Sincerity Is Better Than Forgiveness: What the Transgressor Expects in an Apology

Keywords: costly apology, forgiveness, transgressor's perspective, sincerity, intentionality


Reconciliation between individuals in a past conflict occurs in many animals, including humans. In humans, the transgressor’s apology and the victim’s forgiveness are the primary factors that lead to reconciliation and have been the subject of numerous studies. The current study focused on the intentionality of the transgression and the cost of the apology, and asked the participants to estimate whether the presence of those factors from the transgressor’s perspective would promote the victim’s forgiveness following Ohtsubo and Higuchi’s (2022) experimental procedure. The results of a vignette study with 603 Japanese participants showed that the expectations of sincerity and forgiveness were higher when the transgression was not intentional than when it was, and when the apology was more costly than non-costly. However, a significant interaction effect was not found. These results are consistent with previous studies and indicate that intention and apology cost may facilitate the reconciliation process commonly shared between victims and transgressors. Furthermore, exploratory analyses showed the mediational effect of the expectation of sincerity between the costly apology and the expectation of forgiveness. We discussed the implications of the relationship between victims’ perceived sincerity and forgiveness.

Original Articles