If entire countries apologized more often, the world would be more peaceful

A recent study looks at whether collective apologies on behalf of countries may inspire hope that can lead to reconciliation. 

Amnesty international and Sydney Bali Nine activists hold a vigil in a last ditch effort to sway the Indonesian Government to halt the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran on April 27, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Cole Bennetts/Getty Images)
Amnesty international and Sydney Bali Nine activists hold a vigil in a last ditch effort to sway the Indonesian Government to halt the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran on April 27, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Cole Bennetts/Getty Images)

Does an apology from someone who offended you make you feel better? What if it was a whole country that wronged you and your people—what good would that do?

Would it make a difference if American leaders apologized to Vietnam for the costly war fought against it? Or if Saudi Arabia apologized to American citizens for giving financial support to the radical Islamic sects that would ultimately attack this country on 9/11/2001?

A recent study from Flinders University in Australia looked at what role collective apologies have on forgiveness. The researchers found that apologies can create the possibility of a more harmonious relationship but require the victim's desire to reconcile. That's when hope comes into that space and makes forgiveness possible.

In “On Apology", Aaron Lazare defines apology as essentially a communication or gesture by the offender meant to signal that they take responsibility and feel remorseful for doing wrong. Apologies can offer a path towards repair and change.

Andrew Chan holds Myuran Sukumaran in a holding cell at the Denpasar Courthouse before their repsective sentencing trials at Denpasar Court on February 14, 2006 in Denpasar, on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. The two Australian men were charged with heroin trafficking having been arrested in Bali last April. Both Chan and Sukumaran were today condemned to death by firing squad for their crimes. (Jason Childs/Getty Images)

Collective apologies have the potential to reduce the desire of victims for vengeance and make them more willing to deal with the offenders.

"The hope in turn motivates the victims' own engagement in conciliatory efforts, including the willingness to forgive the offender group: letting go of hostile feelings, being willing to re-engage, and extending trust and benevolence to the outgroup," write the researchers.

The team, led by Michael Wenzel, carried out three studies, involving international students. The first two, having, respectively, 84 and 405 university students, were concerned with Indonesia's 2015 execution of two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who were found guilty of drug smuggling.

This event was deeply offensive to many Australians. The execution occurred despite protests and pleas by the Australian public, famous artists, politicians and officials. The fact that the voice of so many Australians was disregarded made them incensed by Indonesia's actions. As a result Australia recalled its ambassador to Indonesia and boycotted travel to Bali.

Amnesty international and Sydney Bali Nine activists hold a vigil in front of a flower wall that says '#keephopealive' in a last ditch effort to sway the Indonesian Government to halt proceedings to execute Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran on April 27, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. Chan is one of the nine Australians accused by Indonesian Police of drug trafficking on April 17, 2005. (Cole Bennetts/Getty Images)

The studies considered what kind of hypothetical apologies from the Indonesian government could create a reconciliation between the sides.

The third study involved 467 people and looked at a made-up incident of supposed desecration of Australian war graves in the Philippines by Filipino soldiers. The scenario described how a group of soldiers urinated on the graves and was left unpunished due to corruption in the country. The experiment asked people to react to a fabricated apology by President Duterte to the Australian people.

All the studies showed that an alleged apology from the country that made the offense opened the door to reconciliation and eventual forgiveness. Hope was a vital element of that process, found the researchers. The possible apology led to hope of a reconciled future.

The studies also showed that there were some situations where an apology would not work. This could be in the case of a long-entrenched situation where history and ideology makes it impossible for people to believe that any meaningful change could take place, regardless of the apology. The same holds true if the victims just have no desire for reconciliation.

"People enlist hope in situations of uncertainty, and hope jumps exponentially when a possibility of success emerges," write the scientists. "Hence, an apology may be particularly effective when the situation is bleak, when the relationship is under real threat, but not beyond repair."

You can read the study here, in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.


This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.


Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

Learn the Netflix model of high-performing teams

Erin Meyer explains the keeper test and how it can make or break a team.

  • There are numerous strategies for building and maintaining a high-performing team, but unfortunately they are not plug-and-play. What works for some companies will not necessarily work for others. Erin Meyer, co-author of No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, shares one alternative employed by one of the largest tech and media services companies in the world.
  • Instead of the 'Rank and Yank' method once used by GE, Meyer explains how Netflix managers use the 'keeper test' to determine if employees are crucial pieces of the larger team and are worth fighting to keep.
  • "An individual performance problem is a systemic problem that impacts the entire team," she says. This is a valuable lesson that could determine whether the team fails or whether an organization advances to the next level.
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Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
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