ArticlePDF Available

Refusing to apologize can have psychological benefits (and we issue no mea culpa for this research finding)

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Despite an understanding of the perception and consequences of apologies for their recipients, little is known about the consequences of interpersonal apologies, or their denial, for the offending actor. In two empirical studies, we examined the unexplored psychological consequences that follow from a harm-doer's explicit refusal to apologize. Results showed that the act of refusing to apologize resulted in greater self-esteem than not refusing to apologize. Moreover, apology refusal also resulted in increased feelings of power/control and value integrity, both of which mediated the effect of refusal on self-esteem. These findings point to potential barriers to victim–offender reconciliation after an interpersonal harm, highlighting the need to better understand the psychology of harm-doers and their defensive behavior for self-focused motives. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Research article
Refusing to apologize can have psychological benets (and we issue no mea culpa
for this research nding)
TYLER G. OKIMOTO
1
*, MICHAEL WENZEL
2
AND KYLI HEDRICK
3
1
UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia;
2
School of Psychology, Flinders University,
Adelaide, Australia;
3
School of Social Sciences and Psychology, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia
Abstract
Despite an understanding of the perception and consequences of apologies for their recipients, little is known about the
consequences of interpersonal apologies, or their denial, for the offending actor. In two empirical studies, we examined the
unexplored psychological consequences that follow from a harm-doers explicit refusal to apologize. Results showed that the act
of refusing to apologize resulted in greater self-esteem than not refusing to apologize. Moreover, apology refusal also resulted in
increased feelings of power/control and value integrity, both of which mediated the effect of refusal on self-esteem. These ndings
point to potential barriers to victimoffender reconciliation after an interpersonal harm, highlighting the need to better understand
the psychology of harm-doers and their defensive behavior for self-focused motives. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
An apology? Bah! Disgusting! Cowardly! Beneath the
dignity of any gentleman, however wrong he might be.”–
Baroness Emmuska Orczy (1906), IWillRepay
People say apologies are cheap. They may be easy to provide,
but they can also be useful. Apologies lead their recipients
and other observers to reduce their perceptions of blamewor-
thiness (Gonzales, Haugen, & Manning, 1994; Tedeschi &
Reiss, 1981), resulting in a more positive view of the offender
(Bobocel & Zdaniuk, 2005; Shaver, 1985) and decreased
punishment severity (Darby & Schlenker, 1989; Felson &
Ribner, 1981; Rumsey, 1976). They can appease the protests
of injustice victims by mitigating negative emotions (Baron,
1990; Ohbuchi, Kameda, & Agarie, 1989) and can even
create constraints for their recipients, guiding the victims of
an offense toward possibly unearned forgiveness (Bennett &
Dewberry, 1994; McCullough, Worthington, & Rachal, 1997).
If apologies are relatively easy and effective in diffusing
offender-directed outrage, why then might offenders choose to
withhold them?
Apologies are, by denition, an acknowledgment of harm and
admission of responsibility. Therefore, in some instances,
harm-doers may avoid apologies to circumvent the implied
admission of guilt (Robbennolt, 2003) and elude additional
penance or restitution. Harm-doers may also have an implicit
knowledge of the acceptability of their apologetic actions,
withholding an apology for fear that it will be perceived as
insincere and further compound the initial transgression
(Skarlicki, Folger, & Gee, 2004). However, such strategic
omissions still do not explain reluctance to apologize when
it is clear that an apology will elicit forgiveness or when it
has already been determined that a harm-doer is at fault
and all that is required to reduce punishment severity is a
simple apology (Robbennolt, 2003). Indeed, in many cases,
apology is a clearly rational course of action for an offender
(Morse, 2005). If apologies are rational, it suggests that
psychological motives may partly underlie their denial. What
is the psychological benet of refusing to apologize? Little
empirical research has explored the consequences of inter-
personal apologies for the harm-doer (cf., Exline, Deshea,
& Holeman, 2007), and there has been no research to
date explicitly investigating harm-doersexplicit refusal
to apologize as it contrasts with inaction, the psychological
consequences of that refusal for harm-doers, or what motivates
their refusal decision.
Given the dearth of evidence about refusals to apologize, we
attempt to glean insight into their effects by rst examining
relevant research on thesymbolic meaning of apologies. Surpris-
ingly, examination of this work suggests that there may actually
be potential psychological benetsfor harm-doers who explic-
itly refuse to apologize to their victims, consequences that may
partly underlie an offenders desire to withhold an apology. Spe-
cically, refusing to apologize may enhance a harm-doersfeel-
ings of power/control and value integrity, reactions that are tied
to feelings of self-worth.
The Meaning of an Apology for Victims
Research often conceptualizes apologies as an equity-restoring
response (Karp, 1998; Wood & Mitchell, 1981). Through their
*Correspondence to: Tyler G. Okimoto, UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane QLD 4072, Australia.
E-mail: t.okimoto@business.uq.edu.au
European Journal of Social Psychology,Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 43,2231 (2013)
Published online 4 November 2012 in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.1901
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Received 28 August 2012, Accepted 18 June 2012
transgression, offenders symbolically (and actually) remove
power from their victims (Heider, 1958; Miller, 2001; Murphy
& Hampton, 1988). Intentional harms disturb a victimssense
of autonomy and disrupt the balance of equitable status and
power between the two parties (Vidmar & Miller, 1980). The
offer of an apology may speak to this inequity, restoring a sense
of justice in victims by empowering them with decision-making
control to either accept or reject that apology and/or to withhold
forgiveness (Petrucci, 2002). Consistent with this view, recent
research has shown that heightened concerns over power and
control, implicated either through individual differences or
situational salience, lead victims of harm to seek apologies as
part of the desired injustice response (Okimoto, Wenzel, &
Feather, 2009, 2012). However, the benets of receiving an
apology for a victims feelings of power/control go even further
than decision control. By accepting the apology and forgiving
the harm-doer, victims are given the opportunity to take the
moral high-ground by providing offenders with an undeserved
gift (Exline, Worthington, Hill, & McCullough, 2003), placing
the victim in a position of power and superiority (i.e., the power
to forgive; Schimmel, 2002; Wenzel & Okimoto, 2010). Even
rejecting a harm-doers apology can empower victims, affording
them a position of control over the offender (Abel, 1998). In
sum, receipt of an apology is empowering for the victims of harm.
Notably, there is an alternative view about the meaning of
an apology. Rather than restoring justice for the victim through
reallocation of power/control, apologies may be effective in
restoring a sense of justice for victims by communicating
agreement that the offense was wrong (Abel, 1998; Tavuchis,
1991). Through their violation, harm-doers undermine a
shared understanding that exists between harm-doer and
victim, the (often unspoken) agreement about what constitutes
acceptable behavior (Rousseau, 1989). Transgressions exhibit
the harm-doers disdain for or lack of agreement with the
norms/values dening that behavior as unacceptable, under-
mining the validity of those supposedly shared values
(De Castella, Platow, Wenzel, Okimoto, & Feather, 2011;
Durkheim, 1964; Tyler & Boeckmann, 1997; Vidmar, 2000).
Such value threats elicit in the victim a desire to restore a per-
ceived consensus surrounding those values, to see a renewed
agreement about the importance of shared values in that
relationship (Okimoto & Wenzel, 2008; Wenzel, Okimoto,
Feather, & Platow, 2008, 2010). However, by admitting the
wrongfulness of his or her actions through an apology, the
offender is often able to revalidate the shared consensus
between harm-doer and harm-victim (Abel, 1998; Tavuchis,
1991). Such consensus is often critical to a victims sense of
justice, particularly when that victim shares a relationship or
common group membership with the harm-doer (Okimoto,
Wenzel, & Platow, 2010). For example, Wenzel and collea-
gues (2010) showed that victims of workplace theft desired
an apology more when the thief was an ingroup versus
outgroup member and that this effect was mediated by a desire
for shared value consensus with the harm-doer.
Through these two processes, by empowering the victim and/
or revalidating acceptable standards of behavior, apologies may
speak to a victims feelings of injustice (Okimoto & Wenzel,
2008). Importantly, these same processes also imply symbolic
meaning for the conveyer of the apology, meanings that may
motivate acts of refusal rather than contrition.
The Meaning of an Apology (and its Refusal) for
Harm-doers
Both empowerment and acknowledgment functions of an
apology suggest corresponding consequences for the harm-doer.
