Apologies for Historical Injustices and Psychological Responses to Them

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Apologies have entered the political arena as one of policy interventions devised to address legacies of various historical injustices. Their utility has been empirically examined in the areas of transitional justice and social psychology. However, apologies have been often treated indiscriminately, although their contents may vary. This paper examines psychological responses to major parts of apologies for historical injustices. Based on the transformative theory of justice, it hypothesizes that those parts of apologies that symbolize the transformative status of former perpetrators would be more likely to increase the perception of justice than other components of apologies. To examine the hypotheses, the paper focuses on Japan's apologies for historical injustices committed in Korea in 1910-45. It is based on the text analysis of apologies issued by Japanese government and its officials . In total, 85 apologies were coded into 16 categories. Four most frequent categories were then selected and put to an experimental test to examine their effects on psychological responses and justice perceptions. The between-group experiment manipulated apologies that expressed acceptance of responsibility, admission of wrongdoing, and acknowledgment of victims' suffering, which were contrasted with denial. The experiment was administered via Qualtrics panel of 210 Koreans. The results show positive effects of these apologies on emotions and the perceptions of historical justice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2019
EventLaw and Society Association 2019 Annual Meeting: Dignity - Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, Washington, United States
Duration: 30 May 20192 Jun 2019


ConferenceLaw and Society Association 2019 Annual Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States
OtherAnnual Meeting on Law and Society
Internet address


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