Culture

Liberals apologize more than conservatives, study says

Commentary: International research shows that liberals tend to be more sorry. Or, at least, say they are.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


The president (almost) never apologizes.

Pool, Getty Images

I'm sorry, but this may upset some of you.

I have happened, you see, on research that chose to examine whether your political leanings make you more prone to apologies.

This research may have been stimulated by our sorry political times.

Indeed, Matthew Hornsey, from Australia's University of Queensland, told PsyPost on Tuesday: "My thinking on that had been influenced by casual observation of politics -- it just seemed that people on the left side of politics would issue public apologies more than conservatives."

Ah, but public apologies are different from, say, sincere apologies. They can be strategic, rather than real.

Science hasn't yet delved deeply enough into apologies. Studies have often focused on whether an apology exists, rather than how effective it might have been in achieving forgiveness or even rebuilding a little trust.

For an apology to be effective, one 2011 study concluded that you have to convince the other person that it won't happen again. Can anyone believe that from a politician?

Another study suggested that when you apologize matters too. It can be too late. In this 2013 study, a conversation of less than 10 minutes can tolerate a later apology. A longer conversation requires a much quicker "sorry."

Hornsey, whose study was first published in January, admitted to being fascinated that President Donald Trump, while campaigning, insisted he never apologized. Which, surprisingly, turned out not to be true.

The study looked at 2,130 people in seven countries -- Australia, Chile, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Peru and, look here, Russia.

It involved subjects writing down what they would say in situations that may have required an apology. The researchers concluded that not only are conservatives less prone to apology, but also less moved by someone else's apology.

Hornsey tried to offer initial explanations. It seems that conservatives are more hierarchical and accept power difference more readily. So if I hurt someone lower than me, ach, that's the way of the world.

Hornsey, though, says he'd like to go deeper into into examining whether conservatives simply see apologies as a sign of weakness.

"I also wonder if conservatives have a higher threshold for what they see to be offensive," he added.

I fear some conservatives may look at this and conclude that liberals are soft little things who pussyfoot around in their political correctness and bathe in apologizing for America.

I fear some liberals may retort that conservatives have neither decency nor self-awareness and are emotionally Neanderthal.

I fear we're may all be feeling very sorry if we carry on like this.

Technically Incorrect: Bringing you a fresh and irreverent take on tech.

Tech Enabled: CNET chronicles tech's role in providing new kinds of accessibility.