The power of grassroots expressions of remorse for promoting intergroup forgiveness

Tyler Okimoto, Matthew Hornsey, Michael Wenzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


In the political arena, grassroots movements often emerge that express remorse or push for a collective apology in response to ingroup wrongdoing. Often this comes independently of (or as a counterforce to) official responses by the political leadership. Research has not yet clarified the effect of such public expressions of remorse on intergroup forgiveness, nor has it explicated their role in a collective apology. We propose that grassroots gestures of remorse by collectives of the offender group may enhance intergroup forgiveness among victim group members because they exert a particularly powerful influence on perceptions of prototypical group sentiment. Four experiments (Ns = 434, 204, 600, 278) varied information about the provision of a leader apology and the grassroots public response to an intergroup transgression. Results show that grassroots responses can enhance victim group perceptions of offender group remorse, as well as subsequent feelings of forgiveness toward the offender group. In contrast, leader apologies generally failed to increase perceived remorse or promote intergroup forgiveness. Patterns were largely consistent across varying forms of grassroots responses (i.e., sorry demonstrations, letter-writing, social media buzz, public opinion polls), diverse transgression contexts (i.e., racial violence, carnage during combat, symbolic insult, ethnic conflict), and among different national groups. Results illustrate the potential power of grassroots remorse for promoting intergroup forgiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-51
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • Grassroots
  • Intergroup apology
  • Intergroup forgiveness
  • Remorse


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