Don't apologize unless you mean it: A laboratory investigation of forgiveness and retaliation

Jeanne S. Zechmeister*, Sofia Garcia, Catherine Romero, Shona N. Vas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


We experimentally investigated the effects of arousal, offense removal ("making amends"), and apology following a scripted laboratory offense involving unde-served failure feedback. Self-report and behavioral measures of forgiveness and retaliation were influenced differentially by the manipulations. Retaliation was influenced only by the presence of an apology. Consistent with some previous findings, experimenters who committed the offense and apologized were evaluated more negatively than when they did not apologize. The relationship between apology and retaliation was mediated by participants' blame directed at the experimenter. Forgiveness was more complex, and varied depending on arousal, offense removal, and apology. In the high arousal condition, forgiveness was least likely following an "insincere apology" in which the offender did not make amends for the wrong when apologizing. These results are interpreted in terms of a two-stage model of forgiveness in which different variables influence revenge and forgiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)532-564
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Social and Clinical Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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