Offenders’ claims of taking the victims’ perspective can promote forgiveness, or backfire! The moderating role of correctly voicing the victims’ emotions in collective apologies

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Abstract

In the context of collective apologies, we investigate whether offenders’ claim to have taken the victims’ perspective enhances victims’ conciliation. We argue this depends on whether offenders acknowledge emotions in victims that match victims’ emotional experience. In Studies 1 and 2 (Ns = 152 and 171), using scenarios, we experimentally manipulated offenders’ claim and the qualitative or quantitative match of acknowledged emotions. When acknowledged emotions matched victims’ experience, claimed perceptive-taking increased conciliatory victim responses; but when emotions did not match, the offenders’ claim reduced conciliatory victim responses. In Study 3 (N = 138), African-Americans were presented with the U.S. government's apology for slavery. We manipulated the perspective-taking claim and measured the similarity of the emotion profile expressed in the apology to that experienced by African-Americans over their enslavement. With greater mismatch, the perspective-taking claim backfired, reducing conciliatory responses. Correct acknowledgment of emotions is key for victims perceiving perspective-taking and responding conciliatorily.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-22
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Volume51
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Keywords

  • claimed perspective-taking
  • collective apology
  • emotion fit
  • forgiveness
  • trust

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