Political apologies and their acceptance: Experimental evidence from victims and perpetrators nations

Roman DAVID*, Pui chuen TAM

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Political apologies have been argued to contribute to reconciliation among groups and nations but their efficacy has also been questioned. This paper examines the acceptance of political apologies, their content and the protagonists in the victim nation, the perpetrator nation and their subgroups. Guided by studies on the structure of apologies, it distinguishes 10 features of apologies, seven of which concern their content and three of their protagonists. Following the analysis of apology statements by Japan to South Korea, the paper further breaks these features (factors) down into 32 elements (levels). The acceptance of around 70,000 possible apology combinations is examined in a randomized conjoint experiment, which was embedded in online quota-based surveys in Japan (n = 2700) and South Korea (n = 3000). The analysis reveals that the content of apologies matters, protagonists matter more than content and some subgroups matter more than protagonists. The subgroup analysis showed that some within-country differences are larger than cross-country differences, which challenges the SIT. Apology statements that would be acceptable in both nations are summarised.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Research Grant Council, Hong Kong, GRF Grant ‘Historical Justice and Reconciliation: Dealing with Japan's Occupation in Korea’ (PI: R David, CI: VWL Yeung, JW Park, RGC Ref. 13643616). We would like to thank H Kim, S Lim and Y Kasahara for their help with translations.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 British Psychological Society.


  • Japan and South Korea
  • intergroup reconciliation
  • political apologies
  • social identity theory
  • subgroup analyses


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