If an apology confers control onto the victim (Abel, 1998;
Petrucci, 2002), it is reasonable to expect that apology to also
diminish the power held by the harm-doer. Such conferral may
restore equity between harm-doer and harm-victim, but disem-
powerment is nonetheless threatening to the harm-doer. Interest-
ingly, whereas the provision of an apology may relinquish
power/control, a harm-doersdecisiontorefuseto apologize
may foster greaterfeelings of power/control. By refusing to
apologize, the harm-doer retains dominance over the victim
(Kittle, 1999; Regehr & Gutheil, 2002). Consistent with this
idea, Hodgins and Liebeskind (2003) found that individuals with
low self-determination (i.e., being concerned about their auton-
omy and control) were more likely to respond to severe reproach
with defensive behavior. In line with this reasoning, we predict
that apology refusals will foster greater feelings of power and
control in harm-doers compared with inaction.
Following the alternative view of apologies as a reafrmation
of values andacceptable conduct, an apology functions as a form
of self-censure on the part of the harm-doer (Scher & Darley,
1997). However, such an apology also implies a lack of
consistency between the harm-doers past behavior and their
apologetic attitudes; acknowledging the wrong requires admis-
sion of incongruence between a harm-doers beliefs/values im-
plied by the apology and those implied by the act of harm.
Such self-incongruence may upset feelings of value
integrity”—keeping ones values intact and uncorrupteda core
motive explicated in a number of psychological theories (e.g.,
Deci & Ryan, 2000; Festinger, 1957; Lecky, 1945; Sherman &
Cohen, 2006; Steele, 1988; Swann, 1983). Echoing this idea,
Goffman (1971) noted that apologies are a gesture through
which the individual splits himself in two parts, the part that is
guilty of an offense and the part that dissociates itself from the
deceit and afrms a belief in the offended rule(pp. 113). He
suggested that although this splitting of the selfcan give rise
to self-related dissonance, a sincere apology may also help to
reconcile this inconsistency by revealing their ideal or essential
moral character. Stated differently, an apology provides the
harm-doer with a social account (Gonzales et al., 1994; Tedeschi
& Reiss, 1981), reducing the self-relevant moral implications of
the transgression, reducing self-guilt, and revalidating commit-
ment to the values that dene the true self (Bobocel & Zdaniuk,
2005; Shaver, 1985).
Interestingly, however, even if apologies are functional
for protecting ones integrity and diminishing feelings of self-
blame, these benets may not be exclusive to an apology.
Paradoxically, a refusalto apologize may also offer the same
psychological value to a harm-doer. Refusing to admit to a
wrong helps to maintain consistency between the harm-doers
actions and his or her idealized self-concept. Indeed, people are
often motivated toward self-consistency even when the resulting
attribution is negative (Lecky, 1945). Thus, even though defend-
ing a negative behavior may insinuate a less benevolent charac-
ter, the act of refusing to apologize may still help facilitate
perceptions of self-consistency, reducing self-oriented disso-
nance and enhancing feelings of value integrity.
Refusing to apologize 23
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 43,2231 (2013)
Refusals to Apologize and a Harm-doers Feelings of
Self-worth
As this discussion suggests, a harm-doers refusal to apologize
may have implications for that individuals feelings of power/
control and value integrity. Although these possible conse-
quences may serve as a source of motivation for a harm-doers
refusal to apologize, they are also indicative of more fundamen-
tal concerns over self-worth. Both feelings of power/control and
value integrity are central to ones self-concept.
First, as we have argued, apology refusals may empower
a harm-doer by disallowing the resignation of control over to
the harm-victim. Such feelings of power/control may have
broader consequences for feelings of self-worth or self-esteem
(Coopersmith, 1967). As suggested by self-determination theory
(Deci & Ryan, 2000), autonomous motivation is a critical ante-
cedent of subjective well-being (Kasser & Ryan, 1996; Sheldon
& Kasser, 1995). Similarly, the research by Heppner et al. (2008)
showed that daily perceptions of autonomy were positively
related to daily uctuations in self-esteem. Thus, the power/
control claimed through an explicit refusal to apologize may also
be tied to heightened feelings of self-esteem.
Second, we have also argued that apology refusals may
defend the harm-doers integrity by denying the wrongfulness
of the harm itself and thus the inconsistency between ones
values and actions. Again, this value integrity implication of
apology refusal is tied to more fundamental concerns over
feelings of self-worth (e.g., Cialdini & Trost, 1998; Deutsch &
Gerard, 1955). By denition, having integrity implies principled
and moral action, being true to onesvaluesandbeingagood
person (Sherman & Cohen, 2006). Research has shown that
individuals seek to maintain their existing view of the self,
particularly in the face of negative threats, to preserve a positive
sense of identity (Steele, 1988). Similarly, the study by Heppner
et al. (2008) showed that perceptions of authenticity (being true
to ones self) were a positive predictor of self-esteem. Along
these lines, to the extent that the refusal to apologize aids the
harm-doer in maintaining feelings of value integrity, it should
also enhance feelings of self-esteem. Thus, through these two
processes (of maintaining status/power and value integrity), we
suggest that the act of refusing to apologize may serve to
enhance a harm-doers positive self-view.
Apologies versus Refusals versus Inaction
Interestingly, at face value this reasoning appears to contradict
research suggesting a potential link between the apologetic
sentiments and self-esteem (although to our knowledge, a direct
tie has yet to be identied). Specically, feelings of guilt
often elicit the desire to apologize (Baumeister, Stillwell, &
Heatherton, 1995), and conferral of that apology can reduce guilt
(Witvliet, Ludwig, & Bauer, 2002). Given that feelings of guilt
accompany reduced self-esteem (see Baumeister, Stillwell, &
Heatherton, 1994), these ndings suggest that the provision of
an apology (and the implied reduction in guilt) may also aid
the harm-doer in fostering feelings of self-worth. Importantly,
however, even if apology does elicit greater feelings of self-
esteem, it does not negate the possibility that both apology
and refusalhave a positive effect on self-worth relative to
inaction. So, despite being apparent conceptual antonyms, both
apologetic andnonapologetic responses may help the
harm-doer maintain a positive sense of self.
Given this possibility, when examining the consequences that
follow from a refusal to apologize (the focus of the current
investigation), it is important to consider what the refusal is
being compared with. If apologies and refusals do have similar
consequences, their exclusive comparison (which assumes that
refusals are the opposite of apologies) may obscure meaningful
effects. Moreover, if any differences between refusals and
apologies do emerge, the exclusive comparison also leaves us
unable to attribute those consequences to the act of refusal versus
the absence of an apology. Thus, it is critical to consider
inactionas the most relevant comparison condition. It is worth
noting that much of the apology literature contains similar
conceptual confounds; in many cases, it is unclear whether the
consequences associated with apologies are in comparison with
an explicit apology refusal, inaction, or a failure to confer an
apology that the harm-doer wishes to offer (i.e., apologetic
regret). With this consideration in mind, although we focus on
the effect of apology refusals as they relate to inaction, we
examine their consequences as they compare with both inaction
and apology, dual comparisons that allow clearer insight into the
psychology of refusing to apologize.
The Current Investigation
Taken together, the literature surrounding the symbolic meaning
of apologies suggests that, although there are psychological
benets of apologies for the victims of harm and perhaps even
benets for the apologizing harm-doer, there may alsobe
potential benets for that harm-doer when refusing to apologize.
Specically, we predict the following:
Hypothesis 1: The act of refusing to apologize will result in
feelings of greater power/control than no act of refusal.
Hypothesis 2: The act of refusing to apologize will result in
feelings of greater value integrity than no act of refusal.
In addition, given the centrality of these concerns for broader
feelings of self-worth, we also predict the following:
Hypothesis 3: The act of refusing to apologize will result in
greater personal self-esteem than no act of refusal, mediated by
feelings of power/control and value integrity.
Perhaps underlying the lack of empirical research surround-
ing the harm-doer perspective in apologies (and deviance more
broadly), these predictions are particularly difcult to assess
using standard social-psychological paradigms. The trade-off
between realism and experimental control is compounded by
the limits that the harmcontext places on experimentation.
On the one hand, examining the correlates of respondentspast
(un)apologetic actions does not allow clear interpretation of the
effects as following from the (non)apology versus spuriously
correlated variables such as offense severity, moral justication,
or a lack of apology need/appropriateness (see Exline et al.,
2007). On the other hand, not only is it ethically questionable
to trick participants into thinking they have committed some
harm against another person, but it is also impossible to then
randomly assign them to explicitly deny closure to their victims.
24 Tyler G. Okimoto et al.
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 43,2231 (2013)
In the current investigation, we offer our best attempt at
experimentally probing these causal research questions by offer-
ing replication across two novel paradigms that fall between the
realistic (yet only suggestive) correlational studies asking parti-
cipants to report past behavior and the controlled (yet somewhat
articial) scenario studies telling participants to imagine they
had refused to apologize. Study 1 examines reactions to past per-
sonal experiences of harm-doing, comparing cases of apology,
refusal, and inaction, while also capturing a number of poten-
tially confounding variables. Study 2 then employs a novel ex-
perimental paradigm that asks participants to recall personal
experiences of harm-doing and then randomly assigns them to
formulate (non)apologetic responses. By showing convergence
across these two methods, the current studies aim to offer evi-
dence that the act of refusing to apologize may engender positive
self-relevant consequences.
STUDY 1
In Study 1, participants were asked to recall and reect on a per-
sonal experience where they had refused to apologize (or con-
ferred an apology, or taken no (un)apologetic actions), while
also keeping note of possible confounding variables. This method
allows us to identify the consequences of an apology refusal, while
also testing for a variety of confounds prevalent in examinations
of retrospectively recalling past decisions to refuse an apology.
Method
Participants included 228 adult respondents (US residents; 68%
female) between 18 and 77 years of age (M= 37.8, Mdn = 35.0,
SD = 13.4), recruited online in exchange for a lottery reward.
Study 1 consisted of a four-cell between-subjects design embed-
ded within a retrospective recall paradigm. Participants were
randomly assigned to one of the four recall conditions: baseline,
apology, refusal, or inaction. Participants in the baseline
condition were prompted to Think about a time when you did
something that upset someone, something you did or said that
caused someone else to be upset.By comparison, participants
in the apology condition were prompted to Think about a time
when you did something that upset someone that you later
apologized for something you did or said that caused
someone else to be upset and you chose to apologize to them.
Participants in the refusal condition were prompted to Think
about a time when you did something that upset someone, but
you refused to apologize something you did or said that caused
someone else to be upset, but you chose NOT to apologize to
them.Finally, participants in the inaction condition were
prompted to Think about a time when you did something that
upset someone something you did or said that caused someone
else to be upset, but you did NOT take any action.Youdidnot
apologize, but you also did not refuse to apologize you simply
did nothing. To better engage participants in these prompts, all
participants were also asked three open-ended questions about
the event: What exactly did you do?,Who was the person
that you upset?,andHow did they react?Reported incidents
varied widely, from minor verbal conicts and accidents to
severe cases of marital indelity and criminal behavior.
Despite obvious selective recall confounds these prompts
might introduce (see Exline et al., 2007), we opted to ask
participants to recollect refusal events (or apologies, inaction,
or baseline) instead of employing pure correlational procedures
asking them to recall a harmful event and then code their (non)
apologetic behaviors. Given the possible confounds introduced
by this recall procedure, the results of Study 1 should be inter-
preted with caution. However, to help circumvent this issue,
we included a series of checks and controls measuring critical
variables on which our manipulations might be confounded.
Manipulation Checks and Controls
To assess the effectiveness of the manipulations, we asked
participants about their apologetic actions (How apologetic
were you in your interactions with him/her?)aswellastheir
apologetic feelings (How apologetic did you feel?;1=notat
all apologetic, 7 = very apologetic). We also assessed percep-
tions of offense seriousness. It is possible that apology refusals
relate to self-esteem because both reect the harm-doersmoral
justication of the offense, rationalization that increases both
self-esteem and the likelihood that he or she will refuse to
apologize (i.e., a spurious correlation). Indeed, Baumeister,
Stillwell, and Wotmans (1990) correlational analyses of
harm-doersautobiographical narratives provide evidence that
their accounts of an offense often contain self-serving rationali-
zations, perceiving the offense as less severe and more justied
than their victims and viewing those victims as excessively
angry (see also Darby & Schlenker, 1989). Such defensive
reactions are pervasive; individuals commonly reconstrue events
and actions to meet the egoistic impressions of the self
(Greenwald, 1980). From this perspective, both the apology
refusal and feelings of self-esteem are a consequenceof ratio-
nalization, cognitive interpretations of the negative event as less
severe, serving to maintain positive self-evaluations. Notably,
this is not inconsistent with the current perspective, as the
decision to refuse an apology may indeed be partly determined
by preceding justications. However, we suggest that moral
justication does not entirely explain the psychological
consequences of the act of refusing to apologize, in particular
the feelings of self-worth associated with elevated perceptions
of power/control and value integrity. Therefore, in Study 1, we
included a subjective assessment of severity (indicative of some
rationalization process) and examined it as a competing media-
tor; participants were asked, How serious were your actions?
(1 = not at all, 7 = very much). To identify other potential
differences between conditions that might confound the
manipulations, we also asked: Did this person want you to
apologize?,Did this person ask you to apologize?,Did
you feel coerced, like you had to apologize?,andHow close
are you with the person you upset?
Dependent Measures
Participants reported how they felt about themselves following
this situation. Items were rated on 7-point scales (1= not at all,
7 = very much), reversed valence items [r/c] were recoded so that
higher numbers indicated positive feelings,and composite scales
were created by averaging items. Participants reported feelings
of power/control by rating the extent to which they felt: strong,
Refusing to apologize 25
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 43,2231 (2013)
powerful, weak[r/c], and demeaned[r/c]. Participants reported
feelings of value integrity by rating the extent to which they
felt: courageous, sincere, and passive[r/c]. Finally, participants
reported feelings of self-esteem by rating the extent to which
they felt: good, satised, proud, and worthy. Reliability statistics
and correlations between measures are presented in Table 1.
Results
Preliminary analysis indicated that, as intended, participants in
the apology condition reported feeling and acting the most
apologetic, whereas participants in the refusal condition reported
feeling and acting the least apologetic (see Table 2). Moreover,
preliminary analyses indicated that these conditions were not
confounded with demands for an apology, felt coercion, inter-
personal closeness with the victim, or perceived offense severity.
The manipulations did not have signicant effects on any of
these additional measures, nor did their inclusion in the analysis
reduce or moderate the effects of the manipulations. Thus, these
additional measures are not discussed further, with the exception
of offense severity; given that severity could potentially under-
mine the interpretation of the other dependent measures, we
included it as a control in the analyses despite the lack of a
signicant effect of the manipulations.
Results were obtained using regression techniques; manip-
ulated variables were dummy coded to indicate the effect of
apology and (separately) refusal, relative to the inaction condi-
tion; the baseline condition was included for comparison, but
this condition was ignored for the regression analysis. See
Table 2 for cell means and intercell comparisons and Table 3
for the full results of the regression analyses. Results indicated
that participants in the refusal condition reported greater feelings
of power/control, greater feelings of value integrity, and greater
self-esteem than participants in the inaction condition. Partici-
pants in the refusal condition also reported greater power/control
and self-esteem than those in the apology condition, although the
refusal and apology conditions did not differ in value integrity;
both refusal and apology elicited greater feelings of value
integrity compared with inaction.
Mediational/indirect paths were then explored using boot-
strapping techniques that allow for the examination of multiple
mediators and specic indirect effects with small samples
(Preacher & Hayes, 2008; see also Shrout & Bolger, 2002).
When considering status/power and value integrity as mediators,
the act of apology had a signicant positive indirect effect on
self-esteem through value integrity, B= .20, SE = .09 (95%
CI = .05.39). Refusal also had a signicant positive indirect
effect on self-esteem, through both power/control, B=.46,
SE = .18 (95% CI = .08.59), and value integrity, B=.17,SE =.13
(95% CI = .01.39), and the direct effect of refusal on self-
esteem was reduced to nonsignicance when controlling for
these mediators.
Discussion
The results from Study 1 generally supported our predictions.
All participants reected on a past event where they harmed
another person. However, those harm-doers who recalled events
where they had refused to apologize reported feeling more
powerful (Hypothesis 1), greater value integrity (Hypothesis
2), and more positive self-esteem (Hypothesis3), compared with
those harm-doers who recalled an event where they took no (un)
Table 1. Zero-order correlations between dependent measure scales
Study 1 1 2 3 4 5
1. Self-esteem (a= .85)
2. Power/control (a= .73) .65***
3. Value integrity (a= .70) .55*** .49***
4. Apologetic feelings .25*** .41*** .19**
5. Apologetic actions .18** .38*** .13* .85***
6. Offense severity .06 .07 .14* .21*** .19**
Study 2 1 2 3 4 5
1. Self-esteem (a= .93)
2. Power/control (a= .89) .60***
3. Value integrity (a= .77) .45*** .46***
4. Apologetic feelings .21** .26*** .33***
*p<.05. **p<.01. ***p<.001.
Table 2. Study 1. Means and standard deviations for dependent measure scales
Measured Variable Baseline (n= 54) Apologized (n= 59) Inaction (n= 56) Refused (n= 59)
Apologetic actions 4.96 (2.58)
b
6.41 (1.80)
a
4.54 (2.26)
b
3.46 (2.39)
c
Apologetic feelings 4.67 (2.84)
b
6.24 (1.92)
a
4.38 (2.41)
b
2.95 (2.20)
c
Offense severity 3.26 (1.59)
a
3.51 (1.80)
a
3.39 (1.58)
a
3.75 (2.01)
a
Power/control 4.08 (1.45)
a
3.92 (1.29)
a
4.17 (1.31)
a
4.79 (1.29)
b
Value integrity 4.30 (1.17)
ab
4.51 (0.95)
a
3.99 (1.22)
b
4.47 (1.27)
a
Self-esteem 3.41 (1.62)
a
3.43 (1.38)
a
3.35 (1.40)
a
3.96 (1.34)
b
Note. Standard deviations appear in parentheses. Means within rows that do not share subscripts differ signicantly at p<.05 as determined by Fishers least
signicant difference comparisons.
26 Tyler G. Okimoto et al.
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 43,2231 (2013)
apologetic action. These ndings offer the rst evidence that
the refusal to apologize can result in positive self-relevant
consequences for harm-doers.
We can also compare these ndings with the consequences of
apology conferral. Participants recalling an act of harm where
they apologized did not experience greater feelings of power/
control compared with inaction (and less than refusal). However,
like refusals, apologies did aid in enhancing feelings of value
integrity and (indirectly, through value integrity) feelings of
self-esteem. These ndings are notable because they suggest that
apologies and refusals are not conceptual antonyms but rather
reect different processes. Thus, the assumption that the effects
of an apology are opposite to those of a refusal to apologize
is misled.
It is also notable that the consequences of apologies and
refusals were not due to differences in perceived harm severity;
severity was a signicant predictor of feelings of self-worth,
but it did not explain the effects of the manipulations. Thus,
the alternative explanation that participantsrefusal is tied to
rationalization of the harm is not supported. However, despite
this evidence and the nonrelevance of other possible confound-
ing variables, Study 1 is limited in that there may still be unantic-
ipated spurious variables that correlate with (and thus confound)
the types of events recalled. Therefore, it is critical to offer more
direct causal evidence that is unimpeded by selective recall.
STUDY 2
In Study 2, we employed an experimental paradigm where
participants recalled a past case of harm-doing and then were
instructed to behave in accordance with the experimental manip-
ulation by formulating a written apology refusal (or apology,
or control) regardless of their own personal views. This approach
mirrors interventions that have been used in past research to
understand the consequences of cognitive perspective taking
(e.g., Coke, Batson, & McDavis, 1978), confession (e.g.,
Pennebaker, Hughes, & OHeeron, 1987), and forgiveness
(e.g., Wenzel & Okimoto, 2010, 2012), procedures that ask par-
ticipants to reect on a particular course of action that may or
may not diverge from their natural behavioral inclinations. This
method allows us to identify the causal consequences of an
apology refusal, while also avoiding a variety of confounds
prevalent in examinations of retrospectively recalling past
decisions to refuse an apology.
Method
Participants included 219 adult respondents (US residents; 73%
female) between 18 and 71years of age (M=36.4, Mdn =34.0,
SD = 12.8), recruited online in exchange for a lottery reward.
Study 2 included a 3-condition experimental manipulation
assigning participants to an act of apology, an act of refusal, or
control. At the start of the study, respondents were asked to
reect on a personal experience where they did something that
upset someone (identical to the Study 1 baseline condition).
Following the retrospective recall prompt, participants in the
apology conditionwere instructed to:
Imagine that this had just happened, and that the other person
had asked you for an apology. Write an e-mail to this person,
telling him/her that you apologize for your actions. It doesnt
matter if this is how you feel or what you did; please just
imagine that you are emailing to expressyour apology. Please
outline exactly what you would say. Tell him/her you
apologize, and tell him/her why.
In the refusal condition,participants were presented with
a similar prompt asking for an explicit apology refusal (e.g.,
telling him/her that you refuse to apologize for your actions.).
Participants in the control condition did not receive an additional
prompt. Although hypothetical in nature, this method of
allowing participants to formulate their own (non)apologetic
responses in connection with a retrospective event offers the
realism of an actual instance of harm, while still facilitating
much more experimental control than the manipulations in
Study 1 (which could be confounded with selective recall).
Manipulation Checks and Dependent Measures
To assess the effectiveness of the manipulations, we asked
participants about their apologetic feelings (How apologetic
do you feel right now?;1 = not at all, 7 = very much). For our
primary dependent measures, participants in Study 2 were asked
Table 3. Study 1. Hierarchical regression results for dependent measures
Step 1 Step 2 Step 3
Measured Variable Predictor bt-value bt-value bt-value
Offense severity Apologized .02 0.27
Refused to apologize .09 1.05
Power/control Apologized .09 1.04 .09 1.01
Refused to apologize .22 2.56** .23 2.64**
Offense severity ——.08 1.07
Value integrity Apologized .21 2.45* .21 2.41*
Refused to apologize .20 2.24* .18 2.07*
Offense severity —— .17 2.32*
Self-esteem Apologized .03 0.30 .03 0.34 .00 0.02
Refused to apologize .21 2.38* .22 2.48* .06 0.85
Offense severity ——.10 1.32 .12 2.04*
Power/control ———— .44 6.62***
Value integrity ———— .33 4.99***
*p<.05. **p<.01. ***p<.001.
Refusing to apologize 27
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 43,2231 (2013)
to rate their agreement (1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree)
with a number of explicit statements; these measures diverged
from those assessed in Study 1 to avoid possible construct
ambiguity in participant reports of their general feelings.
Reversed valence items [r/c] were recoded so that higher numb-
ers indicated more positive feelings, and composite scales were
created by averaging items. The measure assessing feelings of
power/control included the statements: I feel in charge,I
feel powerful,Ifeelincontrol,andIdont let other
people intimidate me. The measure assessing feelings of value
integrity included the statements: IfeelIamnoteasily
persuaded to change what I think is right,I stick my moral
convictions,I feel like I change my beliefs according to who
is around me [r/c],andI feel like I am easily convinced to
adopt the perspectives of others [r/c]. Finally, self-esteem
was assessed by Rosenbergs (1989) 10-item Self-Esteem Scale
(e.g., I take a positive attitude toward myselfand IwishI
could have more respect for myself [r/c]). Following past
research (Roberts & Gotlib, 1997), participants were instructed
to rate how they felt about themselves at the present moment
to capture uctuations in state rather than trait self-esteem. See
Table 1 for reliability statistics and correlations between
measures.
Results
Preliminary analysis indicated the act of refusal made partici-
pants feel signicantly less apologetic than the act of apology
or control; however, the apology and control conditions were
not signicantly different, a nding that suggests that partici-
pants felt some level of apologetic feelings at baseline. Indeed,
when asked if they actuallyapologized in this situation,
61.6% of the respondents reported apologizing; however, when
asked if they wantedto apologize, the mean and median were
4.0 (the scale midpoint; SD = 2.5). Although these baseline
levels advocate caution when interpreting the control condition,
random assignment still allows for condent causal interpreta-
tion of the results. Also note that self-reported apologetic actions
did not interact with the experimental manipulations, indicating
that its effects were not dependent on congruence with respon-
dentspast course of action. Similarly, additional measures ask-
ing participants whether or not the harm-victim desired an
apology did not moderate the effect of the manipulations.
