Apology May Leave You Feeling Unsatisfied, Study Finds

FRIDAY Jan. 21, 2011 -- Apologies are often less satisfying than people expect them to be, a new Dutch study indicates.

The research involved participants who were using a computer and given 10 euros (about $13.40 in U.S. currency) to either keep or give to a partner they communicated with online. The money was tripled so that the partner actually received 30 euros. The partner then had to decide how much to return, but only gave back five euros.

Some participants received an apology for this meager offer, while others were told to imagine they'd received an apology.

The participants who imagined an apology valued it more than those who actually received an apology.

The findings, published in the journal Psychological Science, suggest that people do a poor job of predicting what is actually needed to resolve conflicts. They want an apology and consider it valuable but the actual apology is less satisfying than expected, said researcher David De Cremer of Erasmus University in the Netherlands.

"I think an apology is a first step in the reconciliation process ... but you need to show that you will do something else," he said in a journal news release.

The results suggest that an apology might be more effective at convincing outside observers that the wrongdoer feels remorse rather than making the slighted person feel better, the researchers said.

More information

For more information on conflict resolution, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Posted: January 2011


View comments

Hide
(web2)