Checking Boxes for Making an Apology: Testing the Valuable Relationships Hypothesis by a New Method

  • Ryo Oda Nagoya Institute of Technology
  • Kai Hiraishi Keio University
Keywords: valuable relationships hypothesis, costly apology model, costly signaling theory, reconciliation, measuring method


A reconciliation signal may have evolved because it can reduce the uncertainty of defection, which might be caused by an error in a repeated prisoner’s dilemma situation. Ohtsubo and Watanabe (2009) proposed the “costly apology model” and argued that transgressors should make apologies in a costly way to convey sincerity to victims. Ohtsubo and Yagi (2015) showed that people are more likely to make a costly apology to valuable partners than to less valuable ones. The cost of apology was measured by the strength of willingness to suffer some inconvenience (e.g., cancellation of an important meeting) for it. Such a method of measuring costs is, however, dependent on culture, context, and the participants’ personal situations, and can only measure costs indirectly. We attempted to replicate the results of Ohtsubo and Yagi (2015) by using the checkbox method as a measurement of cost of apology. Among the factors expected to affect the number of checkboxes checked, the primary factor was the instrumentality of the friend, which replicated the results of Ohtsubo and Yagi (2015). Because the participants paid real costs of effort and time for fictitious mistakes, the costly apology might be triggered quickly and intuitively by a heuristic.

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