Psychology, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychology, Under the Supervision of Professor Brian H. Bornstein. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Sarah Thimsen


Apologies are part of daily life and occur in a variety of contexts. A large body of literature on the effects of apologies indicated that apologies have a positive effect – those receiving apologies have more positive views of the transgressor (e.g., Bornstein, Rung, & Miller, 2002; Goei, Roberty, Meyer, & Carlyle, 1997; Robbennolt, 2003; Sitkin & Beis, 1993; Takaku, 2000). An area of emerging research in the realm of apologies is in the area of medical malpractice. The research presented here sought to expand on the field of apologies, specifically by examining the effects of an apology in a medical malpractice case. After reading the facts of a medical malpractice case, participants watched a videotaped statement of the defendant, which contained either an apology or an excuse. Other manipulated variables included the familiarity between the plaintiff and defendant, how steadily the defendant maintained eye contact during his statement, and how quickly the defendant spoke while making his statement. Analyses revealed marginal main effects for statement type, eye contact and speech rate on ratings of sincerity. Main effects emerged for perceptions of the defendant – participants viewed him more favorably when he apologized. Implications and areas of future research are then discussed.

Adviser: Brian H. Bornstein