Apology as aggression control: its role in mediating appraisal of and response to harm

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1989 Feb;56(2):219-27. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.56.2.219.


Two studies examined the effects of an apology on a victim's aggression and explored the psychological mechanisms underlying such effects. In Study 1, female undergraduates were psychologically harmed and then received an apology by another female student. In Study 2, male undergraduates were asked to role play a victim in a hypothetical harm situation. Results indicate that when the harm-doers apologized, as opposed to when they did not, the victim-subjects refrained from severe aggression against them. Regression analyses suggested that such aggression-inhibitory effects of an apology were mediated by impression improvement, emotional mitigation, and reduction in desire for an apology within the victims. It was also found that when the harm was severe, such effects of an apology on aggression were attenuated. The more severe the harm is, the more extensive of an apology may be needed to alleviate the victim's anger and aggression.

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Motivation