An Explanation of Apology Acceptance Based on Lay Peoples’ Insights


  • James Strickland
  • Katie Martin
  • Alfred Allan
  • Maria M. Allan


Apologies play an important role in forgiveness, but the pathway from apology to forgiveness is unclear. Many researchers use Goffman’s model of the corrective interchange, or models derived from it to guide their research. This model is based on the assumption that offenders apologise to victims who accept these apologies and that this leads to forgiveness. The acceptance of the apology is therefore central in this model, so we undertook a systematic literature review to determine how researchers conceptualise and measure apology acceptance and found a lack of clarity around the construct. We addressed this theoretical uncertainty by exploring whether lay people distinguish between apology acceptance and forgiveness, and if they do, how they describe apology acceptance. We use contemporary neuro-cognitive theories that explain social and moral decision-making and behaviour to integrate the themes we identified to develop a preliminary theoretical explanation of how the apology acceptance stage fits into Goffman’s model.