Apologies can promote forgiveness; thus, for victims and bystanders, a sensitivity to nongenuine apologies could facilitate the development of wariness with regard to potential repeat offenders. We asked whether children are sensitive to two simple markers of potential nongenuine remorse: (a) the spontaneity of a transgressor’s apology and (b) a transgressor’s willingness to apologize. In Study 1, 4- to 9-year-olds (N = 40) viewed both a spontaneous apology and a prompted-but-willing apology as conveying a transgressor’s remorse and soothing the feelings of victims. In Study 2, 7- to 9-year-olds (n = 25) viewed a coerced apology as less effective in communicating remorse and mending a victim’s feelings. They also viewed the coerced apologizer as less nice relative to the willing apologizer. The 4- to 6-year-olds (n = 25) did not discriminate between the two apologies to that extent but did view the recipient of the coerced apology as feeling worse than the recipient of the prompted-but-willing apology.
Smith, Craig E.; Anderson, Deborah; and Straussberger, Anna
"Say You’re Sorry: Children Distinguish Between Willingly Given and Coerced Expressions of Remorse,"
Merrill-Palmer Quarterly: Vol. 64
, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/mpq/vol64/iss2/5