Acquittal Means Having to Say You're Sorry

Like me, you might be sick of seeing those half-hearted apologies that athletes, politicians, and other celebrities read off index cards when they've been caught publicly in a wrong. However, a new study suggests that those tactics (though trite and lame) might actually work.

Accountants from George Mason and Oklahoma State universities set their empirical skills to work on analyzing court cases, some of which saw the defendant offer up some kind of apology or at least an explanation for what they did, and some where they sat at the bench and said nothing.

TV commentators blab on and on during public scandals—the recent release of Michael Vick from prison back into the NFL being a good example—that the public needs to hear some kind of remorse from the person before they can move on. It seems that works in the courtroom, too. Even "objective" jurors, the scientists in this study found, went easier on those who apologized or explained their actions than those who didn't.

The researchers say that these apologies seem to absolve jurors of some of the need to punish a defendant harshly, the same way we might say "well, he's suffered enough" to an ordinary person who feels badly about something they did, however big or small. As a result, the study authors encourage defense attorneys to consider the apology alternative for their clients, especially in one of the 30 states that carries an "apology law" forbidding the jury to use an apology as evidence against a defendant.

And the researchers note one other important benefit of apologizing for those trying to beat the rap—as we've seen time after time in non-apology apologies by public figures, saying you're sorry isn't the same as saying you were wrong.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Why are women more religious than men? Because men are more willing to take risks.

It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.

Photo credit: Alina Strong on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
  • A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
  • The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
Keep reading Show less