Academic evidence

Numerous scientific studies point to the impact that a well-meant apology can have in helping people that have suffered from trauma to recover and get past it.  Here are just some:

“Apologies and civil liability in England, Wales and Scotland: the view from elsewhere”
Author: Prue Vines (June 2008)
“The social role of apology is complex and needs to be seen as pluralistic. Apologies have many roles: the psychological, sociological, philosophical and anthropological literature shows that apologies can have a healing and re-balancing function for both victim and relationship, and often for the offender as well.  
“They may also have a moral, meaning-creating and educative function of reinforcing the sense of the norms of right, wrong and responsibility in the community and between victim and offender and possibly an underlying function of reducing aggression which has biological/evolutionary roots.  
“Most of these functions require an apology to acknowledge fault rather than merely to express regret in order to be effective; that is in order to elicit the next stage in a reconciliation process.
“The communicative and balancing dynamic between the parties requires the acknowledgement of fault, because a mere expression of regret does not require anything from the other party – it does not recognise the same level of imbalance between the parties that an acknowledgement of fault does, and therefore it does not begin the healing or rebalancing process.
“Apologies, since they are mediated by language, are extremely complex, highly nuanced processes. There appear to be significant risks in giving apologies which are perceived as insincere.”
“The reduction of psychological aggression across varied interpersonal contexts through repentance and forgiveness”
Authors: Judy Eaton, C Ward Struthers (6 February 2006)
“Research on the resolution of interpersonal conflict has shown that forgiveness is important in reducing aggression and promoting prosocial interactions following a transgression…  A basic model of aggression reduction, whereby repentance facilitates forgiveness and reduces psychological aggression, was reliable in each category of transgressor…”
“The Sorry Clause”
Author: Vatsalya Srivastava, Tilburg University (21 April, 2015)
“In fact, it is claimed that tort plaintiffs often profess that what they really wanted was an apology and brought suit only when it was not forthcoming (Shuman 2000).”


“The Impact of Post-Apology Behavioral Consistency on Victim’s Forgiveness Intention: A Study of Trust Violation Among Coworkers”
Authors: C Harry Hui, Felicia LY Lau, Karina LC Tsang and S Tess Pak (17 May 2011)
“Despite having received an apology, the victim’s intention to forgive would be low if the perpetrator displayed behaviors inconsistent with the apology made, but would be reinforced by the offending colleague’s behaving in accordance with the apology…”
Apology as aggression control: its role in mediating appraisal of and response to harm”
Authors: Ohbuchi K, Kameda M, Agarie N (February 1989)
“Results indicate that when the harm-doers apologized, as opposed to when they did not, the victim-subjects refrained from severe aggression against them.”
“Effects of objective and subjective account components on forgiving”
Authors: Schmitt M, Gollwitzer M, Förster N, Montada L. (October 2004)
“Specifically, asking for pardon had an effect on forgiving only when it was combined with an acknowledgement of the damage and a compensation offer. This result suggests that in this situation, the victim perceives a harm-doer’s asking for pardon without the other components as an insincere apology.”
“Apology versus defense: Antecedents and consequences”
Authors: Holley S. Hodgins, Elizabeth Liebeskind (July 2003)
“Results showed that greater responsibility-taking led to more positive victim evaluations and better expected future relationships.”
“An examination of emotional empathy, attributions of stability, and the link between perceived remorse and forgiveness”
Authors: James R. Davis, Gregg J. Gold (2010)
“Sincere apologies can motivate forgiveness; however, there are differing theoretical perspectives on the mechanism by which this occurs.”