Results were obtained using regression techniques; manipu-
lated variables were dummy coded to indicate the effect of the
act of apology and (separately) the act of refusal, relative to the
control condition. See Table 4 for cell means and intercell
comparisons and Table 5 for the full results of the regression
analyses. Results indicated that the act of refusal elicited greater
feelings of power/control than the control condition. Interest-
ingly, the act of an apology also elicited greater feelings of
power/control than the control condition but was not signi-
cantly different from the act of refusal. This same pattern was
also identied in feelings of value integrity; both the act of
refusal and the act of an apology elicited greater feelings of value
integrity than the control condition, whereas refusals and
apologies did not signicantly differ. However, only the act of
refusal resulted in greater self-esteem relative to the control
condition, whereas the act of apology fell between the two other
conditions and was not signicantly different from either.
Mediation was then explored using bootstrapping techniques
that allow for the examination of multiple mediators and specic
indirect effects with small samples (Preacher & Hayes, 2008).
When considering the two mediators, despite the lack of a total
effect, the act of apology had a signicant positive indirect effect
on self-esteem, through both power/control, B=.29, SE =.11
(95% CI = .09.52), and value integrity, B= .13, SE =.06
(95% CI = .03.27). The act of refusal also had a signicant
positive indirect effect on self-esteem, through both power/
control, B= .35, SE = .12 (95% CI = .15.61), and value
integrity, B= .16, SE = .08 (95% CI = .05.35), and the direct
effect of refusal on self-esteem was reduced to nonsignicance
when controlling for the mediators.
Discussion
Study 2 again provides evidence showing self-relevant benets
of refusing to apologize. Consistent with Study 1, participants
who expressed their refusal to apologize reported greater
feelings of power/control (Hypothesis 1) and value integrity
(Hypothesis 2). Moreover, both feelings of power/control and
value integrity predicted self-esteem, mediating the effect of
the refusal (Hypothesis 3). Likewise, reactions to the act of an
apology also had notable effects. Similar to a refusal, expressing
an apology also enhanced feelings of greater power/control,
value integrity, and (only indirectly) self-esteem. Again, these
results highlight the fact that refusals do not elicit the opposite
effects of apologies. Rather, there is potential for both responses
to aid in self-esteem maintenance.
GENERAL DISCUSSION
Taken together, the results of these two studies provide
converging evidence that there can be benecial psychological
consequences for individuals who refuse to provide an apology
to the victims of their harmful actions. The positive relationship
between apology refusals and indices of self-worth were
Table 4. Study 2. Means and standard deviations for dependent measure scales
Measured Variable Act of apology (n= 72) Control (n= 79) Act of refusal (n= 68)
Apologetic feelings 2.86 (1.41)
a
3.10 (1.87)
a
2.28 (1.69)
b
Power/control 5.58 (1.39)
a
4.90 (1.68)
b
5.73 (1.35)
a
Value integrity 5.88 (0.86)
a
5.39 (1.18)
b
6.01 (1.10)
a
Self-esteem 5.42 (1.30)
ab
5.17 (1.40)
a
5.74 (1.03)
b
Note. Standard deviations appear in parentheses. Means within rows that do not share subscripts differ signicantly at p<.05 as determined by Fishers least
signicant difference comparisons.
28 Tyler G. Okimoto et al.
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 43,2231 (2013)
consistent across the two methodologies. This pattern was
evident when manipulating the type of event recalled in Study 1,
suggesting that it is indicative of a harm-doersauthentically
unapologetic feelings about a past transgression. Furthermore,
this basic pattern was replicated whenmanipulating participants
unapologetic response in Study 2, suggesting that the ndings of
Study 1 were not due to confounding features of the different
event types recalled and that the act of refusal had a causal
impact on feelings of self-worth.
Interestingly, although parenthetical to the current investiga-
tion, these ndings may provide insight into the psychological
motives underlying a harm-doersdecisiontowithholdan
apology: Why would a harm-doer refuse to apologize even when
it is clear that such an apology will reduce culpability and elicit
(possibly unearned) forgiveness? Because the act of refusal
results in greater feelings of power/control, value integrity, and
self-worth (at least in the short-term), it is reasonable to predict
an individuals decision to withhold an apology may be partly
motivated by basic psychological needs for autonomy (e.g., Deci
& Ryan, 2000) and consistency (e.g., Festinger, 1957; Lecky,
1945; Steele, 1988). However, further research is needed to
substantiate this suggestion.
This research broadens existing work on the feelings
associated with apologies by offering evidence specicto
explicit apology refusals. Past research has operationalized
apologies by examining respondentsself-reported presence
or absence of an apology (e.g., Exline et al., 2007). This
approach, however, confounds apology refusalswith the
absence of apologiesindicative of indecision or an inability
to offer a desired apology. As a result, it is difcult to discern
whether these results are driven by differences between
apologies and refusals, unrealized apologetic desires, or
indecision. This distinction is important, particularly if the
psychology underlying apologies is different from the psychol-
ogy underlying apology refusals. Interestingly, the current
ndings about apology refusals in particular appear to diverge
from existing research reecting on salient nonapologies,
suggesting that asking participants about how they felt when
they did not apologize (Exline et al., 2007) is different than
asking them about how they felt when they refusedto apolo-
gize (the current studies). The former may be driven by cases
where respondents failedto apologize, experiences likely to
be strongly inuenced by the psychology of regret (Gilovich
& Medvec, 1995). In contrast, probing apology refusal appears
to elicit unrepentant actions, albeit actions that may be aided by
post hoc cognitive justication.
Notably, although the current research begins to reconcile
ambiguities in the potential effects of apology refusals, it raises
new questions about the consequences of apologies. In both
studies, participants felt greater value integrity following an
apology (either recalled or manipulated) compared with harm
without apologetic action, and this had indirect consequences
for self-esteem. This nding is consistent with Goffmans
(1971) notion of an apology as a splitting of the selfthat serves
the functionof realigning the harm-doers apologetic actions with
his or her idealized values, a value reafrmation that promotes
genuine self-forgiveness (Wenzel, Woodyatt, & Hedrick, in
press). However, the effects of apology on feelings of power/
control were not consistent across the two studies. In Study 1,
recalling apologetic events elicited the same feelings of power/
control as recalling inaction harm events. By contrast, in Study 2,
the act of apologizing appeared to increase feelings of power/
control. There are a number of possible reasons for this inconsis-
tency. It could be that actively apologizing elicits temporary
feelings of agency that eventually dissipate and thus are not
reected in recalled apologies, suggesting a need for longitudinal
research. Alternatively, there may be two different processes
through which apologies affect feelings of power/control (one
positive and one negative), the salience of which might differ
between recalled and active apologetic acts. On the one hand,
apologizing may be considered a relinquishing of control to
the victim (Karp, 1998; Wood & Mitchell, 1981); on the other
hand, an apology could also be thought of as an active attempt
to control the victims attributions of blame (Tedeschi & Reiss,
1981). More work is needed, both theoretical and empirical, to
disentangle the potential consequences of apology on feelings
of power/control and the conditions that moderate those
diverging effects.
The current research may be broadened in other ways as well.
For example, many scholars view the provision of an apology as
only one half of a dialogical process of reconciliation between the
harm-doer and his or her victim (Scheff, 1998). To the contrary,
the current results suggest that the expression of an apology
refusal may be sufcient to elicit a more positive sense of
self, even in the absence of the victims receipt of that refusal
(i.e., expressions of refusal not heard by the victim; Study 2).
Although the expression of a refusal was adequate to elicit
psychological effects, these effects may be amplied or change
when asked to refuse an apology while the aggrieved victim is
present. Moreover, the victims subsequent response to an
explicit nonapology (or failure to apologize) may also have
dramatic effects on the harm-doer. These empirical questions
Table 5. Study 2. Hierarchical regression results for dependent measures
Step 1 Step 2
Measured variable Predictor bt-value bt-value
Power/control Act of apology .21 2.81**
Act of refusal .25 3.39***
Value integrity Act of apology .21 2.83**
Act of refusal .27 3.58***
Self-esteem Act of apology .09 1.24 .06 0.92
Act of refusal .21 2.77** .03 0.40
Power/control —— .50 8.33***
Value integrity —— .22 3.55***
*p<.01. **p<.01. ***p<.001.
Refusing to apologize 29
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 43,2231 (2013)
beg further investigation into apology refusals while also
considering the dynamic relationship between harm-doers and
their victims. These relational complexities also suggest that
broadening our survey of the psychological consequences of
apology refusals may yield interesting and important patterns.
For example, the act of refusing to apologize may be much less
psychologically advantageous for harm-doers when considering
relational outcomes (e.g., relationship quality, group identica-
tion, and belongingness) that are less self-focused and are more
likely to capture the importance of the dialogical interplay
between a harm-doer and his or her victim. Although the refusal
to apologize may positively impact a harm-doers self-oriented
goals, that same refusal may negatively impact relational goals.
