Waraku Education

Ideas, experiments and observations as they occur [and I have time] relating to teaching and learning in a secondary school - special focus on ICT.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The psychology of apology

The recent sorry day has created some curiosity in me about how apology works and the psychology of apology. The video of the sorry speech can be viewed on the ABC website.

Using the simple search term 'psychology of apology' some interesting links were uncovered that are useful in fleshing this subject out. There is a brief statement titled "Group-based Guilt and Apology in Australia" in the School of Psychology ANU website.

collective or group-based guilt is a real phenomena which seems to produce real consequences. Despite the views of some prominent political leaders Australians can and do feel sorry for things for which they are not personally responsible for even though their group is. The research also shows that group-based guilt predicts support for apology. These findings is consistent with the social identity approach, an approach which has many leading exponents in the School of Psychology at ANU.
A conference promotion scheduled for Feb 2002 titled "Apologies: Mourning the Past and Ameliorating the Future" is great for the questions that are posed. For people who want to really flesh out this topic, these questions are great conversation starters. Some of these follow

  • In what ways is apology related to acknowledgement and forgiveness?
  • To what extent is apology an admission of guilt and responsibility?
  • What is the difference between apology and atonement?
  • Apology and repentance?
  • Forgiveness and redemption?
  • What roles do victims, perpetrators, and larger moral communities play in the negotiation of apology and forgiveness?
  • In what ways is apology a perpetrators act?
  • In what ways is it a victims act?
  • What psychological models help us to understand the transactions that lie at the core of apology?
  • How do apologies affect victims and perpetrators?
  • What are the psychological costs of apology?
  • What have empirical studies taught us about apology as a strategy for conflict resolution?
  • What place have religion and theology given to apology?
  • How well do recent acts of inter-group apology fit with religious understandings of restorative justice?
Pick the brain blog has two posts of interest
  • 5 Steps to an Effective Apology which is basically dealing with what makes a good apology.
  • How to Learn from Mistakes post basically states that learning involves making mistakes and sometimes those mistakes come at a cost to others. Good learners may therefore need to be good at making apologies.
If you’ve made mistakes that harm other people, it is important to offer a dignified apology. Be clear that it was an unfortunate incident that will not be repeated. A good apology can go along way to restoring trust.

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  • At 6:54 am, Blogger Bill Kerr said…

    On the question of this particular apology, rather than apology in general ...

    Contrary to many I thought Brendan Nelson did OK (part 3 on your abc link). Nelson went to some places where Rudd feared to go but which were relevant (eg. Northern Territory intervention, which up until now has been supported by Labour).

    Pearson's nuanced article (when words aren't enough ) on the apology is a must read. I think he is arguing that we need a dry eyed thoughtful and historically accurate apology rather than just a wet eyed, feel good cathartic apology. Pearson's words about the history are important here:

    "Then there is the historical angle on the apology. The 1997 report by Ronald Wilson and Mick Dodson is not a rigorous history of the removal of Aboriginal children and the breaking up of families. It is a report advocating justice. But it does not represent a defensible history. And, given its shortcomings as a work of history, the report was open to the conservative critique that followed. Indigenous activists' decision to adopt historian Peter Read's nomenclature, the Stolen Generations, inspired Quadrant magazine's riposte: the rescued generations.

    The truth is the removal of Aboriginal children and the breaking up of Aboriginal families is a history of complexity and great variety. People were stolen, people were rescued; people were brought in chains, people were brought by their parents; mixed-blood children were in danger from their tribal stepfathers, while others were loved and treated as their own; people were in danger from whites, and people were protected by whites. The motivations and actions of those whites involved in this history -- governments and missions -- ranged from cruel to caring, malign to loving, well-intentioned to evil."


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