Experimental evidence that apologies promote forgiveness by communicating relationship value

Daniel E. Forster, Joseph Billingsley, Jeni L. Burnette, Debra Lieberman, Yohsuke Ohtsubo, Michael E. McCullough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Robust evidence supports the importance of apologies for promoting forgiveness. Yet less is known about how apologies exert their effects. Here, we focus on their potential to promote forgiveness by way of increasing perceptions of relationship value. We used a method for directly testing these causal claims by manipulating both the independent variable and the proposed mediator. Namely, we use a 2 (Apology: yes vs. no) × 2 (Value: high vs. low) concurrent double-randomization design to test whether apologies cause forgiveness by affecting the same causal pathway as relationship value. In addition to supporting this causal claim, we also find that apologies had weaker effects on forgiveness when received from high-value transgressors, suggesting that the forgiveness-relevant information provided by apologies is redundant with relationship value. Taken together, these findings from a rigorous methodological paradigm help us parse out how apologies promote relationship repair.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13107
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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