Questions also remain about the lasting benets of apology
refusals, suggesting a need for longitudinal research aimed
at identifying patterns as they develop over time. Future research
should consider the broader spectrum of both self-oriented
and other-oriented concerns, short-term and long-term conse-
quences, and the impact of the dyadic interplay between harm-
doer and victim.
Notwithstanding the need for further specication, the current
ndings are remarkable given that an apology refusal may, in
some cases, reinforce commitment to antisocial behavior that
has harmed another individual and is largely perceived by others
to be unjust. In the current research, the heightened self-relevant
perceptions of power/control and value integrity implied by the
explicit act of refusing to apologize appeared to trump any
potential negative effect on self-esteem resulting from the
defense of harmful actions. Such ndings may help to explain
barriers to reconciliation and the seemingly irrational, antisocial,
or callous behavior of harm-doers in real-world contexts. For
example, in judicial proceedings, even when apologies are
inadmissible as evidence of culpability, many offenders still
refuse their counsels suggestion to apologize despite the
likelihood that it will reduce sentencing severity (Robbennolt,
2003). Within organizations, effectiveness and learning may be
hindered by a leaders reluctance to admit error and take
responsibility, perhaps indicative of a more fundamental tension
between the organizational goals that leaders are charged with
implementing and their self-oriented goals to maintain power
and status (see Magee, Gruenfeld, Keltner, & Galinsky, 2004).
In intergroup contexts, symbolic apologies in response to histor-
ical victimizations are a common strategy for trying to promote
reconciliation (see Blatz & Philpot, 2010; Chapman, 2007;
Philpot & Hornsey, 2008, 2011; Wohl, Hornsey, & Bennett,
2012), but the debate about whether or not such apologies should
be conferred often becomes a major political issue, giving rise
to added contention between groups. Recognition of the self-
serving consequences of nonconciliatory behaviors, which may
deny victims of harm psychological closure, provides much
needed insight into the psychology of unrepentant harm-doers.
REFERENCES
Abel, R. (1998). Speaking respect, respecting speech. Chicago, IL: University
of Chicago Press.
Baron, R. A. (1990). Countering the effects of destructive criticism: The relative
efcacy of four interventions. Journal of Applied Psychology,75,235245.
Baumeister, R. F., Stillwell, A. M., & Heatherton, T. F. (1994). Guilt: An
interpersonal approach. Psychological Bulletin,115, 243267.
Baumeister, R. F., Stillwell, A. M., & Heatherton, T. F. (1995). Personal
narratives about guilt: Role in action control and interpersonal relationships.
Basic and Applied Social Psychology,17, 173198.
Baumeister, R. F., Stillwell, A. M., & Wotman, S. R. (1990). Victim and
perpetrator accounts of interpersonal conict: Autobiographical narratives
about anger. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,59,9941005.
Bennett, M., & Dewberry, C. (1994). Ive said Im sorry, haventI?A study
of the identity implications and constraints that apologies create for their
recipients. Current Psychology,13,1020.
Blatz, C., & Philpot, C. (2010). On the outcomes of intergroup apologies: A
review. Social and Personality Psychology Compass,4, 9951007.
Bobocel, D. R., & Zdaniuk, A. (2005). Do explanations inuence perceived
fairnessin the workplace? In J. Greenberg, & J. Colquitt (Eds.), The Handbook
of Organizational Justice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Chapman, A. R. (2007). Truth commissions and intergroup forgiveness: The
case of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Peace
and Conict: Journal of Peace Psychology,13,5169.
Cialdini, R. B., & Trost, M. R. (1998). Social inuence: Social norms, confor-
mity, and compliance. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), The
handbook of social psychology (4th ed., Vol. 2, pp. 151192). Boston:
McGraw-Hill.
Coke, J. S., Batson, C. D., & McDavis, K. (1978). Empathic meditation of
helping: A two-stage model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
36,752766.
Coopersmith, S. (1967). The antecedents of self-esteem. San Francisco: W. H.
Freeman.
Darby, B. W., & Schlenker, B. R. (1989). Childrens reactions to transgressions:
Effects of the actors apology, reputation and remorse. British Journal of
Social Psychology,28,353364.
De Castella, K. C., Platow, M. J., Wenzel, M., Okimoto, T. G., & Feather, N.
T. (2011). Retribution or Restoration? Anglo-Australians views towards
domestic violence involving Muslim and Anglo-Australian victims and
offenders. Psychology, Crime, and Law,17, 403420.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The whatand the whyof goal pursuits:
Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological
Inquiry,11, 227268.
Deutsch, M., & Gerard, H. B. (1955). A study of normative and informational
social inuences upon individual judgment. Journal of Abnormal and
Social Psychology,51, 629636.
Durkheim, E. (1964). The division of labor in society (G. Simpson, Trans.).
Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press. (Original work published 1902).
Exline, J. J., Deshea, L., & Holeman, V. T. (2007). Is apology worth the risk?
Predictors, outcomes, and ways to avoid regret. Journal of Social and Clinical
Psychology,26,479504.
Exline, J. J., Worthington Jr., E. L., Hill, P., & McCullough, M. E. (2003).
Forgiveness and justice: A research agenda for social and personality
psychology. Personality and Social Psychology Review,7, 337348.
Felson, R. B., & Ribner, S. A. (1981). An attributional approach to accounts
and sanctions for criminal violence. Social Psychology Quarterly,44,
137142.
Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Oxford, England: Row,
Peterson.
Gilovich, T., & Medvec, V. H. (1995). The experience of regret: What, when,
and why. Psychological Review,102, 379395.
Goffman, E. (1971). Relations in public. New York: Basic Books.
Gonzales, M. H., Haugen, J. A., & Manning, D. J. (1994). Victims as narrative
critics: Factors inuencing rejoinders and evaluative responses to offenders
accounts. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,20,691704.
Greenwald, A. G. (1980). The totalitarian ego: Fabrication and revision of
personal history. American Psychologist,35, 603618.
Heider, F. (1958). The psychology of interpersonal relations. New York:
Wiley.
Heppner, W. L., Kernis, M. H., Nezlek, J. B., Foster, J., Lakey, C. E., &
Goldman, B. M. (2008). Within-person relationships among daily self-esteem,
need satisfaction, and authenticity. Psychological Science,19, 11401145.
Hodgins, H. S., & Liebeskind, E. (2003). Apology versus defense:
Antecedents and consequences. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,
39,297316.
Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1996). Further examining the American dream:
Differential correlates of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. Personality and
Social Psychology Bulletin,22, 280287.
Karp, D. R. (1998). The judicial and judicious use of shame penalties. Crime
and Delinquency,44, 277294.
Kittle, B. (1999). Forgiveness in the criminal justice system: Necessary
element or impossible dream? The World of Forgiveness,2,311.
Lecky, P. (1945). Self-consistency: A theory of personality. New York: Island
Press.
30 Tyler G. Okimoto et al.
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 43,2231 (2013)
Magee, J.C., Gruenfeld, D. H.,Keltner, D., & Galinsky, A. D. (2004). Leadership
and the psychology of power. In D. M. Messick, & R. Kramer (Eds.), The
psychology of leadership: some new approaches. New Jersey: L. Erlbaum.
McCullough, M. E., Worthington, E. L., Jr., & Rachal, K. C. (1997).
Interpersonal forgiving in close relationships. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology,73,321336.
Miller, D. T. (2001). Disrespect and the experience of injustice. Annual Review
of Psychology,52, 527553.
Morse, J. R. (2005). Rationality means being willing to say youre sorry.
Social Philosophy and Policy,22, 204225.
Murphy, J. G., & Hampton, J. (1988). Forgiveness and mercy. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Ohbuchi, K., Kameda, M., & Agarie, N. (1989). Apology as aggression
control: Its role in mediating appraisal of and response to harm. Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology,56, 219227.
Orczy, B. E. (1906). I will repay. London, UK: Greening & Co.
Okimoto, T. G., & Wenzel, M. (2008). The symbolic meaning of transgressions:
Towards a unifying framework of justice restoration. In K. A. Hegtvedt, & J.
Clay-Warner (Eds.), Advances in group processes: justice (Vol. 25,
pp. 291326). Oxford, UK: Elsevier Ltd.
