Apologies of the Rich and Famous: Cultural, Cognitive, and Social Explanations of Why We Care and Why We Forgive

Karen A. Cerulo, Janet M. Ruane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

In recent years, U.S. and other Western media have inundated the public with celebrity apologies. The public (measured via representative opinion polls) then expresses clear ideas about who deserves forgiveness. Is forgiveness highly individualized or tied to broader social, cultural, and cognitive factors? To answer this question, we analyzed 183 celebrity apologies offered between October 1, 2000, and October 1, 2012. Results are twofold and based in both cultural and social psychological perspectives. First, we found that public forgiveness is systematically tied to discursive characteristics of apologies-particularly sequential structures. Certain sequences appear to cognitively prime the public, creating associative links to established cultural scripts of atonement and rendering some apologies more successful than others. Second, public forgiveness is contingent on broader patterns of social interaction. Like many persuasive messages, successful apologies exist as ordered cultural moments steeped in characteristics of the social relations that bind offenders, victims, and a broader audience of onlookers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-149
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Psychology Quarterly
Volume77
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014

    Fingerprint

Keywords

  • apology
  • celebrity
  • cognition
  • persuasion
  • priming

Cite this