What happens when groups say sorry? The effects of intergroup apologies for their recipients.

Philpot, Catherine (2007). What happens when groups say sorry? The effects of intergroup apologies for their recipients. PhD Thesis, School of Psychology, University of Queensland.

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Author Philpot, Catherine
Thesis Title What happens when groups say sorry? The effects of intergroup apologies for their recipients.
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Abstract/Summary Intergroup apologies have been provided as reparation for all manner of offences from genocidal massacres to prejudicial government policies. Yet, for each circumstance in which apologies are offered, there are others in which apologies are not given though victim groups demand them. The frequency of intergroup apologies and requests suggests that these are important and not without cost. Yet, little is known of the actual effectiveness of intergroup apologies for victim groups. This research represents an attempt to answer this question. There are no previous investigations of the effectiveness of intergroup apologies for victim groups (see Chapter 2 for review). Research on apologies in the interpersonal domain have repeatedly demonstrated conciliatory effects on measures such as perceived remorse, satisfaction and forgiveness (e.g. Darby & Schlenker, 1989; Exline & Baumeister, 2000; Girard, Mullet, & Callahan, 2002; Gold & Weiner, 2000; Gonzales, 1992; McCullough et al., 1998; Ohbuchi, Kameda, & Agarie, 1989; Ohbuchi & Sato, 1994; O'Malley & Greenberg, 1983; Scher & Darley, 1997; Schmitt, Gollwitzer, Forster, & Montada, 2004; Tomlinson, Dineen, & Lewicki, 2004). Yet, theorists have suggested that intergroup apologies differ from interpersonal apologies in the amount of emotional expression used and, consequently, in the extent to which these affect perceptions of remorse (Edwards, 2005; Govier & Verwoerd, 2001; Lazare, 2004; Tavuchis, 1991). As a result of these hypothesised differences and due to the lack of research in the area, this thesis sought to investigate the effectiveness of intergroup apologies in increasing perceptions of remorse, satisfaction and, importantly, intergroup forgiveness. As a first step, a survey was conducted of intergroup apology remembrance and intergroup forgiveness (Study 1). Participants from Australia (N = 120), the Philippines (N = 89) and Malaysia (N = 134) were invited to describe the offences committed by Japan in World War II and to report whether Japan had apologised. Participants showed inaccuracy in their remembrance of apologies, many were unaware of apologies that had been made and some even reported apologies that never occurred. However, those who thought there had never been an apology were significantly less forgiving than those who were aware of apologies, an effect that was mediated by perceptions of remorse. This survey was followed by experiments that used scenarios of actual events in which the participants’ ingroup was harmed. In Study 2, 60 participants read five offence scenarios each paired with a different apology condition. The five apology conditions included a no apology control, an expression of remorse, an expression of remorse with responsibility, an expression of remorse with an offer of repair, and an expression of remorse with a promise of forbearance. In Study 3, 60 participants read one of the five available scenarios paired with no apology or a full apology, containing an expression of remorse, responsibility, offer of repair and promise of forbearance. Results showed that, although group apologies increased satisfaction and perceptions of remorse, they did not affect forgiveness. Additional results collected in Study 3 also showed that group apologies increased perceptions that apologisers were driven by ulterior motives. These findings suggested that there might have been barriers to the development of intergroup forgiveness in the experiments conducted. In response to this, Study 4 (N = 73) examined whether participants needed more time to forgive. Forgiveness levels were recorded immediately before and after an apology, and again a week later. Forgiveness levels did increase over time, but an equivalent increase in forgiveness was found in a no apology control condition. At none of the time points was there a significant difference in levels of forgiveness in the apology and the no apology condition. This is despite the fact that participants perceived the group to be more remorseful and were more satisfied with the response in the apology than in the no apology condition. Study 5 (N = 214) examined whether permission to forgive was needed from ingroup victims. Participants received an apology, and were urged to accept the apology and forgive by either an ingroup victim, an ingroup non-victim, or an outgroup member. Again, apologies increased response satisfaction and perceptions of remorse compared to a no apology control. But apologies did not help promote forgiveness, regardless of whether or not there was an advocate. These findings regarding intergroup apologies contrast with findings from the interpersonal literature, showing that apologies are effective in promoting forgiveness for individuals. Therefore, it was considered appropriate to directly investigate differences between individual and group apologies. In Study 6, 167 participants read an offence scenario and then an apology, given either by an individual offender or by the offending group. Forgiveness for the individual offender, the offending group and the wider group was then measured. Results showed that individual apologies could promote forgiveness for individual offenders, whereas group apologies were still unable to promote forgiveness. Furthermore, while both apologies effectively promoted remorse perceptions and satisfaction, only group apologies affected perceptions of ulterior motives. In sum, it is clear that intergroup apologies are qualitatively distinct from their interpersonal counterparts, and have different effects on recipients. A greater understanding of the source of these differences might contribute to the development of means through which group apologies can be made more effective in promoting forgiveness. With this in mind, theoretical and applied implications of these data are discussed.

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