When and by Whom Are Apologies Considered? The Effects of Relationship and Victim/Observer Standing on Japanese People’s Forgiveness


  • Takaaki Hashimoto
  • Kaori Karasawa


Existing studies report on tendencies for first-party victims of a transgression to be less considerate of apologies compared to third-party observers when deciding on forgiveness. The present research investigated the conditions in which such discrepancies arise, focusing exclusively on the factor of one’s relational involvement with the transgressor. We presented Japanese participants (N = 116) with hypothetical cases of transgression, while varying on victim/observer standing, involvement with the transgressor, and the sincerity of presented apologies. As a result, the victim/observer discrepancy—where people who took the victim’s perspective rather than the observer’s perspective indicated decreased discrimination of the apology’s sincerity—emerged under high relational involvement. We further examined the role of trait evaluation of the transgressor as a mediator of the effect of apology on forgiveness. The test revealed that high involvement strengthens the mediation effect among the observers, while weakening the mediation among the victims. Based on the obtained findings, we discussed insights into how the relational factor facilitates different motives in victims and observers, leading to discrepancies in their reactions.