When Apologies Work: The Benefits of Matching Apology Content to Victims and Context
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Research shows that apologies are useful social tools. Yet common sense tells us that apologies often differ in terms of what is said, who they are said to, and the circumstances under which they are said. In each of these cases, an apology's impact can be expected to change. Data from 171 students participating in a policy capturing experiment were used to explore the interacting effects of apology content, victim self-construal, and harm severity on forgiveness. Results suggest that each apology component positively and independently influences forgiveness. Furthermore, victim self-construal moderates apology effectiveness. Specifically, the independent self strengthens the impact of compensation, the relational self strengthens the impact of concern and acknowledgement of a violated rule/norm, and the collective self strengthens the impact of acknowledgement of a violated rule/norm. Lastly, harm severity is found to strengthen the relationship between apology length and forgiveness. Implications for research and practice are discussed.