Apology and Psychology

Apologies and Civil Justice

This chapter explores the state of the empirical research on the role of apologies in the context of civil litigation with an eye toward suggesting avenues of future research. First, psychological theories that contribute to an understanding of how and why apologies influence judgments and decision making are explored. Apologies may influence a range of legally related judgments as they provide assurance that the offender will not re-offend, express the proper relative moral positions of the parties, provide positive information about the injured party’s social identity, influence emotional reactions, trigger social conventions, and change expectations about legal entitlements. Second, studies that have specifically examined the role of apologies in civil litigation are reviewed. Third, a number of variables that may moderate the effects of apologies on legal decision making are explored. And, finally, avenues for future research are suggested.


Jennifer K. Robbennolt, Apologies and Civil Justice, in Civil Juries and Civil Justice: Psychological and Legal Perspectives 195 (Brian Bornstein et al. eds., 2007).

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