see the most intricate and, in some cases, unseen attributes of people. Behavioral Sciences research often targets anxiety, loneliness, hope, compassion, depression, and an abundance of other topics revealing behaviors, cognitions, and emotions. Through my exposure to the scientific method, I realized that research is essential in addressing the world’s hurts. I have since begun a graduate program emphasizing research and am currently applying to Ph.D. programs concentrating in Experimental Psychology. Without my opportunity with Dr. Kim, I would not be where I am now.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding part of your research experience?

My undergraduate research allowed me to gain invaluable content knowledge and expertise on forgiveness, research methods, statistics, and scientific writing. I presented my findings with confidence at various conferences to my peers. I found the experience of people questioning results, methods, and interpretation incredibly rewarding and exciting.

I distinctly remember when our first survey was live, and participants began to answer. I remember feeling honored that they would share themselves with us and that we had the opportunity to learn something about humanity. The term research is commonly associated with monotonous tasks, search engines, and complex statistics. However, research is much more, and it helps you understand life, discover new connections, and solve real-world problems.

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