Okimoto, T. G., Wenzel, M., & Feather, N. T. (2009). Beyond retribution:
Conceptualizing restorative justice and exploring its determinants. Social
Justice Research,22, 156180.
Okimoto, T. G., Wenzel, M., & Feather, N. T. (2012). Retribution and
restoration as general orientations toward justice. European Journal of
Personality,26, 255275.
Okimoto,T. G., Wenzel, M., & Platow, M. J. (2010). Restorative justice: Seeking
a shared identity in dynamic intragroup contexts. In M. A. Neale, E. Mannix,
and E. Mullen (Eds.), Research on Managing Groups and Teams: Fairness
and Groups (Vol. 13,pp.201238). Oxford, UK: Emerald Ltd.
Pennebaker, J. W., Hughes, C. F., & OHeeron, R. C. (1987). The
psychophysiology of confession: Linking inhibitory and psychosomatic
processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,52,781793.
Petrucci, C. J. (2002). Apology in the criminal justice setting: Evidence for
including apology as an additional component in the legal system.
Behavioral Sciences & the Law,20, 337362.
Philpot, C. R., & Hornsey, M. J. (2008). What happens when groups say sorry:
The effect of intergroup apologies on their recipients. Personality and
Social Psychology Bulletin,34, 474487.
Philpot, C. R., & Hornsey, M. J. (2011). Collective memory for apology and
its relationship with forgiveness. European Journal of Social Psychology,
41,96106.
Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asympotic and resampling procedures
for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models.
Behavior Research Methods,40, 879891.
Regehr, C., & Gutheil, T. (2002). Apology, justice, and trauma recovery. The
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law,30, 425430.
Robbennolt, J. K. (2003). Apologies and legal settlement: An empirical
examination. Michigan Law Review,102, 460516.
RobertsJ. E.& GotlibI. H. (1997). Lifetime episodes of dysphoria: Gender
early childhood loss and personality. British Journal of Clinical Psychology
36195208.
Rosenberg, M. (1989). Society and the adolescent self-image (Revised
edition). Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.
Rousseau, D. M. (1989). Psychological and implied contracts in organizations.
Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal,2, 121139.
Rumsey, M. G. (1976). Effects of defendant background and remorse on
sentencing judgments. Journal of Applied Social Psychology,6,6468.
Scheff, T. J. (1998). Therapeutic jurisprudence forum: Community confer-
ences: Shame and anger in therapeutic jurisprudence. Revista Juridica
Universidad de Puerto Rico,67,97119.
Scher, S. J., & Darley, J. M. (1997). How effective are the things people say to
apologize? Effects of the realization of the apology speech act. Journal of
Psycholinguistic Research,26, 127140.
Schimmel, S. (2002). Wounds not healed by time: The power of repentance
and forgiveness. New York: Oxford University Press.
Shaver, K. G. (1985). The attribution of blame: Causality, responsibility, and
blameworthiness. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Sheldon, K. M., & Kasser, T. (1995). Coherence and congruence: Two aspects
of personality integration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
68, 531 543.
Sherman, D. K., & Cohen, J. L. (2006). The psychology of self-defense: Self-
afrmation theory. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social
psychology (Vol. 38, pp. 183242). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Shrout, P. E., & Bolger, N. (2002). Mediation in experimental and
nonexperimental studies: New procedures and recommendations. Psycho-
logical Methods,7, 422445.
Skarlicki, D. P., Folger, R., & Gee, J. (2004). When social accounts
backre: The exacerbating effects of a polite message or an apology on
reactions to an unfair outcome. Journal of Applied Social Psychology,
34, 322341.
Steele, C. M. (1988). The psychology of self-afrmation: Sustaining the
integrity of the self. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social
psychology (Vol. 21, pp. 261302). New York: Academic Press.
Swann, W. B., Jr. (1983). Self-verication: Bringing social reality into har-
mony with the self. In J. Suls, & A. G. Greenwald (Eds.), Psychological
perspectives on the self (Vol. 2, pp. 3366). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Tavuchis, N. (1991). Mea culpa: A sociology of apology and reconciliation.
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Tedeschi, J. T., & Reiss, M. (1981). Predicaments and verbal tactics of impres-
sion management. In C. Antaki (Ed.), Ordinary Language Explanations of
Social Behavior. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Tyler, T. R., & Boeckmann, R. J. (1997). Three strikes and you are out, but
why?: The psychology of public support for punishing rule breakers. Law
and Society Review,31, 237266.
Vidmar, N. (2000). Retribution and revenge. In J. Sanders, & V. L. Hamilton
(Eds.), Handbook of justice research in law (pp. 3163). New York:
Kluwer/Plenum.
Vidmar, N., & Miller, D. T. (1980). Social psychological processes under-
lying attitudes toward legal punishment. Law and Society Review,14,
565602.
Wenzel, M., & Okimoto, T. G. (2010). How acts of forgiveness restore a
sense of justice: Addressing status/power and value concerns raised by
transgressions. European Journal of Social Psychology,40, 401417.
Wenzel, M., & Okimoto, T. G. (2012). The varying meaning of forgiveness:
Relationship closeness moderates how forgiveness affects feelings of
justice. European Journal of Social Psychology,42, 420431.
Wenzel, M., Okimoto, T. G., Feather, N. T., & Platow, M. J. (2008). Retributive
and restorative justice. Law and Human Behavior,32,375389.
Wenzel, M., Okimoto, T. G., Feather, N. T., & Platow, M. J. (2010). Justice
through consensus: Shared identity and the preference for a restorative
notion of justice. European Journal of Social Psychology,40, 909930.
Wenzel, M., Woodyatt, L., & Hedrick, K. (in press). No genuine self-forgiveness
without accepting responsibility: Value reafrmation as a key to maintaining
positive self-regard. European Journal of Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1002/
ejsp.1873
Witvliet, C. V. O., Ludwig, T. E., & Bauer, D. J. (2002). Please forgive me:
Transgressorsemotions and physiology during imagery of seeking forgive-
ness and victim responses. Journal of Psychology and Christianity,21,
219233.
Wohl, M. J. A., Hornsey, M. J., & Bennett, S. H. (2012). Why group
apologies succeed and fail: Intergroup forgiveness and the role of primary
and secondary emotions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,102,
306322.
Wood, R. E., & Mitchell, T. R. (1981). Manager behavior in a social
context: The impact of impression management on attributions and
disciplinary actions. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance,
28, 356378.
Refusing to apologize 31
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 43,2231 (2013)
... Despite their positive outcomes, some offenders choose to withhold apologies Okimoto et al., 2013) because they can elicit feelings of threat (Schumann, 2018;Struthers et al., 2014) or negative emotional states that offenders want to avoid and have difficulty managing (Schumann & Dweck, 2014;Schumann, 2014;Woodyatt & Wenzel, 2014). Instead, offenders may engage in nonapology tactics, which protect and promote oneself, and include such responses as refusing to apologize, victim blaming, justifying, excusing, and minimizing or denying the transgression . ...
... After a transgression, offenders can offer an apology to mitigate the negative consequences of their actions (Vazeou-Nieuwenhuis & Schumann, 2018). Despite the positive outcomes associated with apologies, some offenders choose to withhold them (Okimoto et al., 2013) or engage in nonapology Schumann, 2014). We sought to enhance our understanding of the factors that shape offenders' responses by investigating whether mindfulness fosters their apologies. ...
Article
Full-text available
The current research examined whether mindfulness promotes offender apologies. In Study 1, we found a positive relation between trait mindfulness and one's disposition to apologize. In Study 2, we found a positive effect of a mindfulness intervention on state apology for a laboratory-induced transgression. In Study 3, an online mindfulness intervention was found to have a positive effect on apologetic (vs. nonapologetic) behavior for transgressors. In Study 4, we found preliminary support for reduced negative self-focused cognitions and emotions when testing a parallel mediation model. We also found support for negative self-focused, as well as positive other-focused, cognitions and emotions when testing a serial mediational model. Our findings are discussed within broader theoretical questions concerning the psychological factors that promote and prevent apologies and the role of mindfulness in constructive responses to transgressions from the perspective of offenders. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... Even if victims explicitly or implicitly offer forgiveness, offenders may be reluctant to offer an apology as they may not perceive apologising as beneficial (Leunissen et al., 2014). Rather, offenders may view not apologising as more rewarding because a refusal to apologise is linked with an increase in self-esteem (Okimoto, Wenzel, and Hedrick, 2013). ...
