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Evaluations of apologies: The effects of apology sincerity and acceptance motivation.

Hatcher, Ida
June 4, 2015

Source: (2010) Dissertation. Doctor of Psychology. Marshall University.

The present study examined the effects of apology sincerity and acceptance motivation on the
facilitation of forgiveness of a transgression. Eighty-five undergraduates (26 males, 59 females)
were randomly assigned to an Accepted Apology or a Rejected Apology condition. Participants
wrote a detailed description of a situation in which they had experienced a transgression, the
transgressor apologized, and they decided to accept or reject the apology. After completing their
written descriptions, participants responded to a series of questions about the incident including
their relationship with the transgressor, the time elapsed between the transgression and apology,
the method of communication used to issue the apology, what was said during the apology and
how serious they initially perceived the transgression to be. To assess apology sincerity,
participants were asked to evaluate whether the transgressors: (1) acknowledged what they did
was wrong, (2) accepted responsibility for their action, (3) made attempts to atone for the wrongs
they had committed, and (4) gave assurances that transgressions would not happen again. To
assess the consequences of the transgressions, the participants evaluated the current status of
their relationships with their transgressors as well as the extent to which they had completely
forgiven their transgressors. Finally, participants wrote a detailed description of their reason for
accepting or rejecting the apologies offered by their transgressors. These apology acceptance
and apology rejection decisions were coded as either “intrinsically motivated” or “extrinsically
motivated” decisions. Four hypotheses were examined. It was predicted that: (1) accepted
apologies would be significantly more likely to be characterized as sincere than rejected
apologies, (2) sincere apologies would be associated with higher levels of forgiveness than insincere apologies, (3) decisions to accept an apology based on “internal” motivations would be
associated with higher levels of forgiveness than decisions to accept an apology based on
“external” motivations, and finally (4) the highest levels of forgiveness would be reported in
those situations where sincere apologies were given to persons with “internal” motivations for
acceptance. The results provided support for Hypothesis 1, but failed to provide support for
Hypotheses 2, 3, and 4. (author’s abstract)


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