Are you a frequent apologizer? New research suggests you may be able to receive downstream rewards

Are you a frequent apologizer? New research suggests you may be able to receive downstream rewards ...

New research suggests that being a frequent apologizer makes your specific apologies less effective. In fact, people with a high apology baseline are seen to have better communal qualities, which leads to more positive reaction to their apologies.

The study has been published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

"I've been studying apologies for 15 years, and I'm often asked if it's possible to apologize too much," said study author Karina Schumann, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

“People want to know whether or not being a high frequency apologizer costs or benefits, and whether or not the apologizer's gender is perceived as competent, weak, or irritating?” asked my collaborators, and we wanted to see if people who apologize frequently are perceived as moral and warm.

"We wondered whether people who receive an apology from a high baseline apology devalue the apology because they view it as a normal habitual behavior rather than a genuine remorse?" "Maybe the apology's sincerity is questioned because the apologizer does not appear to be a genuine apologetic person."

"We wanted to see whether people evaluate non-apologies by high and low baseline apologizers differently," Schumann said. "For example, when a high baseline apologizer disregards expectations by not apologizing, is this more detrimental to conflict resolution?"

The researchers asked 384 participants to read a short story about a character's "typical week." They were told that the purpose of the research was to examine whether people interpret stories differently depending on the communication method, and that they had been randomly assigned to the reading mode.

Half of the participants read a story where the high apology baseline character apologizes 12 times, while the other half read a nearly identical story where the low apology baseline character does not apologize. Participants indicated their reactions to the apology/no apology response.

The character who frequently apologized was perceived to have more communal attributes, such as honesty and warmth, compared to the character who never apologized. The character who frequently apologized was also perceived to have lesser agentic qualities, such as assertiveness and confidence.

According to Schumann, apology baselines did not have an effect on victims' responses.

Being a high-level apologyr had a potentially significant impact on reaction to a particular apology via communal characteristics, and increased communal qualities were associated with feelings of being cared for, satisfaction with the apology, and forgiveness.

The authors surveyed 300 participants in romantic relationships and assessed their partner's apology baseline. Participants completed a questionnaire about their partner's frequency (e.g. "Apologizing is common behavior for my partner") and typical quality (e.g. "When my partner apologizes, their apologies are typically very sincere."

The participants wrote down a hypothetical scenario in which their romantic partner outright ridiculed their personal beliefs about a sensitive topic before a group of friends.

According to Schumann and her colleagues' previous analysis, there was no connection between apology baseline and typical quality, implying that frequent apologyrs are not necessarily good apologizers.

"Our principal finding was that people who apologize frequently are perceived to be more warm and helpful than those who apologize sparingly," Schumann told PsyPost.

Rather, frequent low-quality apologies do not reduce perceptions of assertiveness and power, but instead are only associated with increased feelings of warmth and morality.

"So for those of you who frequently apologize, be sure to pay special attention to the quality of the apologies you're making," Schumann said. "Notably, these effects did not differ by the gender of the apologizer — men and women were perceived similarly."

The researchers also investigated whether a person's willingness to apologize influenced their partner's responses to different kinds of apologies (no apology, low-quality apology, or high-quality apology). However, they found no significant differences in the partner's reaction based on their apology baseline.

"People treated non-apologies the same, regardless of whether or not the transgressors were a high or low baseline apologizer," Schumann said of PsyPost. "In other words, they responded more harshly when they didn't receive an apology from a high frequency apologizer"

"All in all, our findings demonstrate that being a high-basis apologizer brings greater rewards than costs, especially if you're offering high quality apologies."

Schumann stated that "we did not test our research questions with actual apologies happening in that very moment." We also did not test whether moderate-frequency apologizers were treated differently than people who apologized very often. So a fruitful direction for future research is to examine whether a higher apology baseline yields benefits over and above a more moderate apology baseline."

Karina Schumann, Emily G. Ritchie, and Amanda Forest co-authored the book, "The Social Consequences of Frequent Versus Infrequent Apologizing."

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