Receiving an Apology does a body good

Last Updated: 2002-10-10 14:00:12 -0400 (Reuters Health)

By Charnicia E. Huggins NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Most individuals who have been wronged would agree that they feel better after receiving an apology. Now researchers have found scientific proof to back up that claim.

"The data suggest that apologies and restitution can have an immediate, positive impact on physiological and subjective responses to transgressions," according to Dr. Everett L. Worthington, Jr., of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and his colleagues.

For their study, 61 college undergraduates--32 men and 29 women--were told to imagine that they had been robbed, and that the robber had afterwards either apologized, restored to them the things he or she had stolen, apologized and made restitution, or did neither.

Overall, the students had lower heart rates when they imagined that the robber had given them a strong, guilt-ridden apology and made restitution to compensate for the stolen items and trouble he or she had caused, study findings indicate. Further, the students also showed less muscle tension in their face--such as less wrinkling of the brow--and had less stress and lower blood pressures.

In other findings, when the students imagined that they had received a strong apology and had been compensated, they experienced a reduction in their level of unforgiveness that was twice as great as when they imagined themselves to have just received a strong apology, according to Worthington.

The students also said they felt more forgiveness, gratitude and empathy and less anger, fear and sadness, study findings indicate. Finally, the undergraduates also said they felt more in control.

"If someone apologizes it makes it easier to give some measure of forgiveness because it reduces the gap of injustice," Worthington told Reuters Health. "Justice can only take you so far, but if you forgive--that can take you all the way to closure."

The findings were presented in Washington, DC during the recent annual meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research.

Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited.