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. 


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.

--

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

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

Getty Images
Sponsored
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

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

Why avoiding logical fallacies is an everyday superpower

10 of the most sandbagging, red-herring, and effective logical fallacies.

Photo credit: Miguel Henriques on Unsplash
Personal Growth
  • Many an otherwise-worthwhile argument has been derailed by logical fallacies.
  • Sometimes these fallacies are deliberate tricks, and sometimes just bad reasoning.
  • Avoiding these traps makes disgreeing so much better.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less