n South African Journal of Psychology - Do congruent apologies facilitate forgiveness? - research

Volume 49 Number 3
  • ISSN : 0081-2463
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Research largely supports the apology–forgiveness cycle, a process in which perpetrators’ posttransgression apologies are reciprocated with victims’ forgiveness. This cycle is often facilitated by the mere provision of an apology. Yet, there are times in which apologies may be rejected. We hypothesised that when apologies matched victims’ apology preferences (i.e., congruent apologies), victims would be more likely to accept them and self-report higher levels of forgiveness. Using an autobiographical transgression-recall approach, participants (n = 102) provided self-report ratings on the apology they preferred receiving, the severity of the transgression, the type of apology they actually received from perpetrators, whether or not they accepted the apology offered to them, and forgiveness. Victims were more likely to accept apologies and report higher levels of forgiveness when perpetrators offered apologies that were congruent with victims’ preferred apologies, particularly apologies that met victims’ needs for empathy. The findings not only provide support for the apology–forgiveness cycle but also signify the importance of delivering apologies that meet the psychological needs of victims.

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