Children's reasoning about the self-presentational consequences of apologies and excuses following rule violations.Br J Dev Psychol. 2010 Nov; 28(Pt 4):799-815.BJ
The accounts given by those who have violated a rule are likely to have important self-presentational consequences, potentially reducing the negative impact of the breach on social evaluations of transgressors. However, little is known about young children's self-presentational reasoning about such accounts. In the present study, a sample of 120 4- to 9-year-olds responded to rule violation stories where the transgressor uses either an apology, an excuse, or no account. Results showed that whereas children rated both account types similarly in terms of their impact on punishment consequences, even the youngest saw apologies as leading to significantly more positive social evaluation than excuses. Correspondingly, children were more likely to identify prosocial motives for apologies than for excuses, and more likely to identify self-protective motives for excuses than for apologies. Explicit references to self-presentational motives when explaining the accounts increased significantly with age, and were more likely following social-conventional rather than moral rule violations.