Article
Full-text available
The apology-forgiveness cycle is a simple but powerful process for conflict resolution. Given the prevalence of apology and forgiveness in restorative justice (RJ), the apology-forgiveness cycle may take place. However, there is a lack of a theoretical understanding of the relationship between apology and forgiveness in the RJ processes. After identifying key elements and impediments of the apology-forgiveness cycle during RJ meetings based on existing literature, we develop a theoretical model of the apology-forgiveness cycle during RJ encounters. This typology explains how the apology-forgiveness cycle is intertwined with the RJ process, subsequently facilitating, blocking, and changing its sequence. There are four cycles: (1) apology facilitating forgiveness, (2) apology without forgiveness, (3) forgiveness promoting apology, and (4) forgiveness without apology. We conclude by offering future directions for research on the apology-forgiveness cycle in RJ.
... For instance, in a study that explored autobiographical narratives of interpersonal conflict, only 30.3% of transgressors reported explicitly apologizing and 14.8% of victims reported receiving an explicit apology from the transgressor (Zechmeister & Romero, 2002). Other research finds refusing to apologize can lead to enhanced psychological benefits such as self-esteem and feelings of increased power and control (Okimoto et al., 2013). ...
Article
Full-text available
The current research investigated the role of transgressors' social power on their motivation to apologize or not. Based on power approach theory (Keltner et al., 2003), we predicted that high-power transgressors would be less motivated to apologize and more motivated to engage in nonapology (e.g., shifting blame, minimizing the transgression) than their low-power counterparts. We further predicted that the relation between social power and apology and nonapology would be explained by transgressors' self-other focus. Four multimethod (nonexperimental, experimental), multisample (community, undergraduate) studies supported our predictions. Results are discussed within the context of the extant social motivation literature and applied implications. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... The apology-forgiveness cycle has been proposed to facilitate reconciliation, in part by restoring the victim's sense of power (Tavuchis, 1991). An offender's apology transfers power and control back into the hands of the victim (Okimoto et al., 2013), who can wield it to grant forgiveness to the offender (Shnabel & Nadler, 2008). ...
Article
When offenders apologize to victims for a wrongdoing, they often expect forgiveness in return. Sometimes, however, victims may withhold forgiveness. Across four experimental studies, we find that offenders feel like “victims” when victims respond to their apologies with non-forgiveness. This can be explained by the fact that they interpret non-forgiveness as both a norm violation and a threat to their sense of power. Together, these mechanisms can account for the relationship between non-forgiveness and negative conciliatory sentiments in offenders. These effects of non-forgiveness emerge irrespective of whether the transgression is recalled (Study 1) or imagined (Studies 2-4). They are specific to non-forgiveness rather than a lack of explicit forgiveness (Study 3), and are not qualified by subtle prods for participants to take the victim’s perspective (Study 4). These findings demonstrate a destructive response pattern in offenders that warrants further attention.
... To be more effective in fostering victim forgiveness, highquality apologies should include more apology elements, such as acceptance of responsibility, acknowledgement of harm, and offer of repair (Schumann, 2014). The problem is that these same apology elements can threaten transgressors' self-images (Okimoto, Wenzel, & Hedrick, 2013;Schumann, 2018) and expose them to a greater risk of being punished or required to meet additional restitutions (Skarlicki, Folger, & Gee, 2004). These conflicting demands faced by transgressors when deciding whether or not to apologize can impose a severe barrier to the "apology-forgiveness cycle" (Shnabel & Nadler, 2008), the process in which transgressors apologize to victims and they reciprocate by granting forgiveness. ...
... From this point of view, it has been noted that an apology from a high-status transgressor should be relatively ineffective in increasing forgiveness from a lowstatus victim (Zheng et al., 2016). Moreover, for instrumental reasons offenders can think that apologizing is self-threatening and difficult (McLaughlin et al., 1983); on the contrary, refusing to apologize can be considered positive, as offenders can increase feelings of power and integrity as well as higher self-esteem (Okimoto et al., 2012). ...
Article
Full-text available
Forgiveness has been a central issue for humankind since ancient times; it emerged in theology, but in recent decades it has received significant attention from different disciplines, such as philosophy and psychology. More recently, forgiveness has received attention also from organizational and managerial studies, particularly, in studying how individuals respond to interpersonal offenses, or perceived harm and wrongdoing in the workplace. Forgiveness is a complex concept, as it can be understood as a family of related constructs and can be analyzed at different levels. Even if social sciences have widely recognized that the nature of forgiveness can be both conditional and unconditional, the notions of conditionality and unconditionality have not yet received sufficient study, especially in organizational and managerial fields. In these fields, forgiveness has been predominantly studied under a psychological approach, looking for the conditions under which it may occur in the workplace. Unconditional forgiveness has received less attention: with a few exceptions, managerial and organizational literature has limited the conceptualization of forgiveness, weakening its scope and probably not catching a relevant part of forgiving experiences in the workplace. This article proposes to follow a more comprehensive approach to forgiveness in the workplace, according to the social sciences field, which can take into account both conditionality and unconditionality. It focuses on unconditional forgiveness according to Continental philosophy, in particular, to the thought of Jacque Derrida and Paul Ricoeur. Through their contributions, the unconditionality of forgiveness is deepened, and the implications of considering both conditional and unconditional forgiveness are discussed.
Article
Following interpersonal transgressions, both victim and offender can experience psychological loss due to threatened needs for agency and moral-social identity. Moral repair is the process by which these losses are restored. Rather than involving only intra-individual static processes, research is starting to recognize that moral repair is dyadic, reciprocal, and interactionist. It involves the victim and offender co-engaging with one another, reciprocally responding to the other’s psychological needs, and co-constructing a shared understanding of what has occurred, their relationship, and a way forward. Each of these steps represents periods of vulnerability where the losses of a transgression can be repaired - or exacerbated.
Article
Full-text available
We assessed transgressors’ (20 male, 20 female) subjective emotions and physiological responses in two complementary within-subjects imagery studies. In Study I, participants ruminated about a real-life transgression and imagined seeking forgiveness from the victim. In Study II, participants imagined their victims responding with a grudge, with genuine forgiveness, and with reconciliation. Imagery of forgiveness-seeking behaviors (Study I) and merciful responses from victims (forgiveness and reconciliation in Study II) prompted greater perceived interpersonal forgiveness, improved basic emotions (e.g., sadness, anger, fear) and moral emotions (e.g., guilt, shame, gratitude, empathy, hope), as well as less furrowing of the brow muscle (corrugator) compared to ruminations about one’s real-life transgression (Study I) or an unforgiving response from the victim (Study II). Autonomic nervous system measures (heart rate, skin conductance levels) were largely unaffected by imagery. In Study II, smiling activity (zygomatic EMG) increased more when imagining victims’ merciful versus begrudging responses. In Study I, participants reported higher self-forgiveness during forgiveness-seeking imagery, but perceived greater divine forgiveness during transgression-focused imagery.
Article
This study examines why the public supports the punishment of rule breakers. It does so within the context of a recently enacted California initiative mandating life in prison for repeat felons (the "three strikes" law). Antecedents of three aspects of people's reactions to rule breakers are explored: (1) support for the three strikes initiative, (2) support for punitiveness in dealing with rule breakers, and (3) willingness to abandon procedural protections when dealing with potential rule breakers. The results of interviews with members of the public suggest that the widely held view that public punitiveness develops primarily from concerns about crime and the courts and is primarily linked to public views about risk and dangerousness is incorrect. While these factors do influence public feelings, they are not the central reasons underlying public punitiveness. Instead, the source of people's concerns lies primarily in their evaluations of social conditions, including the decline in morality and discipline within the family and increases in the diversity of society. These concerns are about issues of moral cohesion-with people feeling that the quality and extent of social bonds and social consensus has deteriorated in American society.
Article
The accounts given by male offenders convicted of criminal homicide and assault are examined from the standpoint of attribution theory. An excuse is conceptualized as a claim by an offender of low personal causation and a justification is conceptualized as giving reasons for intentional action. While an excuse is an attempt by the offender to align himself with the social order by divorcing himself from his actions, a justification is an attempt by the offender to align himself with some norm other than the one he vioated. These offenders give more justifications than excuses. Certain characteristics of the offense are related to the type of account given, e.g., evidence of personal causation appears to decrease the use of excuses. Sanctions are more severe when offenders convicted of murder and first degree assault have denied their guilt, suggesting that offenders who show remorse receive less severe sanctions, once guilt has been determined.